By Emmanuel Ado
”Reform is China’s Second Revolution”
The rampaging COVID-19 pandemic for obvious reasons has dominated the entire media outlets, pushing other major developments expectedly to the background. It’s only natural that other events will suffer news black out considering that it has continued to knock off people at will. A virus that has brought the almighty United States of America to its knees, that has seen America burying more people than it did during the notorious Vietnam war, a virus, that kills at will and that has demystified nuclear power by its far reach and ”cost effectiveness certainly deserves some “respect” even though it’s rude. The unspoken but real fear, is that rogue nations like North Korea, Iran etc do not abandon their nuclear programmes for biological warfare- the “small but mighty” corona virus.
In the midst of the pandemic, one gladdening development was the official anointing of Kaduna state as the undisputed Number one state in the World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results, in which it achieved the highest number of results (nine) and earned for itself a whooping N3,960,000,000.00. The Annual Performance Assessment (APA) carried out by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) as an Independent Verification Agent (IVA), in collaboration with the renowned K Consulting Limited and the SFTAS Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) was strictly based on key reforms- as contained in the Fiscal Sustainability Plan(FSP)-Framework For Sustainability of Sub- National Governments of Nigeria agreement between the Federal Government, the 36 States,the Federal Capital Territory and 774 Local Governments of Nigeria,which aims to fundamentally address the issue of fiscal responsibility.
Since 2015, the Buhari administration has forced down some reform packages down the throats of the 36 states and the federal capital territory,the notable exception being Kaduna state which was already reforming, such that when the then Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun,signed the Fiscal Sustainability Plan(FSP)-Framework For Sustainability of Sub- National Governments of Nigeria – with the 36 States,the Federal Capital Territory and 774 Local Governments of Nigeria, kaduna State was already far ahead, because the reforms weren’t forced on it, rather they were pointing the way. The FSP aims to address the issue of Fiscal Responsibility with 5 Key strategic objectives and a 22 point Action Plan that will drastically improve accountability and transparency. It will increase public revenue,rationalize public expenditure etc. States were also expected to publish Annual Audited Financial Statements, Budget Implementation Performance Report, Implement TSA,R review various revenue laws,biometric capture of civil servants etc.
The 5 Key strategic objectives became necessary,especially as the need for states to become financially independent functional entities through increasing their Public Revenue by improving independently generated revenues, became glaringly obvious. States where also expected to make every kobo count, through a rationalized Public Expenditure, efficiency, reduced costs and plugging of leakages. To Improve Public Financial Management by embarking on a series of reforms, the revision of archaic laws, civil service rules etc. And finally a Sustainable Debt Management, such that the debts of states are sustainable and at a healthy level. FSP in a sense is to save the states whom are permanently on blood transfusion (FAAC) from themselves, like sickle cell patients.
Though there is a morbid fear of the word “reform”, largely due to gross misconception and the nature of man to fiercely resist change, the truth is that reform(s) are basically a correction of abuses, that are very critical for organizations and governments to periodically undertake, if they don’t want to become lethargic. Fundamentally the objective(s) of reforms remain making the public sector more efficient, operating from the premise of why they don’t. Right from his swearing in, El- Rufai’s goal to enhance the capacity of the state government , its various agencies so as to improve service delivery to the people, tackle corruption, to enforce cooperation amongst the agencies, institute transparency and accountability in the delivery of services on behalf of the people, who in faith have entrusted their rights to elected representatives was never in doubt.
El- Rufai inherited a dysfunctional Public Service,that was unproductive due to an aging workforce that lacked the capacity to deliver,but that was most unfortunately ”focused on taking care of itself. The Kaduna State Public Service Revitalization and Renewal Programme, the brain child of the El-Rufai administration which was long over due has improved the efficacy and capacity of the service to effectively deliver service to the people of the State. The reform has resolved several issues impeding public service efficiency, addressed low productivity, redundancy, duplication of roles, high proportion of aged workers, and the issue of unskilled staff”. Like El – Rufai argued ”No Nation develops beyond the capacity of its Public Service”.
Key to the success recorded in increasing the IGR,are the reforms that were put in place, working with Ifueko Omoigui, one time Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service,a drastic restructuring of the Kaduna State Revenue Board into a Service,that is capable of effectively raising the much needed finances, for the myriads of projects he had on his table was effected. From a paltry N600 million IGR a month, the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service now generates over N2 billion monthly,collecting a whopping N45 billion in 2019, due to the new Kaduna State Tax Law that attacked leakages, criminalized cash collection and the Service as the sole collecting and accounting authority, though all taxes and fees are still assessed by the relevant ministries and agencies.
The centralization of collection and ease of payment ,through the deployment of PoS and other electronic payment system has also helped in voluntary compliance. The issue of multiple levies has also been tackled, such that the ugly experience of road blocks by all manner of agencies was also prohibited by the law. It’s the reform equally emboldened the Service and last year it dragged the Ahmadu Bello University(ABU),to court for backlog of taxes amounting to over 12 billion naira.
Since 2015, the Kaduna State Government as part of the Reforms has consistently subject its budget estimates to town hall meetings for inputs and scrutiny and in 2015 over 3 billion naira was added to the budget from inputs by citizens.
The state also consistently publishes its Audited report in line with the Fiscal Responsibility,which is critical considering the importance of Audited Statement of Account, in terms of cost of projects and income.
Definitely it’s not yet uhuru for the Kaduna State Government, but the vision is clear,the results – improved accounting clearer mandates for the ministries, strengthened partnerships – and like the Chinese will say, the journey of a thousand miles,starts with the very first mile. Kaduna State has certainly taken those steps and the sincere commitment to deepen the reforms, mainstream transparency mechanism, increase access to information,enhance citizen engagement and empowerment is not in doubt.