Mohammed Abubakar: Overhauling Public Service Delivery; A Nigerian Example Up North

Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai knows that he has a responsibility to deliver on the hopes the Kaduna people demonstrated in him when they helped him clinch a landslide victory in the 2015 Gubernatorial Elections, and from all indications, this is an obligation he is taking really seriously.

In furtherance of this responsibility, he is currently focusing mainly on improving service delivery, ensuring sustainable infrastructure development and protecting the lives and property of Kaduna State’s citizens. His unrelenting efforts and commitment are important especially in contrast to the status quo in Nigerian politics, wherein politicians typically fall short of delivering and even renege on their most basic obligations. A trend which continues to undermine whatever modest successes the country, and its nascent democracy make. This is why it is refreshing to learn of states like Kaduna which seek to implement reform with deliberate policies that achieve all of the above.

In creating an analytical framework that provides for the achievement of the above, the state has adopted a three pronged approach which includes Attitudinal Reorientation leading to cost reductions, Local Government Administration Reforms, and a Public Service Renewal and revitalization Project.

The attitudinal reforms have begun with the creation of an environment where every citizen is encouraged to thrive through the creation of equal opportunities and the restoration of law and order. While viable jobs are being created, the state is also focusing on the reasons why people break laws with a view to fixing these reasons before empowering State Institutions like the Kaduna State Traffic and Environmental Law Enforcement Agency (KASTELEA) to enforce strict penalties on Citizens who break these laws. The KASTELEA itself is a model for job creation and has created 2550 jobs for environmental and traffic marshals.

As a show of its commitment to cost reductions, the cuts rightly started with the Kaduna State Government House immediately the current administration was sworn in. Running costs for the Government house as projected by the Mukhtar Ramalan Yero led government for 2015 alone was about N2.7bn, however this was reduced to N684m by the current administration in 2016 just over a quarter of the previous administrations budget. In the same vein, various worker verification exercises embarked on by the administration have resulted in savings of up to N500m monthly due to the establishment of an updated personnel and payroll register, this register has eradicated the payment of ghost workers. In addition, contract re-negotiations on the Kawo–Lugard Hall BRT road has led to a reduction of about N1bn in contract cost that the Kaduna State Government no longer has to bear. All these efforts ensure that more funds are available and can be channeled towards people-oriented projects.

Considering that Local Governments are the closest structure of Governance to the grassroots, Kaduna has begun a review and amendment process of all laws guiding Local Government Administration (LGA) in the state. The aim is to reposition them such that they proffer solutions to localized problems and provide vital support to communities. A major impediment to their independence and operation has been in the control of their finances by the state and in a bid to get them to function effectively, the El-Rufai led administration as one of its foremost policy pronouncements agreed to full financial autonomy for the LGA’s. Kaduna is ensuring that LGA’s control their expenditure and capital projections while encouraging them to adopt cost efficient measures similar to the ones already adopted by the State. And to ensure that this autonomy translates to capital development, a provision has been made in the law for the expenditure of at least 60% of all net revenues on Capital Development.

Above and beyond these measures, the state continues to support those who fall short. For instance, Primary Health Care workers have been moved from the LGA payroll to the State Payroll. Having freed up funds through the above interventions, the state Government will also task the LGAs with more responsibility including Forest Management, Agriculture and even Waste Management.

The will to strengthen the Kaduna State Public Service to position it as a vital organ capable of assisting the Government to meet both its vision for Kaduna State, and contribute to sustainable infrastructural development and service delivery is at the center of the State’s Public Service Revitalization and Renewal project. The project will among other things de-age the service with an aim to ensure that young people between the ages of 22-35 years constitute a minimum 30% of the Public Service before 2018. This will be done by undertaking massive recruitment drives at NYSC camps to ensure young talents are engaged early and improving working conditions to make the civil service more attractive to young people etc. The revitalization project will also include the creation of a database of Kaduna’s unemployed population with an aim to match their skills with relevant job openings both in the private and public sectors, and it will review remuneration with a view to scaling it upwards so that wages and salaries can guarantee a basic living in these current times.

The main focus of the Project is a general renewal of the service that includes improving skills match through transfers and training, cutting manning level overloads where such exist so that the system is more efficient, employment creation and adopting reward approaches that lead to improved remuneration.

In the end, what Kaduna needs is lasting and sustainable change that outlasts individual administrations. The current administration is committed to this effort; to create systems and policies that are effective now but also lead to lasting, transgenerational change. To get where we need to go as a nation, we need to fix the one institution that is the most effective means of taking us there; the government. Our focus should therefore be on making government function more efficiently. And through the reform efforts instituted under the El Rufai led administration, Kaduna is increasingly poised to do so.