The week that just passed was by every definition one of the most active weeks for the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR). There was a marathon and cocktail of activities by BPSR, ranging from the lunchtime seminar, held on February 4, 2020, and the workshop held two days later. While the seminar took place at the conference hall of the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), the workshop was held at the National Commission for Colleges of Education, opposite the FMF’s building, Central Area, Abuja. I was one of the first people that arrived for the seminar to represent the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, NOUN, Associate Professor Ganiyat Adesina-Uthman, who was in faraway Adis-Ababa, Ethiopia, on official assignment. She was invited by Dasuki Arabi, the BPSR’s director-general. The guest speaker was Mr. Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation, who presented a paper, titled “Transformation and Digitalisation of Public Financial Management System in Nigeria: Innovations, Bottlenecks and Way Forward.”
However, the workshop on Thursday, February 6, 2020, attracted many speakers who presented well-researched papers on various topics such as Treasury Single Account (TSA), Presidential Executive Order 005, ICT Reforms in Public Sector, Open Government Partnership and Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
I must thank the BPSR, under the able leadership of Arabi, for the lunchtime reform seminar and workshop series, which are important innovations. Aptly called Whirlwind Reformer, Arabi has brought his wealth of experience into BPSR since assuming office as the substantive DG in August 2017. There is no doubt that the BPSR has lived up to its billing. It is gradually facilitating the building of Nigeria’s public service into a highly functional, professional, customer-focused and results-oriented bureau. The BPSR, as chief articulator and driver of the public sector reform policy, has done very well and will certainly continue to soar under its present leadership headed by Arabi. For us in the academia, the topic of public sector financial management reform will always continue to excite us. I will surely not want to bore you with the history of Nigeria’s public service reform; suffice to state that the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR) provides a common vision and it is, indeed, the special purpose vehicle for Nigeria to achieve a world class public service by this year (2020).
The presentation by the AGF, viz, “Transformation and Digitalisation of Public Financial Management System in Nigeria: Innovations, Bottlenecks and Way Forward,” was the first in a series of seminars by the BPSR. According to the AGF, the public financial management reform is Pillar Three of the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR). In a flawless delivery, the AGF argued that the core objective of the Pillar Three is to ensure professionalism, transparency, efficiency, accountability and probity in financial management. In his seminal lecture, the AGF discussed a number of reform strategies aimed at enhancing economic coordination with a view to achieving and sustaining the NSPSR philosophy. Among the sub-topics he discussed were the e-payment system, the IPPIS, the GIFMIS and the TSA. Other highlights of the AGF’s presentation were the Asset Tracking and Management, the IPSAS, the Financial Transparency Policy/Open Treasury Portal and the modernisation of internal audit.
On Thursday, February 6, 2020, the presentations by the duo of Dr. Tope Fasua/Johnson Onyemah were on TSA and Presidential Executive Order 005. Other presentations that day were ICT Reforms Public Sector, by Mr. Samani Ango; Service Delivery on Bottlenecks/Constraints in FIRS, FRSC, NIS, NIMC, by Prof. Olaseni Bello; and ERGP and OGP, by Mr. Daniel Oghojafor.
Due to the need for a one-stop shop where reform information could be obtained, BPSR was set up in 2004 to serve as engine room and centre for coordination of reforms among the MDAs. There were pockets of reforms being carried out in different MDAs before BPSR came on board. BPSR was established by the Federal Government to initiate, coordinate and ensure full implementation of public service reforms in Nigeria. The bureau’s vision is to drive change that will position Nigeria’s public service as an institution of excellence and the mission is to facilitate the building of Nigeria’s public service into a highly functional, professional, customer-focused and result-oriented institution. Among its functions are initiating action plan on reforms at different levels for the attention of the Steering Committee on Reforms; elucidating government policies on reforms; coordinating, monitoring and evaluating reform implementation activities; conducting research on implementation efforts and presenting best practices models; providing advisory and technical support services for change management teams and working groups; engendering an environment of learning among MDAs; disseminating information on all aspects of reforms, and; submitting quarterly progress reports on reform activities to the Steering Committee on Reforms. In addition to the functions, the bureau’s operational approach consists of the following strategy focus: Establishing policies and guidelines on reforms; relating with public organisations to encourage reforms and obtain information on their progress; intervening to initiate service-wide reforms; coordinating reform programmes; briefing government on reform programmes and obtaining necessary approvals; budgeting for and financing critical service-wide and sometimes MDA/parastatals-based reform programmes; and interacting with stakeholders on reform issues and communicating with the public.
While I commend Arabi for reinvigorating the bureau, being a coordinating agency, the BPSR would face challenges in the course of the reforms, hence there is need for all MDAs to be ready to cooperate and partner with them in capacity-building and training.
By Obaka Abel Inabo
Obaka, an economist and lecturer at NOUN headquarters, writes from Abuja