From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Federal Government is set to slash salaries of civil and merge agencies with duplicitous functions in its efforts to weather the rough economic storm it currently faces. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed who made this disclosure in Abuja on Tuesday at the ongoing ‘National Policy Dialogue on Corruption and Cost of Governance in Nigeria’, revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the salaries committee to review payroll and also review the number of agencies.
According to her, the government will weed out unnecessary items from the budget as a move to cut the cost of governance in the country.
This move is consistent with the 2011 Steve Oransanye Committee report, an 800-page document, which had far-reaching recommendations on MDAs that should be scrapped, those to be merged and those to become self-funding, thereby freeing funds for the much-needed capital projects across the country.
Speaking at the event organised by the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission, the Finance Minister noted that the government had approved a N13.88 trillion budget with a deficit of over N5.6 trillion.
The government projected a revenue of N7.98 trillion to fund part of the 2021 budget.
She said: “We still see government expenditure increase to a terrain twice higher than our revenue,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed maintained that all agencies must come together to trim its cost amid the country’s dwindling revenue.
She added, “We need to work together, all agencies of the government to cut down our cost. We need to cut down unnecessary expenditures. Expenditures that we can do without.
“Our budgets are filled year in year out with projects that we see over and over again and also projects that are not necessary.
“Mr President has directed that the salaries committee that I chair, work together with the head of service and other members of the committee to review the government pay rolls in terms of stepping down on cost.”
The Minister revealed that the FG will also review the number of government agencies in terms of their mandates.
She disclosed that for agencies with the same mandate the government will look at “how to merge the two.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, noted during the stakeholders meeting that the cost of governance is the “driver of corruption in Nigeria.”
He noted that the government has committed to improving the country’s revenue from new and existing sources.
Owasanoye said the government’s commitment to streamline payroll, removal of subsidies and reduction of the cost of contracts and procurement are all for the benefits of the “poor and vulnerable.”
He said a critical area of concern was “payroll padding” and the “phenomenon of ghost workers.”
He also lamented the duplication of projects such as the constituency projects of lawmakers.
The ICPC boss said funding for such projects are usually released without any mechanism for monitoring and evaluation and reconciliation of the funding.
He cited a project executed by the Redeemed Christian Church of God which was inadvertently diverted as an executive project.