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Jonathan’s performance drive
President Goodluck Jonathan’s performance contract with his ministers last Wednesday is a commendable idea that should be encouraged in the Nigerian public service if we are interested in optimal performance. In that case, reward, sanctions, shame and praises should follow every activity that can ginger workers to put in their best. This time round, the categories of workers being challenged are the Chief Executives of Ministries and government parastatal agencies. And it is so important for us to correct the rot from the heads in the hope that discipline that will ensue will percolate down the line. That I think is the purpose of the initiative just introduced by President Jonathan.
The President himself explained that the purpose of the Performance Contract is to remind all government functionaries that they must be accountable to Nigerians, transparent and productive in delivering services in a timely manner.
He dismissed the insinuation that the performance contract was an afterthought and a panicky response, saying that the plan could not be given a life of its own without allowing Ministers to have some inputs into his transformation agenda. It was expected that goals and targets setting by Ministers should automatically flow from self-appraisal and primarily aimed at improving physical infrastructure, human capital, the real sector and creating good governance for Nigerians by the year 2015. “We would have done it probably in the first week when we came on board. The key thing is that, we have given ourselves points that we think we will get at,” President Jonathan explained.
And also in a joint media briefing conducted by the Ministers for Information and National Planning, it was reiterated that with performance contract, government will produce a bi-annual evaluation report on the performances of federal Ministers. We were informed that Ministers, having been persuaded by the soundness of the idea are now fully committed and are in line with the agreement. Labaran Maku said all efforts are now geared towards effective service delivery by government to Nigerians.
One of the twists to the story, which must have necessitated elaborate explanations during the signing ceremony at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, says the exercise was directed at witch-hunting some Ministers. Speculation was also actually rife that President Jonathan thought of the exercise because he was under pressure and desperately wanted answers to questions having been frustrated by the low scores by media, legislators and opposition political parties. It was argued that the exercise was a mere resort to self-help, following the face-off with members of the House of Representatives. It will be recalled that some weeks ago, some legislators had accused the executive of poor performance in implementing 2012 budget. The foul smell generated by the impeachment warning resulting from the debate still lingers in the air till this very moment.
There is no doubt that the simplistic view of seeing the performance contract as mere panicky step had failed to capture the essence. The objective really is to redirect attention to results and actual delivery of tangibles by the government. This will be away from meaningless concentration on processes and inputs. For example, while the initial perspective was to measure performance through exhausting monies appropriated at every budget year, the new perspective will measure performance through evaluating results, tangibles and deliverable from monies appropriated.
Obviously, if we can successfully imbibe this culture in the system, it will make a huge difference in the lives of Nigerians who are begging for some minimal impact of government services on their lives.
It seems to me that what President Jonathan had done was to put some intellectual flavour into governance by doing what we are used to differently; and also under a refined and systematised arrangement.
First, performance appraisal, which has become annual ritual in the civil service, has a long history dating back several years. Second, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo then took appraisal of the public servants and institutions to another level when in 2005 he established Servicom and directed all federal agencies, departments and Ministries to establish units.
Recently, the National Coordinator of Servicom and Senior Special Assistant to the President, Mr Sylbriks Obriki, lamented that till date, less than 50 per cent of ministerial agencies have complied with the directive to establish Servicom units several years after they have been directed to do so. “… Significant number of MDAs do not have functional Servicom Units in place,” he concluded. The major function of Servicom is to instill the discipline and the basic concepts of effective delivery of service to Nigerians through sensitisation and advocacy.
Negative media reportage to some had been a driver of the performance contract embarked upon by Mr President. President Jonathan himself did not share this view.
Like previous administration, the President had a fair share of negative reportage from the Nigerian media with its sensational and commercial bent. The social media particularly, because of its low adherence to ethics journalism had lost focus in appraising the core campaign promises of President Jonathan. Evaluating promises were driven to the background by security challenges that came to the fore immediately after April 2011 elections. Reportage of Boko Haram bombings and attacks became an obsession among media men, even a full time job. It took 90 per cent of attention.
Some will tell you that President Jonathan should have been commended, and not castigated, for designing a scheme to evaluate government programmes and performances, even if by self. I also agree that the initiative is another feather in the President’s cap.
The social media, with its increasing popularity coming from deep internet use cannot be left alone to carry the big responsibility of appraising government activities for the Nigerian public using unscientific tools. If performance contract takes off with its bia-annual reports by MDAs, the conventional media also will benefit by getting primary material thus filling the gaps created by its obvious lack of capacity.
Laniyan, policy analyst wrote in from Abuja.Share