By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA — The House of Representatives, yesterday, asked the Federal Government to merge some federal agencies with overlapping functions for better performance.
Vanguard recalls that the presidential committee on reform of government agencies, chaired by Steve Oronsaye, in its 800-page report, recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161, as part of efforts to reduce cost of governance in Nigeria.
The report indicated:“There are 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies (statutory and non-statutory) in the country.”
To achieve this, the committee also emphasised the need for the legislature and judiciary to make spirited efforts at reducing their running costs as well as restructuring and rationalising the agencies under them since the three arms make up the government.
Similarly, the committee proposed the removal of all professional bodies/councils from the national budget to reduce the high cost of governance, adding that the budgetary system should be linked to deliverables and output.
Ossai Nicholas Ossai, member of House Committee on Health Services, chaired by Chike Okafor, led the campaign during 2017/2018 budget defence with federal agencies under the purview of Federal Ministry of Health.
The lawmakers who spoke during the budget defence of Health Records Officers’ Registration Board of Nigeria, HRORDN, including Rita Orji (PDP-Lagos) and Wale Raji (APC-Lagos), also queried the rationale behind non-remittance of internally generated revenue, IGR.
According to the financial records submitted to the committee, the institute spent N247,037,443.82 generated in 2017 financial year without obtaining approval from the National Assembly.
The lawmakers argued that the unilateral decision by management of MDAs to spend the internally generated revenue was in breach of relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution as well as Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
Disturbed by the development, Okafor set up two sub-committees, chaired by Ossai Nicholas Ossai and Mohammed Usman, deputy chairman of House Committee on Healthcare Services, to interface with management of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research & Development; Medical Laboratory Science of Nigeria and Nursing & Midwifery Council of Nigeria, with the view to reconciling the financial report and other gray areas.
While giving update on the budget defence, Chike Okafor (APC-Imo) emphasised the need to strengthen most of the existing agencies, with the view to ensuring effective service delivery.
He said: “The essence of the sub-committees set up by the Health Services committee is to go back to the agencies and reconcile.”
“We set up two committee of 5 members each. The first one is headed by Ossai Nicholas Ossai. The second by the Deputy Chairman, Muhammed Usman is to go back to these agencies immediately and then do the reconciliation so we can look at their 2018 budget.
“Of course, you saw some of their figures are muddled up. So good a thing in the committee that I chair, we have professionals that can even help these agencies. It should go beyond mere oversight and look at how to strengthen them so they can continue to add value.
In a related development, the House Committee on Governmental Affairs queried the National Lottery Trust Fund over non-presentation of funds accrued from the 20% statutory contribution from National Lottery Commission as well as other intervention funds.
The lawmakers also expressed displeasure over non-disclosure of how the Trust Fund utilized the sum of N570 million released out of total sum of N1.107 billion appropriated for capital expenditure in 2017.
They also noted that the multi-billion naira used by the National Lottery Trust Fund for procurement and distribution of sport facilities to 2,000 schools across the country, was approved during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Concerned by the non-transparent of its accounting system, the lawmakers observed that the National Lottery Trust Fund had not disclosed the amount realized as intervention fund under President Buhari’s administration.
To this end, the lawmakers issued a 24-hour ultimatum to management of the National Lottery Trust Fund to provide details of its budget performance for 2015 to 2017 and specify the projects implemented within the year under review.