Presidency’s performance contracts with ministers

by Gbenga Kayode

The recent, far-reaching resolution of the Federal Government of Nigeria to urge the Executive Cabinet Ministers in the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Administration to sign performance contracts with the Presidency is a welcome development. It is, indeed, long overdue in the nation’s drive towards all-embracing transformation in diverse areas of its national life.

Incidentally, a performance contract has been defined as “an agreement between government and a public agency which establishes specific goals for the agency, sets benchmarks for measuring performance and provides incentives for achieving the targets.”

It will be recalled, that Prof. Sylvester Monye, MFR, Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, lately had disclosed the Government’s proposal to commit them to signing performance contracts, possibly aimed at enhancing the Government’s determination to ensure sterling and marked performance from the Cabinet Ministers. In his words, the anticipated measure shall lead to the eventual sequential “publication of performance audits of these appointed ministers” in the media, including the Internet.

In connection with the justification for the comparatively novel regime of performance contracts signing with the Presidency, Monye, at a conference organised by the African Institute for Applied Economics on Nigeria’s economic transformation agenda, reportedly blamed the abysmal failure of previous administrations on lack of efficient machinery and strong institutions to implement programmes, in terms of recording any appreciable, striking improvement in key human development indices over the years.

According to him, the performance contracts will be supported with relevant performance policies to be adapted from countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, India, Ghana and Kenya, “where government officials are held accountable for what they do, and what they fail to do while in office.”

Just as it obtains in the business world, performance monitoring and evaluation and the concept of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) go pari-passu. The term KPI has become one of the most used terms in business development and management in recent times. Theoretically, it provides a series of measures against which internal managers and external investors can judge the business and how it is likely to perform over the medium and long terms.

Thus, when properly developed, the KPI should provide all the labour force with clear goals and objectives, coupled with a clear understanding of how they relate to the overall success of an organisation. Published internally and continually referred to, these will also strengthen shared values and create common goals among the stakeholders.

In view of the foregoing, for the ministers to perform excellently as expected of them, upon signing the said performance contracts, there is a need for them all, first to establish current performance in their respective Federal ministries, departments and agencies, benchmarks and target levels, if any, so as to comprehend fully how to devise practical measures towards accomplishing the new Administration’s socio-economic policy objectives.

However, in respect of the KPI particularly, the Government officials who are saddled with the responsibility of determining such performance indicators necessarily need to realise that this management term is exceptionally central to other fundamental elements for answering crucial planning questions.

Such questions they need to ask in our outwardly wonky socio-economic and political systems here are: Where are we in Nigeria in different sectors of the economy? Where do we want to be (and when, in terms of timeline)? How are we going to get there cost-effectively? The last question is more consequential against the backdrop of the comparatively huge cost of governance at all levels of Government in the country. And, this unbecoming development has been attributed to wastefulness, and voracious, mindless inflation of contract sums with impunity in several Government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

Again, Monye’s express admission that Nigeria’s problem, basically, is not in fashioning good policies, programmes and initiatives over the decades, but that of effectual implementation for the development of the country. That is why the Government functionaries so mandated to coordinate the management system, efficient monitoring and evaluation machinery within the Government bureaucracy must be determined to advance the quality and standards of the services the Government delivers to Nigerians.

It is, of course, indispensable to remind the appointed ministers and aides, that it is high time they jettisoned the demeaning “come-and-eat” mentality that largely characterised several past administrations, and imbibe a culture of responsibility, efficiency and prudence in resource management: it is only actual performance at their respective desks that can herald meaningful transformation of the lot of the Nigerian populace.

The much-needed contributions of the Civil Service in achieving perceptible progress in this regard must also not be forgotten. The oft-reported laissez-faire and corrupt attitude to Government’s work by many civil servants at all levels of governance across the country, has to be discouraged forthwith. Any continued alleged aiding and abetting of public officials to loot the treasury will only continue to enhance the country’s descent into perpetual stagnation and hopelessness.

Continuous training in forms of seminars, workshops, symposiums and conferences as part of a Government wide approach to focusing ministry Directors and personnel on essential operational requirements and deliverables should be employed to enable everyone to understand what is expected of their ministries, departments and agencies in terms of value-addition.

For the best of performance monitoring and evaluation outcomes, action planning and implementation with an emphasis on management by objectives, including a standardised, detailed project control mechanism, should be instituted by the Government.

The serving ministers’ exceptional performance will be of fundamental importance in gaining competitive advantage with regard to the Administration’s avowed transformation agenda, only when measurable targets are set, and can be properly monitored, measured, quantified and evaluated so as to determine the success or failure of their endeavour in this regard.

If adequately planned and appropriately implemented, this latest measure promises to promote observable efficiency, accountability, responsibility and transparency among the whole gamut of civil and public officials, as obtained in other progress-minded nations of the world.

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