By YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE
On July 12, 2019, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, swore-in 13 newly appointed commissioners to man the various Ministries in the state, with the exception of the Ministries of Health and Agriculture.
The appointment of the new commissioners came 45 days after the governor’s assumption of office for 2nd term and 31 days from the date of the inauguration of the State Assembly.
It is noteworthy that most of the Commissioners appointed had headed different MDAs during the first tenure of the present administration; which hopefully will ensure they hit the ground running.
However, a number of appointments generated mixed reactions especiallyamong civil society, media and development actors in the state.
One of such appointments that sent tongues wagging was the appointment of Mr. Thomas Gyang, a close ally of the governor, who was assigned the gargantuan portfolio of Commissioner, Planning and Budget Commission.
A Quantity Surveyor by profession, Gyang, the immediate past Director General, Kaduna State Public Procurement Authority (KADPPA), whose appointment at the commission came as a surprise to many, has indeed a big shoe to fill.
This is not because of want of capacity or experience but the far-reaching governance reforms already being championed by the Commission; which requires untiring energy, intellectual flexibility, people-skills, innovative thinking and swift adaptability to global trends.
The milestones achieved so far by the Commission, even though not without challenges, under the leadership of the immediate past Commissioner, Mohammed Sani Abdullahi, were as a result of the aforementioned requirements.
Over the past four years, Kaduna State has been able to initiate key governance reforms such as: the Open Government Partnership (OGP); accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); State Development Plans (SDP); State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (SFTAS) program; dialogue platforms with citizens on the budget process; Local Government Development Plans; Community Development Charter (CDC); Local Government Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (LFTAS) program; amongst others.
While the performance of the reforms, in terms of the implementation translating into improved quality service delivery, is a subject of debate among the civil society/citizens and non-state actors – nonetheless, it should be acknowledged that even though we are not where we want to be, we are definitely not where we used to be.
For instance, it is gratifying to note that KADPPA under Mr. Thomas Gyang witnessed far-reaching reforms that are yielding appreciable results especially the introduction of the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS).
However, the question on the lips of stakeholders is: will the new Commissioner be able to demonstrate such leadership in the Planning & Budget Commission? Where the work is more demanding and multi-tasking, considering that age is not on his side.
As for the civil society partners working around the various governance reforms, we are wondering if he will go a step further in expanding platforms for unhindered citizen’s participation and engagement.
Furthermore, stakeholders are waiting not only to see if the Commission under his leadership will meet the expectations of citizens in the following areas: ensure full adherence to the 2016 Fiscal Responsibility Law and adequate funding for the Commission; ensure budget realism, allow the Community Development Charter (CDC) inform the 2020 budget for the timely release of draft Medium Term Expenditure Framework and budget to the Civil Society (CS); introduce geographical locations in the budget; ensure more issues-based and robust budget town-hall meetings; institutionalization of the OGP beyond the State Steering Committee(SSC)/Technical Working Groups (TWGs), but to ensure that all these are cascaded into all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in less than no time.
Other high expectations are in the area of making the Citizen’s Feedback App userfriendly and interactive; sustain and accelerate the LFTAS program; mandate annual Sector Implementation Plan (SIP) performance review meeting with interested CS; sustain and accelerate the local government reforms especially the Local Government Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (LFTAS) program; increase funding to the Kaduna State Bureau of Statistics and ensure adequate usage of the data in planning and budgeting decisions; ensure that meeting the needs of citizens supersede the aspiration for international recognition; and more focus should be paid to budgetoutcomes as against just outputs.
More importantly and beyond reforms, the residents want to see increase and improvement in the number of people with access to quality healthcare, enrolment and retention in education, affordable food on their tables, security of their lives and properties, availability of entrepreneurial opportunities and jobs, and drastic reduction in poverty over the next four years.
While the task before the new Commissioner is intimidating, however, it is achievable with the quality and youthful workforce in the Commission, who have been exceptional over the past four years of the present administration.
May I apologize to the new Commissioner that as Civil Society, we are ready to ensure that he has sleepless nights by ensuring that the Commission facilitate the attainment of the State Development Plan targets of: Kaduna being the prime destination for business investment; inclusive growth that creates wealth for all; education for all; healthy population with improved life expectancy; turn the tide of insecurity; set standards for transparent decision making and citizen’s engagement; and a competent and responsive public service.
Yusuf Ishaku Goje is Head Leadership, Governance & Advocacy – Coalition of Association for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development (CALPED)