….Soludo’s Achievements Under One Year In Retrospect (Part Four)
By Christian Aburime
In a keen and volatile polity like we have in Nigeria, people seek and occupy leadership positions for various reasons.
Some have genuine intentions of making a catalytic impact and leaving the society better than they met it. Yet, others nurse sundry motives and pursue certain interests that are mundane and without impacting positively on the society
The impact-making leaders appreciate the nuances of good governance and the imperative of fostering a strong value system in building a progressive state. They are leaders who believe inexorably in building robust institutions to build a functional state.
Such leaders have a better grasp of the transcendent dynamics of governance. They know the art of governance involves the principles, strategies, and processes by which a state or government is managed and guided.
It encompasses the formulation and implementation of policies, the allocation of resources, decision-making processes, and the establishment of institutions to ensure effective administration and the well-being of society. And they understand that an integral part of governance is the entrenchment of a value system.
By a value system, great leaders appropriate a set of beliefs, principles, and ethical standards that guide the actions and decisions of individuals and institutions within society.
They provide a framework for determining what is considered best practices, and shape the goals and priorities of a state. Ultimately, a value system plays a crucial role in governance in the way it influences policy-making, agenda enforcement, and the overall functioning of government.
Without showboating, Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR, of Anambra State can be counted among a modern tribe of transformative leaders who are committed to building strong institutions through good governance with the right value system.
This is indubitably evident in his government’s multi-faceted positive impact in the past over one year of being in office. So, it is not a surprise that one of his pivotal policy pillars on which he is constructing a livable and prosperous modern Anambra State is institutional reforms that span the Civil Service, Public Sector, Internally Generated Revenue system and Local Government administration.
On assumption of office by the Soludo administration last year, there were several institutional and structural challenges thwarting the effectiveness of governance in the state. The challenges generally include a lack of adequate human capacity in the civil service due to ineffective training of employees and poor performance management systems; low utilization of technology in driving public service delivery; poor accountability of public institutions; bureaucratic civil service processes, and so on.
As a vision-driven leader, Governor Soludo moved resolutely to work on changing the governance system to work much better on many levels, so that Anambra can function effectively as a modern state. The first port of call for his institutional reforms is the civil service system.
The governor knows that the civil service is vital for its expertise, policy implementation, stability and accountability to act as the backbone of government operations, the effective functioning of democratic systems and the efficient delivery of public services to citizens.
So, he developed an execution strategy for the reform of the civil service into a more focused, citizen-centric organization. Accordingly, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were restructured to align with the administration’s priorities; salaries were increased by 10% to improve the welfare of workers; pensions and outstanding gratuities of retired staff are being paid as and when due, with arrears since 2018 being gradually paid to date; and an Anti-Corruption Steering Committee (ANSAC) has been domesticated in every Ministry, Department and Agency in the state.
Naturally, restructuring the civil service is intricately contiguous to the public sector reform too. Therefore, the Soludo administration established a delivery unit under the Governor’s office to help develop a more performance-driven public service, just as he developed strategic plans for MDAs that include a performance agreement that has been signed by each Head of the MDA with the governor.
Today, an electronic dashboard has since been deployed for performance management; the government is shifting from transactional to transformational Governance Model, promoting meaningful work (‘Agbero’ is not work) and improving public accountability and prudence. And to support the policy of doing more with less, the state Bureau of Public Procurement saved over N10.4 billion for the state from new contracts awarded by the State Government so far.
Also, to integrate innovation with transparency in procurement, the government commenced the roll-out of Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) with four pilot Ministries. The e-GP showcases the inclusivity and openness of Anambra State Government’s procurement processes, thereby allowing SMEs participation.
Leaving no stone unturned, Governor Soludo has also commenced work on the 31 years old delayed government house lodge, which includes 25 peripheral structures; established Anambra State Geographic Information System (ANAGIS) with implementation in top gear; signed over 400 Certificates of Occupancy in the last over one year; and implemented a fast track process for mortgage transactions, reducing processing time by 80% from average of 6 months to 3 days (72 hours).
Still on the public sector, other reforms include digitizing the budgeting and warranting processes; successfully engaging some development partners such as UNDP, Tony Blair Institute (TBI) and World Bank; restructuring the Anambra Investment Promotion (ANSIPPA) into Anambra Development & Investment Corporation (ADIC) with the ANSIPPA law duly amended; creating the Ministry of Homeland Affairs and Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources; entrenching e-governance by leveraging technology; and engaging PriceWaterhouseCoopers to conduct a Forensic Audit on all existing partnerships and joint venture agreements to improve profitability and impact.
Steadily, the public sector in Anambra State is now functioning optimally as it should.
The next area of institutional reforms that the Soludo government considers indispensable is the Internally Generated Revenue system (IGR). It is common knowledge that IGR is crucial for state development as it provides financial independence, enables infrastructure development, enhances service delivery, fosters economic diversification, supports social welfare programs, ensures fiscal stability and facilitates sustainable development.
Knowing all these, Governor Soludo introduced key reforms that resulted in increased Tax payers’ enrollment rate by 40%, as well as an increase in state IGR base of monthly N1.5B to an average of N2B monthly with a target to reach N5B in 2023.
Indeed, if everyone pays just 5% of his/her income in the next 3 years, Anambra State will be an IGR heaven. Extending the IGR reforms further, the current government took certain actions that include: digitizing Commercial Transport and Market Traders enumeration and direct payment system; launching and deploying multi-Agent payment services with over 6,000 agents across the states using POS terminals; conceptualizing and launching the Free Medical health Insurance services for commercial transport operators; deploying the “Do It Yourself” tax assessment and payment model; launching and deploying new multi-level digital enforcement processes; and of course, establishing Three Zonal Tax Authorities in the state.
No doubt, all these far-reaching actions will continue to improve the IGR viability of the state for the future.
Now, how would any government in a modern era be able to deliver good governance without a virile Local Government administration? It would be difficult. That is why the institutional reforms embarked on by Governor Soludo on governance and value system inevitably extend to the Local Government level.
For him, the Local Government, as a foundation of effective grassroots governance, plays a critical role in stimulating economic growth, engaging communities and promoting local democracy and security. So, the governor set forth since the inception of his administration by transforming the Local Government system in the state in a strategic way.
First, he reformed the LG financial management to ensure greater transparency and accountability; then, he worked on drafting a legislative enactment to ensure a fundamental transformation of the community governance institution as the true 4th tier of government; and he also initiated the training of 1,000 staff of Local Government Areas on ICT skills.
Other impactful actions taken by the government comprise successfully installing 10KVA solar lights in all the Local Government Headquarters for inclusive development; and rehabilitating the local government secretariats damaged or burnt by criminals in Aguata, Nnewi South, Idemili North, Ogbaru, Ihiala and Ekwusigo areas.
At the community level, the government has recorded over 97% success rate in Town Union and Chieftaincy elections so far conducted in 54 communities, while age-long disputes and crises amongst communities have also been settled. All this is a demonstration of governance percolating to the grassroots.
At this pace of comprehensive institutional reforms taking place in Anambra State, within just over one year into the current administration, it is indeed no longer business as usual.
While a lot more needs to be done, governance across board is already being transformed and the right value system is being entrenched in our way of doing things.
The vision of a smart, prosperous and livable Anambra State is not far-fetched anymore. Indeed, Solution is here to stay!