Power Sector Emergency Declaration: Getting the Implementation and Monitoring Strategy Right – Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko

No Comments » July 13th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project



 

Sat 12th July, 2008

Power Sector Emergency Declaration: Getting the Implementation and Monitoring Strategy Right

With the recent approval of the total amount of N628.29 billion ($5.37 billion) by the National Economic Council (NEC) to be invested in resuscitating the power sector from the controversial Excess Crude Oil Account, the stage has been cleared for the official declaration and implementation of the much awaited Presidential Emergency Declaration on the power sector.

As earlier explained by the NEC Chairman, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, the amount of money set aside to be invested in the power sector is in the form of equity; with the Federal Government contributing 51 per cent while the 36 states provide 49 percent.

In addition, the Council also approved the establishment of a Monitoring Committee to be headed by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, who is also the statutory NEC chairman, to monitor the implementation (execution) of the investments in the power sector. Other members of the power sector emergency implementation (execution) monitoring panel are as follows:

Six governors; one from each of the six geo-political zones, and the three governors who were former ministers of power and steel development during the two-term tenure (1999-2007) of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration (i.e., Ondo State Governor Olusegun Agagu, Liyel Imoke (Cross River) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe State)),

Additional members of the committee includes: current Ministers of state for Energy (gas) and (Power) respectively, Minister of Finance, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of National Planning, two representatives from banks, one each from organised labour, the media and the oil operators.

The first issue that needs the urgent attention of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (UMYA) is that of the composition of the above mentioned power sector emergency implementation (execution) monitoring committee. There are two disturbing issues arising from this development.

These are as follows:

Firstly, it is a misplaced priority to include the three presently serving Governors, who previously served as Ministers of Power and Steel Development in succession during the immediate past administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007).

It is these same three presently serving Governors, who were directly responsible for the supervision and control of the power sector when it degenerated further (and nearly totally collapsed), after (allegedly?) expending whooping sums of US$13.5bn for the sector’s revitalization and expansion projects without any tangible result. It is therefore instructive for the Yar’Adua’s government to learn from past mistakes and failures, and many countries across the world do.

If the composition of the established Monitoring Committee is allowed to exist as presently conceived, this singular act is likely going to generate another unnecessary controversy similar to the ones the nation faced recently regarding the removal and appointment of the new Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief Executive and the appointment of the Chairman of the proposed Niger Delta Conference Steering Committee respectively.

These two muddled-up issues thus far, have become public policy disasters and blunders in the face of the Presidency; further exposing the Presidency to public ridicules; as inept and lacking sense of direction, vision, mission  and above all, capable of further eroding its credibility before the general public (particularly opposition political parties and politicians) and the international community.
In light of these often repeated embarrassing ugly developments, the National Economic Council (NEC) should therefore save the President in particular and the nation in general, from going through another round or cycle of unnecessary, embarrassing and traumatic experience.

An important concern the present administration needs to address is why it continues to allow bad policies to trail it. And worst still, the administration waste a lot of time before it takes corrective actions obviously only when the damage has already been done. The administration must be capable of learning from the immediate past mistakes and avoid repeating them as the mistakes are highly costly and injurious to our national economy and international image and reputation.

My plea is that the Presidency and the NEC should drop these three serving Governors from the membership of the monitoring committee.

Dropping them from serving on the Committee will save the Presidency and the nation from unnecessary controversies and delays in achieving the dividends of the power sector emergency declaration as soon as possible.

The Presidency has just managed to wriggle itself out of the very messy and embarrassing policy choice blunder regarding the invitation extended to Prof. Ibrahim Gambari to Chair the Steering Committee of the proposed Niger Delta Conference. It therefore does not need to allow itself be dragged once again, into another messy controversy immediately after putting off the fire generated by that invitation.

Secondly, the other issue of concern is also similarly related to the composition of the monitoring panel as established by the NEC. In fact, this issue is also a prospective solution to the first problematic issue raised earlier above. The issue is concerned with the involvement of Ministers, Governors and top-level bureaucrats in the management of the proposed power sector emergency implementation.

My considered opinion is that it is ill-advisable to include any serving Governor, Minister and top-level bureaucrat to directly monitor the implementation of power emergency declaration. The reasons for my opposition to their involvement are not far fetched.

For instance, we do not need a Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 19, 1909–November 11, 2005), the highly regarded management guru/consultant and widely considered to be the father of “modern management” to tell us why this is a terrible thing to do. For example, if and only if, productivity and efficiency are what we need to achieve in the implementation of the proposed power sector emergency projects, then these categories of public office holders should be left out of its day-to-day implementation monitoring for obvious reasons also from the immediate past experiences.

There are several other cogent reasons to advance against their involvement in direct monitoring of power sector emergency projects. But for reason of space constraint, I will only mention that these categories of public office holders already have too much workload on their respective desks to handle. Therefore, they should not be further overburdened with additional time and energy consuming tasks of monitoring the proposed power sector emergency implementation.

However, economic reform is not just a matter of political will. It is also a technical matter (Collier, Paul, 2007, p.67). Hence, if this arrangement put together by the NEC is allowed to proceed without amendment, the power sector emergency implementation will not benefit from professional and qualitative monitoring and evaluation that are direly needed for such gargantuan undertakings.  For instance, as already mentioned above, the serving ministers (and ditto for serving Governors) are already over-tasked with all manner of membership of countless ministerial and inter-ministerial committees.

Furthermore, in addition to attending to their ministerial duties, they are also often required to attend to numerous Presidential assignments, meetings and travels. They are also involved in attending to their respective political party’s needs and private family and business related engagements, among other mundane things of life.

Therefore, the pertinent question to ask is where will all the time, energy and attention to details etc come from if they are now asked to be equally involved in the monitoring of the highly technical, complex and time and energy consuming power sector emergency implementation? Allowing them to participate will only open rooms for avoidable lapses to rear their ugly faces. This situation can easily be exploited and cashed-in by some unscrupulous people to commit frauds and other mischief.

The right thing to do is to establish powerful (i.e. in terms of skills, experience and character) professional project implementation monitoring and evaluation teams for the power sector emergency purpose. The composition of the teams should be made as professional as possible (however, as much as possible,  avoiding the mistakes of the past when similar exercises were made); representing professional callings directly related to the projects (engineers, finance and accounting, lawyers, quantity surveyors, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the State Security Service (SSS), etc).

For instance, embedding or including the EFCC, ICPC and the SSS in the implementation monitoring teams from the onset is to serve as deterrent to would-be fraudsters. The presence of the EFCC, ICPC and SSS may likely deter a would-be fraudster from even thinking of initiating one fraud. Crime prevention and deterrence are cheaper and more efficient and effective than crime detection and prosecution.

Therefore, removing or distancing away serving Governors, Ministers and top-level bureaucrats from the day-to-day micro-management of the power sector emergency projects will then allow these categories of public office holders enough time and energy to face other governance and policy challenges effectively and efficiently.

Thus, the Presidency, Governors, Ministers and top-level bureaucrats will then have enough time and energy to study progress reports on the power sector emergency implementation. This would give them the latitudes to raise questions, queries and to hold those involved in the execution and monitoring of the projects accountable for any lapses detected.

Presently, for example, Constitutional immunity shields some of the present serving Governors against being asked to account for some alleged misdeeds they committed elsewhere before becoming Governors. Moreover, they cannot also be asked to account for any misdeed that could arise from their participation in the implementation of the power sector emergency projects for the same Constitutional immunity protection provision.

Hence, they should therefore be asked to nominate professionals from their respective ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and geo-political zones to represent their interests as partner-investors in the power sector emergency implementation. These professionals can be asked to account for any misdeed detected and traced to them – as they are not covered by any Constitutional immunity protection provision. But they are governed by their respective professional Codes of Conducts and Ethics. They can also be arrested and prosecuted for any detected misdeed.

In conclusion, President UMYA and the NEC need in addition to engaging professionals, to involve selected key and critical stakeholders in the monitoring and evaluation of the proposed power sector emergency implementation when it is finally declared. For example, agencies such as the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN), the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) should be incorporated in the monitoring and evaluation of the proposed power sector emergency implementation.

This will go along way in ensuring a smooth take-off and successful completion of projects to be implemented under the power sector emergency package. My final plea: please don’t over-task the Ministers and the Governors. Get the professionals and relevant professional public and private sector stakeholder groups to be involved and hold them accountable and punishable when things go wrong! Avoid another avoidable policy and strategic blunder!! Also, get the EFCC, ICPC and SSS embedded from the onset and not when the looting is over!!!

Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko
Saturday, 12 July 2008

 

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