“Kaduna improves governance at local government level”

Last week, the Ministry of Planning and Budget Commission made disbursements to local governments under the auspices of the Local Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (LFTAS) Programme. What is LFTAS? Is this a Kaduna State initiative, a federal government policy or a program designed by the World Bank?

Thanks very much. LFTAS is a program of Kaduna State. Kaduna State Government initiated it, designed it and is funding it 100% with state government resources. It is a program that the governor, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai approved, following the proposal of the Economic Planning Council that I chair. We sent the proposal in 2018. The program really aims to improve service delivery at the local government level, in the 23 local governments. It is an incentive program to get local governments to improve their governance so that they can improve service delivery at that local level. It also aims to ensure that people at the local level get more from local governments.

We have designed the program in such a way as to encourage the presidents of the local governments to engage in certain elements of reforms in the 23 local governments; it doesn’t matter which party you belong to, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman. What we want is how to improve the management of local governments. So we designed it to improve budget performance. You know, when we came to government, a number of these local governments were insolvent, which means a lot of them can’t even pay the salaries. Alhamdulillah, the governor and this government have implemented a number of reforms which have now enabled these local governments to be financially vibrant. So what we’re trying to do now is make them even more solvent through improving fiscal performance to ensure the sustainability of local governments. This is goal number one.

Second, we initiated coordination between the state government and local governments. Sometimes when you go to certain states you will see the state government doing one thing and the local government doing something completely different. So, during this program, we tried to align our projects, so that if the State provides 70%, the local authorities provide 30% and we work in the same direction. It saves us money so that most of the things we do, we do for the people of Kaduna State; not that we work at cross purposes with each other. So that’s the second thing.

The third thing is to improve accountability and then effectively align our plans and policies. So if the state government comes up with a plan, they don’t have to replicate it at the local government level. The fourth and most important is that we want to increase community participation in governance at the local level. So you can see that under the LFTAS program, local governments are required to engage their people, sell to their people when they write their budget; they are required to sit down with the people in their communities, to ensure that everything we do as government, overall, is what our citizens want. So these are the main reasons why LFTAS was created.

A quick look at the local governments that came out on top this year seems to be a replication of what happened last year. Zaria local government came first, Jema’a local government second and Kaduna South local government third. Does that mean the others aren’t doing well?

Not really. No. Since the launch of the program, we have only had one evaluation. The announcement you heard last year was the same. Only this year we disbursed the funds. So it was the same assessment. Zaria came first, but in all our local governments there is improvement; all local government presidents try. They work very hard to improve procurement processes, to improve the lot of citizens in their local government, and to ensure that they align their policies and plans with the state government. We just launched the second round yesterday March 1stst. From March 1 of this year until the end of the year, we will closely monitor our local governments. Which local governments are making sure they get their money where people need it? Which local governments are making sure they are doing proper public procurement? Which local governments are increasing their internally generated revenue (IGR)? Which local governments are addressing absenteeism of teachers and health workers working at this level? Local governments would get the highest amount in the next round. That’s what we’re trying to do.

It seems that your approach is a carrot approach, are there no sanctions against local governments that do not meet these criteria?

This program is an incentive program. It is already a program designed to get local governments to do the job they are supposed to do. We provided an incentive for those who did it well, they get a high amount and for those who don’t do it well, they get nothing. It’s the stick. But on the other side, the Ministry of Local Government and His Excellency the Governor are keeping a close eye on local governments that are not doing the right thing.

There are other forms of sanctions, but these are not included in this program. This program is an incentive program, it is a carrot program, the stick being the local government people. If your president isn’t doing the job he was elected to do very well, when he runs for re-election, you kick him out. It does not matter whether he is with this party or the other. If the president of the local government is not working, he is not governing well, then like all of us at the state or federal level, any public official who has been elected or appointed to work and does not work, the answer is to kick him out. And with appointees like me, for example, I was appointed by the governor, if I don’t do my job, tomorrow the governor will fire me.

Was there resistance from opposition parties; I mean councils that are controlled by opposition parties?

Not at all. I think this program that we are trying to do is to make the local governments responsive to the needs of the people of Kaduna state and to be honest with you when we come to the Economic Development Planning Committee we hold meetings with all the presidents and we discuss governance; we are not discussing politics, we are discussing development and how we can address some of the poor indicators in education, health, water supply and infrastructure for the people of the state of Kaduna, regardless of their political affiliations. I think whoever is elected has that responsibility and should see it as a mandate to fill that gap. There is no difference regarding the parties.

Apart from the partisan difference, are there people who resist having the state government erode their independence as a level of government?

No not at all. It’s state government money that we use, we don’t use local government money. So we’re actually giving them more money than they’re supposed to get, because on top of that we’re not touching the money that’s supposed to go to local governments. Now, out of our own share, we have created another program to give them even more money if they are able to do the job they were elected to do. So, this money that Malam Nasir El-Rufai has approved for this program is another support for local governments. And we didn’t tell anyone that “when you go there you have to do XYZ with the money”. We said when you go, sit down with your teams, bring out what you think is the highest priority, the most important priority for local government today and use that money. What we’re waiting for is a full report of what you’ve done so we can see local governments doing it right.

The biggest problem for some local governments is maternal mortality, mothers are dying. Another local government chairman told me that ”one of my biggest problems is that I have three or four big schools that are burnt down for one reason or another, I want to use the money to fix these schools. “So all local governments have different priorities. It’s the presidents choice on what they choose to spend the money on and we’re not telling them you have to. Remember, these are people who got elected, they have a reasonable education, so we’re waiting to see how they spend it.

Won’t you replicate this at the state level, where government ministries, departments and agencies are also assessed and rated?

I think that’s certainly the thinking of the government, where we should go. All public funding should be performance-based. Our aim is to work for the people of Kaduna State and if someone is not doing it, I don’t think public resources should be wasted on that person. Going forward, we have designed several programs for Ministries, Departments and Agencies so that they too can rise to the challenge and then get increased funding if they fulfill their mandate. If you don’t fulfill your mandate, you get nothing.

LIFTAS Facts

-Kaduna State Government disbursed N152. $4 million to the 23 local government areas as a performance grant under its Local Government Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (LFTAS) program;

-LFTAS was introduced by the state government as a reform initiative to strengthen fiscal performance and sustainability at the local government level;

-The program focuses on six thematic areas: budget preparation process, compliance with policy documents, strengthening internally generated revenues, improving procurement systems, reducing salary fraud and combating absenteeism and nonchalant attitude of teachers and health personnel;

-At the end of the evaluation, the local government councils of Zaria, Jema’a and Kaduna South came first, second and third respectively;

– Zaria Regional Council got 9.94 million Naira while Jema’a got 9.27 million Naira and Kaduna South Local Government Council got 9.26 million Naira; the other 20 got between 3.49 million naira and 8.75 million naira.