The Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government is the policy coordination unit of the Executive. Comprising staff that are civil servants but with a principal appointed by the President, the OSGF has the responsibility to ensure that all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government are on the same path, ensuring synergy in their policies to reflect the main agenda of any administration.
Seen in this light, the report by PREMIUM TIMES that the office earmarked N65 million (about $176,000) for its website may not be the ultimate shocker. In the digital age where information technology plays a huge role in governance and public administration, it should not be hard to sell the need for a technology that enables the nation’s policy framework to be hosted on a platform where real-time updates could be accessible to every Nigerian at the click of a mouse.
With such huge investment, the OSGF website would have to be one where people could visit and find relationships between the policies of, say the Ministry of Health and that of Solid Minerals. It would also contain video highlights of every Federal Executive Council meeting with video explainers for every new contract awarded, as well as video reviews showing evidence of the accomplishments of the Executive. Investing in creating and uploading regular video content, and the requirements for real time updates from all MDAs on the website could be possibly justified for N65 million.
Unfortunately, that is not what we have. As it has been analyzed by many, the current status of the OSGF website could not have cost anything more than a million naira. Rather than become an example of how technology can be used to drive public administration, the look and feel of the website when put side by side with its inflated cost gives another regrettable instance of public sector corruption. It would seem the staff of the OSGF in charge of preparing the budget did receive instruction to overshoot the cost of running the already existing website, to leave off some accessible change for other projects of the Office. Should we blame it on the TSA which has encouraged MDAs to find creative ways to reserve miscellaneous funds for miscellaneous purposes?
At the request of PREMIUM TIMES for clarification, an official aide of Boss Mustapha, the OSGF boss, retorted that he was not an accountant, a sore comment from a member of an administration which has touted itself on ridding corruption by being more transparent and accountable. Again, this will leave Nigerians wondering if anything has really changed. As elections draw closer, the increasingly popular opinion is that every means possible will be employed to reserve campaign funds.
Try convincing Nigerians this N65 million bogus isn’t one of such means.