NDDC: Why law makers should not be Government contractors – Frank Ofili55 views
My Dear brother Nelson Egware
On Tuesday, you made a post on your Facebook page to the effect that (in your words) “Hon. Thomas Ereyitomi didn’t handle Akpabio well at all.”
You went further to ask, “does it mean that if lawmakers were given contracts, they didn’t execute them?”
Your reference of course was to the drama that took place during the public hearing of the House of Representatives investigative panel probing corruption allegations against Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio and members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
While responding to questions, Akpabio had accused members of the National Assembly of being the beneficiaries of most of the contracts from the NDDC. According to him, “…we have records to show that most of the contracts in NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly….”. As he made to drive home his accusation with documented facts and figures, the panel chairman, Honourable Thomas Ereyitomi, apparently uncomfortable, quickly hushed him up, declaring “It’s okay, it’s okay, Honourable Minister, it’s okay. Drop the mic, it’s okay, it’s okay” and abruptly ended the seating, apparently to forestall the public getting to hear Akpabio’s bombshell concerning some members of our national legislature and NDDC contracts.
It is this exchange between the minister and the probe panel that you referred to in your Facebook post under reference. Unfortunately, in your attempt to lampoon the panel chairman, you implied that it is okay for law makers to also double as government contractors. Coming from you – a senior government spokesman – it is not difficult to understand why governance is the way it is in our country.
You and I know that there is everything wrong with a law maker becoming government contractor. I will come to that shortly, but in the meantime, please permit me to employ two professional – as opposed to political – terminologies to drive home my point, to wit, job description and key performance indicators.
So, what is the job description of a lawmaker?
There are many things a legislator does in the course of his duty, but four shall suffice for our purpose here.
The very first duty of every elected law maker is to represent, project and protect the interests of their constituency/constituents in the parliament. They frame policies and pass laws at the local, state or federal level.
As members of the legislative arm of government, legislators also propose and make changes to existing laws or pass new legislation based on their constituents’ needs and for the good governance of the country.
They often serve on committees that oversee various aspects of government policy. Through these committees, they carry out over-sight functions on the Executive with a view to ensuring that government programs and policies are executed as are enacted by the legislature.
The law makers also monitor developments across the world with a view to gaining insight and adapting positive ones to our legislative process so as to improve governance in our country.
If our law makers dutifully and sincerely carry out the functions as outlined above, then we can begin to lay claim to a functional parliament. For now, however, that is light years away in our clime.
But what are the expected outcomes of a functional legislature? What are the performance metrics? By what indicators will its performance be measured? In other words, what are the key performance indicators (KPI) of a functional legislature?
The first is quality and effective legislation with minimal expenditure in time, energy and resources, as everyone is on their toes knowing what is expected of them.
The second is efficiency and effectiveness in governance as the executive arm of government will sit up knowing that legislative oversight will not spare, nor condone, non-performance.
The first and second outcomes naturally lead to the third, which, of course, is improved quality of life of the citizenry; an engaged and empowered populace with equal access to opportunities, and respect for their rights and general well-being – what we call, in this part of the world, ‘dividends of democracy’ and the rule of law.
And of course, all this will translate to respect for the people and government of the country in the comity of nations.
Will all these happen if our law makers also double as government contractors? My answer is an emphatic NO. Why?
First and foremost, there is the little matter of conflict of interest. If a law maker becomes a government contractor, what will be his disposition if an issue involving his contract is tabled before the legislature?
Second, in a democracy where roles and responsibilities of government are separated, a law maker who doubles as a government contractor has effectively, inexorably, compromised his over-sight responsibility. Such a law maker will be hard put to demand performance and accountability from the executive arm; or even ask critical questions bothering on executive recklessness or lack of performance.
Furthermore, if a law maker also doubles as government contractor, what time does he have for his primary responsibility of law-making? There is also the little matter of using his position to enrich himself and deny ordinary people access to job opportunities.
Of course, we all know that legislators-turned-government contractors often lack the necessary expertise, experience, and resource to execute certain government contracts. Needless to say that all such legislators do, is sublet the contract and, in the process, severely compromise quality; or may be, even abandon it altogether.
All of this connote corruption in some way, and it is for the purpose of distancing himself from such that the first chairman of the House probe committee, Honourable Tjunji-Ojo recused himself after he was accused by the acting (and now fainting) managing director of NDDC, Daniel Pondei, of corruption. It is also for that reason that the new chairman, Honourable Ereyitomi, quickly silenced Akpabio from releasing his bombshell.
In climes where things work as they should, law makers remain law makers. If for some reason, they are interested in government contracts, they quit their seats as law makers and become businessmen. And if, on the other hand, they were already businessmen and are now interested in politics, they quit their business – at least temporarily – and go into politics. That is as it should be. There is no reason it should not be so in our clime.
(Image credit: Channels TV)