Nigeria: Executive Orders: Key Enablers For Driving Execution & Impact

In recent times, the term "Executive Order" has become commonplace in global political and economic discourse. In early 2017, the current United States president signed a series of executive orders to address what he felt were the most critical and urgent matters for his administration. Typically, executive orders are not in conflict with the constitution and aim to fast-track the implementation of critical actions/mandates. Coming closer to home, these presidential directives are normally recorded and published in a "Gazette" as official memorandum for the relevant agencies and general public to act upon.

In May 2017, Acting President Osinbajo issued several executive orders. In particular, the orders were designed to drive transparency and efficiency of business operations with an aim to improve ease of doing business, secondly, support local content in procurement by the Federal Government and also fast-track submission of annual budgetary estimates by all agencies and companies owned by the Federal Government.

The executive orders cut across multiple agencies but this article will highlight a few high impact directives below.

  1. MDAs are now required to display the full requirements for obtaining permits, licenses, approvals, etc. on their premises and websites with seamless updates. If updates occur but are not published, then the published version (albeit outdated) is upheld. Furthermore, a "default approval" process ensures that failure to communicate approval or rejection within stipulated timelines will automatically grant the applicant the right to request for the relevant approval.
  2. MDAs that require input documentation from other MDAs are now mandated to certify and verify the submitted information themselves under clearly defined Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
  3. Port-based agencies must be synchronized into a single customer interface (without prejudice to their back end procedures).The single interface stations at ports will capture and track the movement of goods and remit information to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) weekly.
  4. Company registration & payment processes at the Corporate Affairs Commission will be online from commencement to completion.
  5. FGN agencies are now expected allocate at least 40% of their procurement expenditure to locally manufactured goods for the following: uniforms/footwear, food/ beverages, furniture/fittings, stationary, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, and information and communication technology.

Critical enablers for the successful implementation of Executive Orders

Historically, there have been a series of government directives issued based on sound research and planning. However, the directives have failed to achieve the desired impact due to a lack of strong execution frameworks which ensure sound implementation, monitoring, reporting and corrective action when there is a breach. To ensure that our current set of worthy and commendable executive orders are sustainable and achieve the intended impact, several enablers are critical for success:

  1. Culture & Change Management
    Peter Drucker is reputed to have said "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". This is particularly apt within the civil service where the current operating processes and controls have been embedded into the culture, performance measurement and core values of the agencies. Even with the best intentions to comply by the MDAs, the impact of culture cannot be understated. The most critical enabler that must be addressed is the comprehensive review of the belief system and culture that drives the behavior of the agencies.

    Indeed the most critical culture change for the MDAs will be a shift from operating as Silos to a more holistic model where MDAs are operating collaboratively within the public sector value chain to achieve common goals.
  2. Processes & Controls Framework
    Majority of the MDAs operate with extensive process manuals, policies and procedures which are often outdated and in the case of the executive orders may be contradictory in parts. It is therefore critical for the impacted MDAs to undertake a comprehensive review and update of their operating processes, controls, key performance indicators (KPIs) and SLAs to ensure that they are aligned with the executive orders. The MDAs must ensure that there is only "one version of the truth" with regards to their internal processes and KPIs.
  3. Digital Platforms as an Enabler
    The core ethos of the executive orders reflect a need for improved integration of agency data, processes and systems and greater transparency with the public. For this vision to be achieved, the strategic adoption of digital platforms is a key enabler.

    Furthermore, agencies must avoid the "silo" approach to developing a digital strategy. There must be an enterprise-wide mindset in the documentation of operational/data requirements, vendor/systems selection and digital capacity building/training underpinned by a structured project management methodology.
  4. Joint Working Groups with common KPIs
    The executive orders require significant cooperation between the MDAs to ensure success. As a catalyst to this, the performance measurement of MDAs must be based on their ability to work collaboratively for the overall success of the public sector. Working groups with cross-agency membership and KPIs will drive the performance of key participants in the process.
  5. Ensuring Competitiveness of locally produced goods/services
    As agencies increase procurement of local goods, the government must likewise increases the focus on increasing the competitiveness of local manufacturers. Locally manufactured goods must be competitive in terms of sustainable supply (to meet the expected growing demand), quality and price. Local manufacturers require strong government competitiveness mechanisms such as innovative financing, incentives, infrastructure/power, capacity building and supply chain support.
  6. Independent and Objective Project Monitoring & Evaluation
    Finally, as the saying goes; "what doesn't get measured, doesn't get done". A key enabler for the success of the executive orders is the regular independent and objective monitoring/reporting on the successful implementation (or otherwise) of the executive orders.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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