Femi Ifaturoti, the Director-General of Bureau of Social Services (BOSS), State of Osun, is one of those who drew-up the roadmap for the six-point integral action plan of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. He spoke with Shina Abubakar on the administration of Aregbesola within the past seven years. Excerpts.
OSDF: Seven years into Ogbeni Aregbesola’s administration, how has the BOSS added value to the administration?
Ifaturoti: BOSS represents a very unique new paradigm in ensuring public service delivery. It arises directly out of the vision of Governor Rauf Aregbesola and it is something that has never been done by any government either at the federal or state level.
Essentially, what BOSS is setup to do is to ensure that government did not just deliver on all its promises, but the people and government must get value for all the jobs awarded to contractors. Heads of MDAs or even contractors that are awarded projects must do so in line with the six-point integral action plan of the Governor.
So, BOSS is a kind of quality control office, office of due diligence, to ensure that even before contractors or other government agencies are engaged to implement or execute contracts for which the state is spending public funds, public accountability of the fund is expected. In this case BOSS has become a necessity for every state that wants to be seen to be delivering on its promises. I found out that in the process of rendering service, we have had course to reverse several MOUs, either because we realize that there are some due diligence issues or lapses which are not in the best interests of the state.
We’ve also had causes to save the state a lot of fund, monies that would be spent without commensurable value for the state.
I am happy today that people commend us particularly in the area of infrastructure and all the good works the government has been doing, but one thing people fail to realize is that what you see there as a finish product, there is an agency that ensures that it is commensurate with government investment.
It might interest you to know that we do not award contracts here, we are working behind the scenes to ensure that government get value for what it paid for, but we can terminate any contract if we realise that it is not being carried out in accordance with the terms agreed upon by both parties and at the end of the day we are not likely to get value.
BOSS’s staffing is multi-disciplinary in nature, we have quantity surveyor, civil and structural engineers and IT experts who are in charge of evaluation. There is no contract done or ongoing that our officials have not visited, minimum of three times before completion and if someone wants to know the number of roads in the local government that this government has done, BOSS is where to come.
OSDF: The “opposition” in the state have been condemning that the cost of constructing road project in Osun is too exorbitant; coming from a background of quality control and assurance, how do you measure road construction in Osun, in terms of quality?
Ifaturoti: Not being present at the time contracts were awarded, I may not be able to discuss extensively on that, but one thing I do know is that there are certain standard calculation placed on amount charged for projects that is universal, particularly on the aspect of construction. For instance, if a person constructs a drainage that is made with blocks, such drainage cannot be compared with a concrete drainage. My quantity surveyor tells me that there is measurement related with measuring the depth and breadth. With that in mind, only those who want to run into serious trouble just deliberately inflate contract and expect to get away with it. Even based on the agreed figures, people attempt and will still continue to attempt to cut corners and that is where we come in. We take our people to the land, we analyse the initial payment in terms of mobilisation which constitutes most of the percentage, if a contractor seeks another strand of payment, or the parent ministry that awarded the contract wants to give out another strands, we ensure that before such ministry gives out the money, the amount paid conforms with the work done so far. In some instances, we find out that if an agency like ours doesn’t exist, someone might claim a further reimbursement or other charges which represent 100%. If we discover that the contractor has not met up, we, in conjunction with the parent ministry, write that in our own view, we cannot give further reimbursement until the work delivered corresponds with the amount paid. At the end of the project, we work to ensure that the quality of the job done is better than if there was no agency like us.
It’s not only in the area of infrastructure; we also evaluate policies, projects and programs. There are so many programmes like OYES, OREAP, OMEAL, O’Ambulance among others that often times we send periodic reports to the governor about what we consider the status of those projects/programmes. After evaluating such programmes, we also suggest measures that can be taken, when we realise that how some projects are handled, we are not likely to get desired outcome.
BOSS engages in community participation in monitoring projects, we receive many calls on reports of damaged roads in several local governments and we dispatch our engineers to go and access and take pictures. We thereby invite the contractor and advise them to redress the situation. With that we have been able to save the state a lot of cost and ensure the state gets value for every penny coming out of the public fund.
OSDF: In the area of programmes evaluation, in the seven years of Aregbesola’s administration, the state government has invested lot of funds in OREAP, how can you evaluate the performance of OREAP?
Ifaturoti: From the design stand point, and for the structuring of how things work, I think I give OREAP a pass mark, but the execution of it will be explained by them. Most of these programmes fall under certain ministries and the execution of it will depend on the competence of the people handling those ministries.
Honestly speaking, OREAP is like an octopus whereby there are many contracts being done and many of them are done before we even realize.
OSDF: How far have you been able to integrate the civil servant because most of the projects are products of what the civil servant will go to the field and implement. How much have you sensitize them to buy into quality service delivery?
Ifaturoti: We have our own internal evaluation forum for all the staff members here, and we want to cascade it to what must be done in ministries. We talk to them about the 6-point integral plan of the governor and ask them what they’ve done so far, plus the amount. At the end of the day, we develop questionnaires, we develop the kind of thing they can be using but they said they needed training for their staff to understand the workings of the system. Internally, we did three days training here for the DFAs and coordinating directors about three years ago. At the end of the training we found out that, not much has been done in the area of implementation.
OSDF: The Governor is your friend from time; do a strict evaluation of not the governor but your friend in the last seven years of his administration?
Ifaturoti: Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, coming from a communist background, I see a lot of idealism in some of the thing he does, very vibrant, ambitious and highly passionate in everything he wants to do. In the process of driving whatever he wants to do, one can actually see his vision and the passion driving his vision and it’s being translated into action. That has been the trend even from the days when he was the commissioner for works and infrastructure in Lagos. Today, I found out that he remains one of the most controversial leaders that have ever governed any state in Nigeria. He is controversial because he is a man who doggedly pursues what he believes is right. He is a man who will not be deterred by the perceived low level of access to fund. It is public knowledge that out of the 36 states in Nigeria, the allocation that comes to Osun is ranked 34th, sometimes 35th or 36th. Essentially, this Osun is not a buoyant state, but because he is uncompromising in his approach, people misunderstand him. Years after he his gone, his indelible legacy will physically be there for people to see. Within the limit of what is available to him, he has succeeded beyond expectations. He’s not perfect though.
Giving the cost of most of the projects we’ve done years ago, it would have been impossible to achieve that now particularly in the area of infrastructure. Unborn generations will come and see it. Also, Ogbeni did not see any reason why children will be sitting in classrooms that are not equipped, or lack quality teachers and infrastructure. He also believes that nobody was born to be dull or dumb. The performance of every student academically is a product of his experience, value of nutrition, tutoring and the environment where he is receiving such tutoring. That also addresses some of the wide reaching reforms Aregbe had done in educational sector.