Civil service struggles amid innovations
The civil service has been described as the policy implementation ‘engine room’ of government. Though the service is imbued with internal mechanisms that position it to deliver on its mandate for the benefit of the Nigerian people, systemic challenges have been the bane of the service.
The present chaotic state of the federal service was recently described aptly by Head of Service of the Federation, Ekanem Oyo-Ita, who identified poor funding, attitudinal change and automation as some of the major challenges facing service.
Speaking while reeling out the achievements of her office in the last one year, she hinted that the Federal Government is desirous of effecting a positive change in the service through innovation that is aimed at improving productivity. She added that government has designed the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation plan to address the challenges and improve productivity, professionalism for efficient and effective in service delivery.
Her words: “Under the visionary leadership of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the service is now experiencing a transformational drive that will culminate into an Efficient, Productive, Incorruptible and Citizen Centred (EPIC) civil service. I therefore call for synergy among stakeholders for the successful implementation of our strategic plan.”
Speaking on capacity building and culture change for staff in the last one year, the HOS said that a total number of 48,210 civil servants benefited from various training programmes and workshops between 2015 and 2018.“The Federal Training Centres [FTCs] within the years under review enrolled 1,964 staff in the various centres to cater for the training needs of the junior and middle level manpower of the service,” she said.
On talent and performance management, she explained that the office recently settled out of court the outstanding promotion examination for 75 Deputy Directors (Automation) which has been on for the last three years stressing that the promotion to the post of Director (Administration) was subsequently held in collaboration with the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) at the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN) in 2018.
In the area of service welfare Mrs Oyo-Ita said: “A total of 4,167 staff across the service benefited from the Federal Government Staff Housing Loan under the partnership with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) from 2016-2019. In the same vein, a total number of 2,077 staff benefited from Home Renovation loan of N1million implemented by the office in partnership with the FMBN between 2016 and 2018. A total number of thirty off takers have been issued keys to their houses while 342 units have been allocated, in addition, 9,503 units are under construction even as 17 off takers have been moved into their houses.”
She also hinted that the Federal Government has finally promoted 75 Deputy-Directors to full Directorate levels having settled their prolonged promotion challenges out of Court.Her words: “The Office recently settled out of court the outstanding promotion examination for Deputy-Directors (Administration) which has been pending for the last three years.”She added that the achievement was achieved following the talent and performance management strategies put in place.
The HOS further said that the welfare of civil servants were improved upon as over 30 civil servants were presented with keys to their own houses under the Federal integrated Staff housing (FISH) programme in the last one year.Earlier in a remark, the Permanent Secretary, Service and Welfare Office in the office of the Head of Service, Mrs Didi Walson Jack said that the year 2018 was an eventful one as it was the first full year of the implementation of the Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan 2017-2020.
She said: “We are glad to report that a number of initiatives were introduced and the implementation of on-going programme was equally stepped-up. These were done towards the actualization of the various targets set for each of the eight priority areas of the Plan.”
But to the founding Director General of Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR), Dr Goke Adegoroye, the route to engraving innovation in the public service is the resumption of tenure system for directors and permanent secretaries.He argued that systemic growth of the personnel will make the recruitment of younger generations that are technology savvy possible.He posited that there is no need to reinvent the will, saying the civil service could be self-evolving and could regenerate its operational apparatus when young and Information Technology-compliance workers are encouraged to be interested in joining the service.
Adegoroye insisted that the focus of the tenure system was to encourage the young ones that there was hope for them rising to the highest level in the service as long as they have what it takes to get to the very top before it was abruptly suspended by the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.
His argument: “The system began to allow outflow (retiring) and new civil servants to come in. Aside from that, the tenure system allows the young ones to grow and when the young ones are growing, it motivates them and they can put in their best. But when they are stagnated, they become frustrated especially when they know they are stagnated because one minister comes in and brings someone as special assistant and in a few years becomes a director and worse is when such a person does not know as much as them who have been in the service.”
Dr Adegoroye hinted that the suspension of the tenure system might be too injurious to the civil service if not quickly reversed. “The beauty of it also is that the service itself is growing and the service itself is looking for a way out. Recently you heard the labour talking about this and you remember also that labour pointed out the fact that the tenure policy was suspended. I wished that labour had pushed more on that front because that will bring more value to the country than focusing on the salary increase. When the policy was suspended, those who were supposed to go have not gone and those who were supposed to replace them and expecting that those people would go will not move up, therefore we will not get the best out of them,” he submitted.
While adequate funding is needed to ensure the service delivers on its mandate, Adegoroye insisted that money is the major need of the service. He submitted that what the system needs urgently is fairness and justice for equal opportunity for all the workers irrespective of where they come from, their religion, influence or political leanings. He argued that the retention of directors and permanent secretaries beyond eight years would lead to the increase of overhead at the expense of new openings for fresh university graduates.
“The salary of a director at the peak of the ladder is actually enough to hire five to six fresh graduates. These fresh graduates will help to rekindle the system. They will be able to work hard and prove their worth. So, we carry upon ourselves a heavy burden of carrying the salary of these people. It was a double tragedy for the system. And for a way out, I think government needs to be advised properly on this and look at the situation very well again,” he stated. Probably thinking ahead of the possible restoration of the tenure system, Adegoroye urged Heads of Service that will come in the future not to misunderstand the tenure system.
While calling for vigilance, he insisted that the tenure system was subject to abuse, saying, “If we are abiding by the rules of the public service commission in terms of promotion, and everything was moving steadily and the only people who are not moving steadily are those who are not good enough, we will not have a situation whereby someone who graduated five years ago would become a director ahead of people who were in the system for 10 or more years. If the system was working right, the tenure policy will become effective enough. It was introduced as a platform to be able to correct certain abnormalities but because of the inconsistency, we are back to where we were. As things stand now, I am sure there are permanent secretaries that would be in office for another 15 years. No system can function in such an environment.”
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