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Repositioning public sector for effective service delivery

By Gloria Nwafor
30 August 2022   |   4:01 am
Barely six months to next general elections, the clamour for restructuring of the public service has increased, as stakeholders argue that such exercise should go beyond cost-cutting and personnel re-alignment.

Tommy Okon

Barely six months to next general elections, the clamour for restructuring of the public service has increased, as stakeholders argue that such exercise should go beyond cost-cutting and personnel re-alignment.

They argued that a more fundamental political will and citizen’s re-orientation would be critical to the repositioning efforts of the public service.

The move is part of the resolve to implement the Steve Oronsaye report to restructure and rationalise Federal Government parastatals, commissions and agencies.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration expressed desire to restructure the public service to ensure efficiency.

He restated his commitment, recently, during a visit by the Central Working Committee of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) at the State House, where he said the public service remains the engine room of government and should attract the best and brightest to fuel policies with fresh ideas.

He assured that the Orosanye White Paper Report would be implemented, after review.

While the committee constituted to draft the White Paper, last week submitted the report, among which, it considered factors, such as the need to develop diverse sources of revenue for government, as well as encourage some agencies of government to be self-funding; the principle of building strong institutions to guarantee service delivery to the populace and the imperative to grow the economy, create employment and stay on the critical path to achieve development objectives.

While many had welcomed the development, some had also said should the Oronsaye report be implemented, it might incur the wrath of the labour unions at this point in time as there will definitely be staff rationalisation, considering the fact that the country is barely six months to the next general elections.

This, according to them, can have dire political consequences for the ruling party, as it should have been implemented at least two years before the next general elections.

For equitable management of the civil service system, a public administrator and retired federal permanent secretary, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, in a write-up, had linked the public service as a vocation that is more of a calling than a mere profession.

Likening it to the Levitical Order of the Jewish priesthood, he said the strength of the public service must be derived from a measure of public-spiritedness and professionalism of the public servants that the state has recruited and had committed to working with.

He said it is the public spirit or civil virtue that instigates the public servants to an efficient, effective and equitable management of the civil service system.

According to him, given the spiritual significance of the professionalism and public-spiritedness of the public service, it becomes dangerous to leave the gateway into the profession unmanned.

In this sense, he said the civil service commission needed to keep reforming its gatekeeping dynamics to be able to also properly gatekeep the professional requirement for repositioning the public service as a profession.

Similarly, a Public Affairs Analyst, Jide Ojo, in his opinion, said he does not believe that the Federal Government was sincere with the implementation of the Oronsaye’s report as many of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to be merged or scrapped were set up by Acts of National Assembly.

“I believe they have to be liquidated by another Act of NASS. Also, the FG is already working on the 2023 Appropriation Bill (Budget) to be submitted to the National Assembly by September 2022.

“If the needful had been done before now, it means there should be no budget for the merged or scrapped MDAs. However, no such announcements had been made, thus there will still be financial provisions for all the MDAs in the 2023 budget,” he said.

Assuming without conceding that the Oronsaye report will eventually be implemented, he said to improve service delivery in the public service, there would be the need to ensure that the MDAs are well resourced.

He said there is the need to motivate public servants through adequate provisioning of working tools, offices and conducive work environment.

According to him, promotion, allowances, leave bonus and other emoluments due to the public servants needed to be paid as at when due.

He maintained that it is when the Federal Government has played its own part that the issue of strict discipline would come in for any erring workers, who flout the civil service general order.

President of the ASCSN, Dr. Tommy Okon, who met with President Buhari recently, on the need for harmonisation of workers’ salaries, especially in the public service to be in tandem with workers in the private sector, said the move was to get a conductive work environment with socio-economic benefits to ensure that workers’ pay have value.

Wabba

He said the workability of the Oronsaye’s report was very suspicious, since the agencies are set up by Act of Parliament ” and until the Act establishing it is repealed, there is nothing we can do, because it has to go through the National Assembly. That is a concern,” he said.

To reposition the public service, he said: “we have to reduce the waste in the service, which is not about laying-off workers. There are certain policies of the government that time has overtaken. It means budgetary allocation as it affects such kinds of programmes, would be utilised for another programme, which will bring about new infrastructure and human capital settings.”

He said addressing the skills gap through capacity building was germane.

“We have to build the human element to match the technology that is evolving, by doing so, you are repositioning the public service for effective productivity.

“We have to drum up the issue of punctuality, conductive work environment and welfare. When these are provided, a worker will know they have something at stake and they don’t want to lose.

“They will want to put in their best to ensure there is productivity in that sector. Once productivity is in place, what is expected of us is that we ensure we march it up with international best practice, which will enhance Nigeria in international ranking and will put Nigeria in a better note, even at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as the best in terms of labour administration on the global map.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Muda Yusuf, said to achieve a well-repositioned public service, there is the need to right-size and remunerate better.

According to him, the current size of the public service at all levels of government is bloated and unsustainable.

Noting that their remuneration was also very poor, he said the shortcomings would predispose the system to inefficiency and corruption.

He advocated a public service that recognises and rewards merit in all its ramifications.

In his submission, Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Wale-Smatt Oyerinde, said as economies shrink, the call for greater efficiency increases globally.

He said the need for implementation of the report had become urgent in view of the current economic situation, the obvious duplications in the mandate of some agencies and the imperative for a more responsive and efficient public service.

While commending government’s renewed commitment to the implementation of the report, he acknowledged that efforts to improve nationwide productivity could not be complete without public service, as it is critical to the private sector’s competitiveness and sustainability.

To reposition the public service for efficient service delivery and as an agile custodian of reforms, he argued that deliberate efforts must be made to create strong and sustainable public service institutions.

He mentioned countries such as the United Kingdom, Rwanda, Indonesia and Pakistan, among other certain efficiency drivers, which are interconnected, enabled and repositioned their public service for improved efficiency.

He said repositioning Nigeria’s public service should include institutional capacity building and training; increased transparency and citizen’s feedback mechanisms; application of technology and innovation; political leadership and incentives.

For Paul Omoijiade, a labour expert and lawyer, who affirmed that the over bloated public service, however, said when repositioning, there is the need to buy-in the employees and members of the civil service, as without it, it may not work.

He called for serious education, training and retraining before deploying the tools to implement the needed change.

“Restructuring by building, remodelling and fixing of equipment will not make up institutions, it is about building the capacity of the workers that make up the institutions.

Wale Oyerinde

“You also look at the reward system in the public service, it needs to be reviewed. It’s not about having confirmation exams as it does not translate to efficiency. The appraisal system should be dynamic, by identifying the contribution of the employees within a given period.

“They need to be more pragmatic on training, deployment on core competencies based on recruitment, selection and placement basis. They should be motivated and have the right tools to work through a more scientific approach. The development of the country to a large extent, is dependent on the efficiency of the civil service. They need to focus more attention on the human capital,” he said.

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, in a statement, reiterated the union’s position on the implementation of the Orosanye report that any action or process or policy that will lead to the loss of jobs or incomes by workers will not only be inhumane and unconscionable, but shall be resisted by the union.

He said: “The practice across the globe, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19 is preservation of jobs, the expansion of social protection and social security programmes. That is the irreducible minimum. Most nations of the world are creating jobs for their citizens because mass loss of jobs comes with a big price. It is even truer in our milieu given our security situation. In light of this, we would advise against this recommendation.

“Instead of embracing job termination, which will compound the existing crises in our country, we should adopt the positives of retaining our best hands as a way of motivating the public service.”