Wednesday, 27th September 2023

Civil service administration and effective service delivery for development

By Olugbenga Peter Faseluka
11 March 2015   |   11:00 pm
CONVENTIONALLY, political leaders usually determine the policies in any nation. Such leaders outline the political, economic and social directions for the country.

An address delivered by the Head of Service, Ekiti State recently


CONVENTIONALLY, political leaders usually determine the policies in any nation. Such leaders outline the political, economic and social directions for the country. It is important for these policies have to be properly articulated and implemented for meaningful results. The civil service is the main instrument through which government implements and administers public policies and programmes. This function usually derives from the constitution and the laws of the land (Olagboye, 2005: 4). However, the way and manner civil service in a particular state is managed determines its performance. Thus, civil service has prominent roles to play in service delivery. The development achieved in many countries of the world has been due to the ability of their civil service to effectively translate the policies of their political leaders into concrete services.

In the light of this, the objective of the paper is to examine the nexus between civil service administration and effective service delivery. There are three basic presumptions in the paper. One is that the existence of a Civil Service administration is desirable. Second is that the existence of the civil service should serve the purpose of service delivery and thirdly that effective service delivery is a precursor of development. The paper is discussed under the following sub-sections.

Theoretical Background and Conceptual Framework

This work is premised on the theories of bureaucracy particularly in the pioneering ideas of Max Weber who was described by Stillman (1980:39-43, Agagu, 1999) to have not only “pioneered ideas related to bureaucracy, but ranged across a whole spectrum of historical, political, economic and social thoughts”.

The term bureaucracy defies a precise meaning but has been used differently based on approach by individuals describing it.

Some have approached it from an organizations basic structural characteristics while some views it from behavioural features and further still, a third approach had been in terms of attainment of purpose.

The classical theory of bureaucracy has witnessed three metamorphoses. The Marxists theory situated bureaucracy within the overall context of Karl Marx’s theory of class conflict and the inevitable crisis within capitalism and the eventual evolution of communism. Marx described bureaucracy as an instrument by which the state (being the dominant class) perpetuates its domination over other classes.

Marx Weber’s theory of bureaucracy was partly a reaction to the Marxian theory of dominion which he subjected to a wider context of authority as a form of control. He differentiated between power and authority. He described power as any relationship where one member imposes his will on others despite resistance while authority is a relationship in which obedience to commands is secured on a consideration of legitimacy. Weber posited that legitimacy as a basis for authority naturally provided different forms of authority structures and corresponding forms of organization (Thompson, 1986:8)

Based on this, Weber identified three types of authority or dominion including the traditional which was identified with primitive societies. Here legitimization of power is located in belief in eternal past and in the rationalization of the traditional way of accomplishing things. The second is charismatic authority where the consideration of the authority of the leader is based on the people’s love and belief in his outstanding qualities.

The third is the legal-rational authority which Weber identified with the foundation of modern civilization. Here, “obedience goes to the legally established impersonal set of rules rather than to a personal ruler. Power is vested in the office as against its occupier” (Stillman, op cit).

Bureaucracy is seen as the administrative apparatus that corresponds to this type of authority. In bureaucracy, the relationships between the bureaucrat and the ruler, the ruled as well as with his colleagues are governed by impersonality.

Other features include hierarchy of office, schedule of duties, mode of recruitment, specified rights and entitlements, methods of recruitment and promotion.

The third theoretical stage is the Bureaucratic – oligarchy school led by Robert Michels which provided a critical examination of the problem of internal democracy with reference to internal politics of large scale organizations.

Bureaucracy is conceived as an administrative or social system that relies on a set of rules and procedures, separation of functions and a hierarchical structure in implementing controls over an organization, government or social system ( visited 2013/4/27). It is based on the rational – legal authority theory, that is, an authority which employees recognize as legitimate.

As opposed to adhocracy, it is represented by standardized procedures (rule-following) that guides the execution of most or all processes within the body; formal division of power, hierarchy, and relationships, intended to anticipate needs and improve efficiency.

Bureaucracy as a term is often used perjoratively against the backdrops of the lethargy, laziness and slowness for which the modern bureaucracy in developing countries thrive. Hence, the ascription of the term red-tapism.

However, the usage in this work is in its traditional sense of goal attainment that incorporates and weaves together a conglomeration of experts and other individuals in a network of public service delivery.

Bureaucracy is the collective organizational structure, procedures, protocols and set of regulations in place to manage activity, usually in large organizations particularly government.

Law policy and regulation normally originate from a leadership, which creates the bureaucracy to put them into practice. A bureaucracy is thus responsible to the leadership that creates it.

It has the following characteristics:

• high division of labour and specialization, – well defined hierarchy of authority

• follows the principle of rationality, objectivity and consistency,

• formal and impersonal relations among the members of the organization.

• interpersonal relations are based on positions and not on personalities

• there are well defined rules and regulations which must be strictly adhered to.

• there are well defined methods for all types of work.

• Selection and promotion are based on technical qualifications.

Conceptual Clarification

This section with provide conceptual clarification on three core concepts necessary for proper understanding of this paper. These are the civil service, and effective public service delivery.

The Civil Service: The Civil Service according to Olaopa (200:31) is one of the great political inventions of the nineteenth century England. The first generation of civil servants was called ‘Court Servants’ or ‘Court Clerks’. The civil service as a term has no precise definition and thus it is mis-used and also misunderstood.

In terms of origin, it was borrowed in the mid-eighteenth century (1785) from the British Administration in India to describe a system that emphasizes selection on the basis of merit (Wey, 1971:2). The term Service connotes a profession; a group of civil servants having common recruitment conditions and prospects, as well as a ‘career’ in a span of time under the government.

The absence of a standard definition of the Civil Service as a term is underscored by the observation of Peter Keller and Lord Norman Crowder – Hunt (1980:9) that :

There is a special sense in which the Civil Service reflects the British Constitution.

Neither is clearly defined in writing; both evolve and change with mood and circumstances.

However, E.C.S. Wade and G.G. Philips (1968:221) observed with regard to the British Civil Service that “a rough definition of the Civil Service would include all non-political offices and employment held under the crown with the exception of the Armed Forces”

In Nigeria, the Nigerian Interpretation Act 1964 (which is the interpreter of the Nigerian Constitution and other Statute books) remain silent on the general meaning and scope of the term civil service. The civil service Handbook produced by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation however describes the civil service as:

A body or organ which enjoys continuity of existence.

Its members unlike the members of the National Assembly … are not limited to short term of office…

Elected members come and go but Civil Servants remain in office…

This also, at best, is descriptive. However, the Civil Service has become a world-wide acclaimed institution for policy implementation and service delivery. It has become crucial player in the quest for development and growth. It is also known as Government bureaucracy.

The Civil Service had been used interchangeably with the public service as if both are the same.

Section 169 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) has the subtitle “The Public Service of the Federation” and states thereunder that “There shall be a Civil Service for the Federation”

Bade Gboyega (2004:3) stated that the Public Service means service in any Government capacity as a member of staff within National and State Assemblies, the Judicial Service, the Teaching Service,

The Public Enterprises and State-owned Companies, Statutory Corporations, Boards and Commissions and members and officers of the Armed Forces, the Police and (others at the Federal level)

The Civil Service Manual Handbook states that:- The Royal Commission on the Civil Service (1953-1955) has described the Civil Service as Servants of the crown, other than holders of political or judicial offices, who are empowered in a civil capacity and whose remuneration is paid wholly or directly out of moneys voted by parliament. In the Nigerian context, a civil servant is simply someone employed by the Civil Service Commission and paid by the Government out of moneys voted for the purpose by the National or State House of Assembly.

From the above, it is clear that the difference between the Public Service and the Civil Service, at least within the Nigerian context, is not in substance. The latter is a subset of the former being smaller in composition. Both had been used interchangeably. Though distinctions could be drawn between the Public Service and the Civil Service, such is not the objective of this contribution, I therefore beg to keep in view.

Public (Civil) Service Administration

Public Service administration is about the management of the human, material and financial resources of a state for the security and welfare of its citizens.

Modern states have adopted the doctrine of separation of powers which delimits the exercise of government functions into three jurisdictions: The Legislature (Law making), the Executive (Policy formulation and implementation) and the Judiciary (Law interpretation and enforcement). The Civil Service has emerged as an organ of the Executive arm that is responsible for advising it on policy formulation and implementation. Thus, Warren Fisher (quoted in AL-Gazali 2002:2) in his report of the Royal Commission of the Civil Service (1929) stated as follows:

Determination of policy is the function of ministers, and once a policy is determined, it is the unquestionable and unquestioned business of the Civil Servant to strive to carry out that policy with precisely the same goodwill, whether he agrees with it or not.

Adebayo (2000:92) stated that the Civil Service is not a creation of modern times. It has its roots in history and dates back to the time of ancient civilizations. He espoused that dating back to 462 B.C, Pericles, a leader in ancient Greece, introduced a scheme for the compensation of officials thus facilitating the continued participation in public administration by citizens who had to work daily for their living. He also captured that the Han Dynasty in the Chinese empire in 202 B.C recognized the need to have a permanent body of officials to implement government decisions.

However, the last one hundred years have witnessed increased transformation in the sphere of government activities. Instead of confining itself to traditional issues of defence, public order, crime control and a few others, modern government has endeavoured into elaborate social services and undertakes the regulation of much of the daily business of mankind in the realms of the public service, local government administration, land use, provision of social amenities including road, electricity, power, investment in commerce such as banking, insurance, consumer protection, land use, administrative inquiry etc. The State has put upon itself all kinds of new duties.

As society developed therefore, there arose a correlating demand on the state for effective and accountable public service and effective and accountable public sector institutions. These demands became more evident in the late 20th Century when greater education, awareness and liberty led to rising public expectation for better governance and accountability.

Bourgon (2007:23) captured this mood when he stated that: ‘good governance requires good government, that is an effective public service, and effective public sector institutions’

The Public Service of state had been built on the Classical (Weberian) model of Public Management to reconsider the contents of their objectives in line with what was deemed to be imposed by new demands of civilization.

The classical model which emerged in the latter part of the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution in Europe emphasized control and organizational design that are built around a meritorious and well-trained Public Service which was regarded by the Government as an instrument for nation building, foreign conquest and economic development.

The development of society and emergent complexity in governance and public management which resulted in the interface between politics and policies and new forms of accountability engendered by market rationality i.e. cost effectiveness and value for money actually challenged the classical model and gave way to the demands of the New Public Management School as exemplified in the works F. W. Taylor in Principles of Scientific Management which recommended the following administrative techniques:

• Time measurement

• Piece-rate principle i.e wage must be commensurate with output

• Separation of planning from performance

• Scientific method of work principle

• Managerial control principle

• Functional management principle (Nwankwo, 1982:6)

Henri Fayol (1916) added impetus to the perspective of the Scientific managers by identifying five key elements for the management process including planning, organizing, commanding or directing, co-ordinating and controlling.

The pressure led to various agitations for reforms in the public sector to enhance a responsive, accountable and proactive public service administration (Agagu 1999:57-75).

In the circumstance, the classical model caved in to the ‘demands of the new Public Management School which canvassed the private sector mode of management as practiced by profit-oriented private corporations. The attitudes of the New Management School include cutting government down to size, reduction of bureaucracy, privatization and commercialization of public enterprises , deregulation, lower taxes and public-private partnerships (Caiden, G.2000, xxiii). These were strengthened by demands for democratic consolidation, transparency, accountability and performance from the public sector.

Yayale (2007:5-6) expressed that recent literature and comparative assessment of international experiences tend to suggest that the reform pendulum in favour of private capital foray into government had swung too far, too fast and had inappropriately undermined the role of governments and damaged their capacity to deliver public goods and services effectively and impartially. He further opined that the privatization of governance had severely downgraded the image of the public service, its morale and professionalism. According to Yayale (ibid).

Professionalisation of governance, moreover, is inconsistent with the challenges faced by societies going into the 21st century, particularly in emerging economies and democracies. These challenges include globalization, and the competition and the skilled distribution of wealth across nations that it engenders, environmental degradation and its consequences such as the damage to the quantity and quality of natural resources, frequency of natural disasters, social dislocation and poverty, acute regional and social disparities which are harbingers of social conflicts, Political gerrymandering and instability, new types of diseases and epidemics (HIV-AIDS, drug resistance, malaria, strains etc.), unacceptable levels of unemployment and crime etc. All these point to the need for more competent and effective government intervention, particularly in the less developed countries.

To deliver our nation from the threats of the 21st century, there is no substitute to a professional, committed, knowledgeable and well remunerated public service. The challenges for reinventing governance also mean reinventing the public service.

Micheal Bentil, a Ghanaian Expert in Pubic Administration and an International Civil Servant, writing on 50 years of Civil Service reform experience in Anglophone Africa, stated that: The Civil Service plays a vital and indispensable role in the government of any country, indeed when one considered the experience of post war France and Italy it is not altogether fanciful to say that a country can be governed relatively well without ministries or even a political head of government. However, it may not be easy to have a functioning government without civil service. Bentil as cited in Daodu O (2007:18)

In delivering public goods and services, Government turn to amateurs and other ad hoc arrangements at their own peril. The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS) recognized this altruism as it captured as one of its major components, the strengthening of basic service delivery through improved governance norms and institutional strengthening.

Effective Public Service Delivery in Nigeria

Gazali (2007:5) has suggested the following checklist for measuring the performance of the Public Service and its capabilities (in Nigeria).

• demonstrable good and service to the people of Nigeria in cost effective, efficient and timely manner,

• existence of state institutions that are guided by high ideals of public service in carrying out their mandates in a fair, equitable, transparent and accountable manner,

• perception by the citizens that state institutions are respectful of citizens’ rights, interests and generally demonstrate respect for the laws of the land,

• the legitimate use of physical force and coercion,

• safe and secured environment that allow citizens to carry out their daily routines without fear, encumbrances and hindrance other than those imposed by law,

• general perception that justice is dispensed justly, fairly, equitably and in a very timely manner,

• legitimate enforcement of laws, rules and regulations that is not selective or perceived to be tainted with bias.

Accordingly, Gazali (ibid) proposed that the role of the Public Service in the transformation of the country could be benchmarked thus:

• the engine of growth in infrastructure and human capital,

• energizer in the Nigerian Political and economic process,

• the beacon of unity in diversity and sustainability of the Nigerian Federation,

• a beacon of hope in the fight against corruption and retarded development,

• instrument of social transformation and failed political process

State of the Civil Service in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic

At the inception of the current democratic dispensation in May 1999, the state of the Public Service in Nigeria in terms of public image, value system, operational modality, service delivery was considered to be in disarray. According to Pepple (2008:3), it was severally observed that the Public Service and the Civil Servants in particular were:

• lethargic and slow in official decision and action;

• insensitive to the value of time;

• irregular in attendance at work;

• nepotic;

• wasteful with government resources;

• poorly staffed and corrupt;

• in appropriately supervised and slow to change;

• characterized by breakdown of disciplinary system and code of ethics; and

• unresponsive and discourteous to the public etc.

In June 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo summed up all these at a retreat for members of the Federal Cabinet and Permanent Secretaries when he declared:

Public Offices are the shopping floor for government business. Regrettably, Nigerians have for too long been feeling short-changed by the quality of public service delivery by which decisions are not made without undue outside influence and files do not move without inducement. Our Public Offices have for to long been showcases for the combined evils of inefficiency and corruption, whilst being impediments to the effective implementation of government policies Nigerians deserve better. And we will ensure, they get what is better. (Obansanjo as cited in Abdullah, 2007).

Against the backdrop of these perceived and expressed negative attributes of the public service, the Obasanjo government embarked on a Public Service Reform process to change the public service orientation and re-organize it for quality service delivery.

The thrusts of the Public Service reforms were as follows:

• professionalizing the service with skilled and knowledgeable technocrats with appropriate motivation to assist in up-grading the operations of Government;

• reducing waste and inefficiency by monetizing fringe benefits within an incentive structure that supports private sector development by out-sourcing services which are considered to be unnecessary and only tangential to effective government and operation of the service;

• improving morale by instituting a more transparently managed contributory pension system that guarantees pension payment as and when due and under direct control of the retiree;

• rightsising the workforce of the service by weeding outsourced cadres and those that do not have the qualifications, the required discipline or the proper state of physical and mental health to serve effectively,

• instituting fiscal and budgetary reforms within the context of a Medium-Term Public Expenditure framework in order to sanitize budgeting and funding of government programmes;

• harmonizing organizational structures and objectives to reduce duplication and promote systematic reporting and evaluation of performance and programme implementation;

• re-focusing Government Agencies on their Core functions and withdrawing from commercial activities and making them more effective through restructuring and re-skilling;

• re-engineering administrative rules, procedures and work processes by making them faster, and adapting them to existing operational and technological realities (ICT);

• Changing the mind-set of officers so that they are disciplined, courteous and are guided by a professional code of ethical conduct etc. (Yayale, 2007).