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Raising federal civil service from current despair – part 4

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Continued from last week Friday

In the exercise, every perm sec was instructed to take himself/herself out of the equation and score the remaining 25 candidates on those 20 traits. Key among the traits were:
Integrity of Personal Records (e.g. in official records relating to date of birth, first appointment, claims of qualifications and academic titles); Service-wide/public perception about the officer’s ability to withstand corrupt inducement;
Service-wide/public perception about the officer’s wealth (whether the officer’s wealth can be explained by his/her official earnings); Service-wide/public perception about the officer in terms of ownership of privately-owned properties and businesses such as estates, buildings, hotels, supermarkets, schools and farmlands, etc; and Service-wide/public perception about the officer in terms of ownership and utilization of personally-owned or cronies-owned companies to execute government contract(s).

Names of three officers with the highest scores were forwarded to the Governor and he too kept faith by appointing the candidate with the highest score. The announcement was greeted with wide jubilation across the entire service (RGGN vol.1 pages 86-89). It is therefore obvious that in our setting, a similar exercise at the level of Directors as part of the screening processes to select permanent secretaries, and among permanent secretaries to select the head of the civil service of the federation, will certainly go a long way to expose highly corrupt officers at those grade levels.

Our national experience with Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Okoi Obono Obla, as Chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property point to the need for due diligence on corruption for every officer under consideration for top public service appointment. The civil service, in particular, should be spared the ordeal of what befell these two public officers and Mrs. Oyo-Ita, the suspended head of the civil service of the federation. Government must be able to vouch for its appointees.

Ensuring Effective Coordination of the Entire Public Service

It needs to be stressed however that the “Civil Service” that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation presides over is just one (1) out of several services at the federal level, the others being: Federal Judicial Service
National Assembly Service
The Military (Armed Forces) Services – Army, Navy & Air Force
The Police Service
State Security Service
Nigeria Intelligence Agency
Para Military Services – Customs; Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons (CDFIPB); FRSC
Executive Bodies & Commissions (independent)

Parastatals, Agencies & Corporations
The above listed services, bodies, parastatals and agencies are independent of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. Indeed, the “civil service” that the HCSF presides over consists only of officers recruited by the Federal Civil Service Commission, numbering less than 140,000,and that is only 6% of the population of the entire public service. By norm however, the HCSF is accorded an official visibility as the highest office for all career public servants in the Federal bureaucracy. That visibility is further reinforced at the Federal Executive Council in a sitting arrangement that places the HCSF 2 seats away from the Vice President. The high visibility has not helped successive heads of the civil service of the federation, as it places on their shoulders enormous public expectation for a federal public service in need of effective coordination. Considering the subsisting limited statutory and constitutional powers of the HCSF, if the Federal Public Service were a jungle, the HCSF would be no more than a Cock/Rooster parading a massive comb and pairs of wattles and ear lobes in the midst of contending services populations of lions, tigers, hyenas, buffaloes, cattle, goats, that are armed with massive incisors, claws or horns, as the case may be. It is a situation of helplessness for a sitting HCSF in terms of the coordination requirements of the entire public service.

It is therefore imperative to put in place a platform that would be able to carry out a thorough and unbiased analysis/assessment of critical cross-cutting human resources management issues with service-wide implications, before recommendations reach the desk of the President. That is the path to preventing the type of intrusions into extant policies of the public service like those of the four issues examined above that are currently agitating the minds of senior public servants. Public service policies should not be a product of sectional sentiments, by being selective in time and target officers, to the detriment of the others. Rather, it should have uniform applicability to all officers across their career paths. Otherwise, the tension that will be generated there from may not only result in loss of morale and productivity but can unwittingly institutionalize dysfunction in the system.
The Immediate/Interim way out is to explore the line of the correct interpretation of “Civil Service of the Federation” provided in the constitution as: “Service of the federation in a civil capacity …” to enable the FCSC to henceforth assume oversight responsibility for issues of appointment, promotion and discipline of all public servants in the executive arm working in civil capacity in the federal public service, except those in service commissions created by the constitution; and for the OHCSF to similarly assume oversight responsibility for arbitration of complaints arising from their career progression, deployment and other HR management processes.
The Permanent Solution is to establish a Federal Public Service Council (FPSC) as the public service complement of what already exit in:

– National Defence Council;
– Nigeria Police Council ; and
– National Judicial Council .

The proposed FPSC should appropriately be chaired by the President in his capacity as the “Chief Executive of the Federation” (just as he does for both the National Defence Council and the Nigeria Police Council in his capacity as C-in-C) or his appointed representative. Details of the composition and functions of the proposed FPSC have been provided in RGGN Vol. 1 pages 296-301.

Moving from the immediate/interim solution to the permanent solution would require going back to exhume and reactivate the missing link, which is the non-implementation of the recommendations in the long submitted Ladipo Adamolekun-led expert Report titled National Strategy for Public Service Reforms, with regards to Governance and Institutional Reforms of the entire public service.

The overall goal, as Jide Balogun and many other experts would say, is “a civil/public service that is properly structured, efficiently managed, duly motivated, ably-led, citizen-caring and accountable”. The need for such an institution becomes compelling where, as in the case of this administration, the government (in response to public demands) has set for itself ambitious goals like eradication of corruption, formulation and implementation of sound fiscal and economic policy, wealth and job creation, institution of measures to contain terrorism, cultism and making the nation safe for citizens and foreigners alike.

Concluded
Adegoroye, a retired federal permanent secretary and pioneer director general of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) is national publicity secretary of the Council of retired Federal Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS).


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