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OPINION

Taking Civil Service To The Next Level

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Historically, the Nigerian civil service has undergone many reforms, from one new administration to the other. In what could be described as a score card on the achievements of the present administration in its reform mantra, there has been deliberate steps taking to restore the integrity and dignity of the civil service to drive growth.

These reforms have had to face their own challenges, contestation and resistance from among the civil servants and some government institutions by way of defaults and non-compliance to the provisions of the civil service rules. They also include recruitment into the service, fake credentials, irregular promotions and outright fraud through payment of ghost workers.

Under the flagship programme of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, innovative and proactive steps and policies are carried out to turn the civil service into Efficient, Productive, Incorruptible and Citizen-Centred (EPIC), civil service, with concerted plans to make it a World Class public sector, voiding corrupt practices and unproductive behaviour.

To drive the process, the Head of Service constituted members of the project management teams for the implementation of the President Muhammadu Buhari civil service reforms. The teams started with a capacity building for all members and Federal Permanent Secretaries deliberating on issues bothering on procurement, an area perceived to be a conduit pipe to syphon public funds.

To further consolidate on the steps taken to curb corrupt practices, another retreat held for Accountant General of the Federation, Auditor General of the Federation and Federal Permanent Secretaries to acquaint them of their roles as administrative and accounting officers in their various Ministries was held. It served to remind them of their approval limits in terms of procurement and payment thresholds

To further strengthen and reposition the Federal workforce, there was need for an effective synergy with multilateral development partners at intervals and at various stages of implementation. This was intended to intervene in sensitive areas identified by the strategy paper, to give support for delivery, just as service- wide sensitization workshops were organized for grade level 15-17.

To build enduring institutions, and introduce innovations in line with best practices and to cross fertilize ideas, the Head of Service office was among the six panellists at the 2018 Mo Ibrahim Forum on Public Service in the 21st Century Africa held in Kigali, Rwanda, where the vision to improve public sector performance in Africa was shared.

As a major component of the reform process, Heads of Service across the 36 states of the Federation, including Federal and States Permanent Secretaries were sent on a study and bench marking tour to some relevant establishments in Malaysia and Singapore, to explore areas of partnership and share experiences for the overall development and improvement of the public service.

 

Service Automation

Tougher measures were deployed to clean up the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) portal and create credible data for payroll and administrative analyses. The pilot phase was physical verification for all employees of all core Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Abuja and Lagos, after configuring employers and employees in the Federal civil service. The verification exercise is currently going on in the North East and North West Regions, after which the zones of South South, South West and South East would be covered.

The Human Resource Go-Alive is a method designed to identify employees linked to their cadres and respective supervisors and ranks aimed at addressing frontally the financial leakages in the public sector, so that a few individuals do not acquire what was actually earmarked for developing the public sector.

Also, the IPPIS train-the trainer was introduced to prepare the trainers and other control agencies for the training of end users in the MDAs. This was followed by pilot end user training programme for the IPPIS role players on how to carry out human resource responsibilities, using the newly configured IPPIS, HR Business Process.

Automation of Go-Live (Pilot) is a process such as absence management, self service, which has been carried out in the Head of Service office, to pave way for automation of HR processes in other MDAs service wide. It is expected that the deployment module of the IPPIS alongside the payroll will lead to the service-wide personnel record update and cleaning exercise which will eventually be linked with the BVN biometrics.

Data collection for digitization and management of content in the service was conducted as template in core agencies of government which will be used for the planning of the digitization of historical records as well as to help in the estimation of appropriate system specification for optimal performance.

 

Capacity Building And Culture Change

The composition of a pool of staff that would be competent with the capacity and capability to actualize the goals and objectives of the current administration’s development aspiration was conducted and about 48, 210 staff across MDAs participated in various training programmes between 2015 and 2018, while Federal Training Centres 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.

The office developed an induction training kit in collaboration with the Partnership to Engage and Learn (PERL) and the Department for International Development (DFID). This is to facilitate continuous sensitization of newly recruited or transferred staff posted to agencies for enhanced performance. It also had jointly delivered structured mandatory assessment- based training programmes for leadership enhancement and development.

SMART-P is a Professional Development Training which had trained over 2, 000 officers, capacity cap assessment  was also conducted, while about 70 personnel officers including aides and secretaries, directors of communications service wide were trained. All are deliberate efforts of the public sector reforms.

The E-Learning platform for service Learning Management System was launched as part of effort geared towards improving the skills and competences of civil servants. The DTOs are to drive the main vehicle for the implementation of the training programmes across the MDAs towards enhancing capacity building in the civil service.

Fundamentally, an online culture diagnostic survey was also held with the support of DFID and European Union, EU, with over 5, 800 responses from civil servants, which was collated and analyzed along with the focus group discussions with permanent secretaries, directors and union leaders.

 

Talent And Performance Management

The Federal Government through the Head of Service recently settled out of court the outstanding promotion examination for deputy directors (Administration), which has been pending for the last three year. Sequel to that, the examination to the post of director (Administration) was held in collaboration with the Federal Civil Service Commission in 2018. To drive innovation in service and launch EPIC Culture transformation, a standard SERVICOM Desk was established to help sanitize and control movement of staff.

Study Leave which was inactive was resuscitated and about 460 Federal workers benefited from the scheme with or without pay including Australian scholarship award. About 10, 735 officers were promoted, 872 were converted, while 4, 527 are awaiting 2018 results of promotion examination. The new performance Management System (PMS) tool needed to be simplified for implementation, the test run for the tool had been conducted in some Departments.

 

Service Welfare

However, the Federal Government instituted a reward and recognition system through motivation which ties incentives to better performance. There was a deep involvement by the Head of Service Office in tripartite committee of the Federal Executive Council FEC as well as on the implementation of the National Minimum Wage. About 4, 167 staff benefited from the Federal Government Staff Housing Loan under partnership with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria FMBN between 2016 and 2019. About N1 Million each was paid to over 2, 077 staff across MDAs, under the Home Renovation Loan in partnership with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria between 2016 and 2018.

The ongoing reforms are expected to run through years 2020 and 2021, a period within which, the eight core modules of the implementation strategy would have been exhaustibly dealt with to promote good governance.

 

–Uket is a public affairs commentator.

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