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Beyond The National Strategy For Public Service Reforms

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The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) established on 4th February, 2004 is an independent and self-accounting body charged with the mandate of initiating, co-ordinating and ensuring the full implementation of government reform policies and programmes. Government policies and programmes are usually implemented through her Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), which makes up the civil and public service.

From the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, (as amended) the Civil Service of the Federation and the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation are entities with juristic personalities as administrative machineries of implementing government policies and programmes.

The Commission also has the statutory responsibility of appointment, promotion, transfer, or discipline of officers in the civil service.Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies have the mandate of implementing these policies and programmes with diligence and commitment of advancing the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry through the judicious use of human, material and financial resources and qualitative service delivery, based on the observance of the rule of law and due process.

Therefore, it can be rightly said that the efficiency and effectiveness of the civil and public service would be the barometer of gauging the success or otherwise of any government.

The Bureau of Public Service Reform which has the mandate of initiating, coordinating and ensuring the implementation of these reform policies and programmes by these statutory bodies, in furtherance of her mandate, has recently developed the National Strategy for Public Service Reform (NSPSR).

The vision of the NSPSR is to build a world-class service delivery instruction that would effectively and efficiently implement government policies and programmes with professionalism, integrity, excellence and passion to secure a sustainable national development.

To ensure the realisation of the objectives of the NSPSR, efforts of the Steering Committee on Reforms, chaired by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), has led to the development of a 10-year strategy for reforming Nigeria’s public service. This strategy is hinged on four pillars, each led by a named organisation. These pillars and their lead organisations are as follows:

  1. Enabling governance and institutional environment, led by the Office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (OSGF)
  2. Enabling the socio-economic environment, led by Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
  3. Public Financial Management Reform, led by Federal Ministry of Finance, and
  4. Improving Civil Service Administration, led by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation(OHCSF)

Towards ensuring a robust strategy, devoid of implementation hurdles that could truncate the realisation of the objectives of the strategy, the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had commenced with an interactive session that took place on the 21st March, 2016.

The vision of the first pillar seeks the transformation of Nigeria’s public service, with emphasis on critical institutional changes, restoring professionalism and client focus and delivering effective basic service.

The second pillar has the vision of reinvigorating the public service into a value – based, strong and well performing institution by 2020, while the third’s vision is the attainment of a world class level of service delivery in the public service by 2025.

It is stating the obvious to say that the development of this strategy is a recognition that Nigeria’s public service has not been able to advance to a world – class institution that would deliver on the democratic service delivery that would empower Nigerians. Incidentally, this latest strategy is not the first attempt at reforming the Nigerian public sector to an efficient, effective and optimal delivery service – oriented institution.

Historically, the reform efforts dates back to 1946 with the Harragin Reform which established the ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ Service structure that would become the core of the public service system when the nation gained independence in 1960.

Similarly, in 1956, the Gorsuch Commission had recommended the creation of a cadre division of civil service personnel. Subsequent reform efforts, as late as the Oronsaye Panel of 2010- 2012,   have seen some changes and improvements in the public service. Yet, in all fairness, the public service cannot be said to have attained the desired level of optimally delivering on the democratic desires of the citizens.

The overall objective of these and other similar reforms in the service has been to ensure improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.  While these efforts were intended to improve the cohesion and efficiency of the service, a counter-productive system not consistent with this vision of creating a cohesive and efficient public service seems to have recently crept into the system.

This is through the recruitment process. First, while some fresh graduates of same year of graduation and similar qualifications are recruited by the recruiting agency and placed on Level 08 (which normally is the Senior Officers’ entry point), others for whatever reasons, are placed on Level 09.  This has the potential of creating disharmony and discontent in the service.

Similarly, in some instances, graduates without any cognate experience have been recruited directly to Level 10 and 12 – which in the Civil Service – are already middle -management level positions.

Though the arguments for such placements have been that these graduates have longer years since graduation, the negative impact such could have on the service are twofold:

First, at a time these groups of civil servants ought to be teaching and mentoring younger ones – by virtue of their ranks – they themselves are yet to grasp the rudiments and ethics of the service.  This has the potential of creating a productively weak Service.

Secondly, cohesion in the service, which is one of her cardinal principles, could be threatened as those who have spent more years in the service and, garnered cognate experience, could resent the new development – with its attendant negative consequences on the service.

Therefore, to avoid these ugly situations, it is recommended that all newly recruited personnel with same qualifications are placed on same level, while higher positions in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies are advertised for, rather than recruiting fresh graduates without cognate experience directly to these mid-level management positions in the civil service.

Therefore besides seeking to implement the National strategy for Public Reform (NSPSR), the Bureau of Public service Reforms has to consider liaising with the Federal Civil Service Commission and other recruiting agencies towards ensuring that this process of recruitment, which is inimical to the productivity of the service is streamlined.

This is imperative because with the declining standard in the nation’s educational standard and unemployment rate, recruiting personnel without the requisite knowledge into levels beyond their capacity cannot but produce a weak and inefficient public service.

The Bureau should therefore also ensure that the reward system – via promotion – is truly stringent. Situations whereby years of service and weak appraisal system, rather than productivity and efficiency, seem to be the yardstick for promotion, does not auger well for the Nigerian public service.

Similarly, the Bureau has to intensify her interactions and collaboration with the various MDAs to further make these MDAs understand the imperatives to fundamentally imbibe the culture of efficiency, effectiveness and productivity towards delivering on good governance to the Nigerian citizens.

The Bureau should also work towards the citizen’s understanding and usage of the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA), towards reducing corruption in the system, entrenching productivity and efficiency on the delivery of their respective mandates to the citizens.

 

– Tijjani, wrote from the Federal Ministry of Information, Abuja

 

 

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