Friday, 11 April 2014

ADDRESS BY DR. JOE ABAH, DIRECTOR GENERAL, BUREAU OF PUBLIC SERVICE REFORMS, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE WORKHSOP FOR RESIDENT INFORMATION OFFICERS IN MDAs.


Protocols

It is my honour and privilege to address this special group of officers who disseminate information on activities and programmes of Ministries and Agencies to the generality of Nigerians and the outside world. It is the dedication and professionalism with which you carry out your functions that determines how much information people can access to the numerous programmes the Government embarks on for the benefit of the people.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I will spend a few minutes to tell you about the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR). The Bureau was established on 26 September 2003 as the lead agency and “engine room” for integrated reform implementation and harmonization. Its mandate is to initiate, coordinate, monitor and disseminate information on all aspects of Public Service Reforms. The Bureau also provides advisory and technical support services to change management teams and working groups and engender an environment of learning.

Throughout most its existence, the Bureau was headed by Permanent Secretaries until August 2013 when the President appointed me the Director General to head the Bureau. The Bureau now reports to the President through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and is the Secretariat for the Steering Committee on Reforms. With this development, and with the efforts of my colleagues in the Bureau (all civil servants), the Bureau has witnessed focused and steady efforts to deliver its mandate and has recorded the following key achievements in the last 6 months:
·      Mr President has approved the resuscitation of the National Steering Committee on Public Service Reforms, the highest decision-making body on public service reforms, which had been moribund since 2008;
·      We have refreshed and updated the National Strategy on Public Service Reforms which was first prepared in 2009 but was never formally adopted by government;
·      We have documented all the reforms of the current administration in one volume (including the impacts they have had), in a document titled “Transforming Nigeria” which was launched by Mr President during the Centenary celebrations;
·      Mr President has approved our report on how to restructure the Niger Delta Development Commission for greater effectiveness;
·      We have developed a new draft Curriculum for professionalising Human Resource Management in the public service
·      The Head of Service of the Federation has approved the creation of new Departments of Reform Coordination and Service Improvement in all MDAs and we are in discussions with the World Bank to support them as a Community of Practice;
·      We have produced various reform guides on how to better deliver government service; and
·      Most importantly, we have reformed the Bureau of Public Service Reforms itself for greater effectiveness.

Very shortly, we will be publishing an independent assessment of the all the reforms that have been undertaken by government since 1999. We are asking difficult questions such as:

·      Have the reforms improved the quality and quantity of public services?
·      Have the reforms reduced corruption?
·      Have the reforms reduced the cost of governance?
·      Have the reforms reduced unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape?
·      Are things improving, staying the same or getting worse?

We are also working with the National Bureau of Statistics to gauge the perception of Nigerians as to whether these reforms are making any tangible difference in their lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, one of the core mandates of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms is the dissemination of information on all aspects of the public service reforms and facilitating the orientation and training of MDA change agents. This remit was again reinforced and strengthened yesterday in the Government White Paper in response to the Oronsaye report. In that White Paper, Government also reinforced the BPRS’s role in coordinating, monitoring and evaluating government reforms and decisions, and tasked the Bureau with ensuring the implementation of the decisions in the White Paper.

Since the main mandate of the Federal Ministry of Information is the publicity and dissemination of Federal Government programmes and policies, there is a need for a synergy of efforts in the business of communicating the public service reforms between the Bureau of Public Service Reforms and the Federal Ministry of Information and its officers in other MDAs. This is more so because the foot soldiers of the Federal Ministry of Information serve as information experts and Heads of Press and Public Relations in the MDAs. One of the main tasks of this workshop therefore is to fashion out ways to build a sustainable partnership between you and the Bureau. This will enable two-way sharing of information on reform activities both in the Bureau and in MDAs. This forum will aim to articulate a reporting template on which this would be carried out.

The overall objective of this workshop, which has held every year since 2010, is for participants to understand and brainstorm on how best to communicate public service reforms. The public discourse in Nigeria is often dominated by politics. This means that many citizens are not aware of government efforts to improve their lives. Thankfully, the press is becoming more balanced in its reporting, often being willing to publicise good news, rather than focus only on bad news. Their increasing professionalism and patriotism is to be commended and supported and I urge you to treat members of the press as partners in progress, rather than adversaries. This means that, as public servants, we must be available to answer questions and explain government policy. We must respond to Freedom of Information requests and engage in proactive disclosure. Public service is after all, public, rather than private.
Dear participants, I have no doubt that given your experience, dedication, professionalism and patriotism, we will come out of this workshop with a renewed resolve to ensure a greater flow of information (in both directions) between government and citizens.


I hope that you enjoy the workshop and thank you for your attention.

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