Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Book Excerpts - 'THE CHALLENGES OF TRANSFORMING THE CIVIL SERVICE' ; reforms of Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji. - PART 4

Before now, nobody was really coordinating the reforms or bringing into focus what the reforms should be about. 

The Bureau of Public Service Reforms started out as an independent agency of government, with a Director General and its own self- accounting status. However, an argument was made that the civil service could not be reformed from outside and that it was necessary to bring the Bureau under the authority of the Head of Service. This meant that, apart from its first 3 years of existence, the Bureau was led by Permanent Secretaries. The strict civil service hierarchy meant that the Permanent Secretary of the Bureau found it difficult to challenge his boss the Head of Service. 

Bringing it under the control of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation also meant that the scope of the Bureau reduced from looking at the entire public service to focusing just on one constituent part, the civil service. This effectively hamstrung the Bureau and meant that most of the reforms happening in the public service were happening despite, not because of, the Bureau.

The historically lean budgetary provision for the Bureau and the lack of a clear focus meant that many Permanent Secretaries saw their posting to the Bureau as “punishment posting.” The administrative instrument setting up the Bureau had set out in clear terms the qualities that the headship of the Bureau must possess. There was no evidence that this influenced the decisions to post Permanent Secretaries to the Bureau. Most of those posted looked forward to being posted to traditional mainline ministries.

Having reviewed the ineffectiveness of the Bureau, the current Head of Service, Alhaji Buka Goni Aji felt that there was a need for BPSR to be pulled out of the OHCSF to enable it to play its critical role of coordinating reform efforts and bringing key reform issues to the fore. To match the Bureau’s institutional location to it coordination role spanning the entire public service, the Bureau was relocated to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Although the logic for taking the decision was clear and apparent to all, the decision to let go of the Bureau did not go down well with everybody. Some saw it as some sort of an indictment of permanent secretaries and others as a diminution of the powers of the OHCSF. However, Bukar Goni Aji continually explained to all that the permanent secretaries that were previously appointed to lead the Bureau did as well as any permanent secretary could have done. The issue was that the job of leading BPSR is not a job for permanent secretaries. He also explained that the OHCSF wanted to be free of its non-core functions to enable it to focus on its core strategic functions.

The President approved Bukar Goni Aji’s proposal to remove BPSR form the OHCSF, have it report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (like other independent bureaux), and recruit and appoint a Director-General from outside the Service to lead it. A new Director General who was seen as an “outsider-insider” was appointed to lead the Bureau at the end of August 2013.

To help the Bureau to get back on its feet, Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji, in partnership with Senator Anyim Pius Anyim (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) made a case to the Budget Office of the Federation that BPSR should be given sufficient financial resources to fulfil its proper functions. This resulted in a enhanced provision for the Bureau in the 2014 Federal Budget. Something of a ‘take-off grant’ was also given to the Bureau to enable it to retool itself. From this, it was able to buy its first project vehicle in 10 years, refurbish old vehicles that had been unserviceable for the past 5 years, purchase computers and desks for staff and train them in its use and improve internet access. Equally importantly, it enabled the Bureau to undertake serious technical work for the first time in a very long time. This included the efforts to refresh and update the National Strategy on Public Service Reforms and the assessment of all the reform efforts undertaken since 1999.

Additionally, the OHCSF facilitated the realignment of the Bureau’s staffing compliment by posting in suitable officers, retaining those already within the Bureau that had the potential to be developed and posting out those that did not fit with the new direction of the Bureau. 

Extracts in PART 5 -  The creation of the Pension Transition Arrangement Department and Improving Staff Wellbeing.    

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