Friday, 8 August 2014

Excerpts From the book - 'THE CHALLENGES OF TRANSFORMING THE CIVIL SERVICE' ; reforms of Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji. - PART 2

Reforming the Nigerian civil Service
Since colonial times, attempts have been made at major administrative reforms. The Udoji Reform of 1974 recommended the adoption of new management techniques, such as Management-by-Objectives and Programme and Performance-based Budgeting, and higher remuneration packages commensurate with that of the private sector. The military government of the day chose to implement the increase in wages, but not the new management techniques. The 1988 Civil Service reform programme, known as the Dotun Phillips Reforms, took away the power of permanent secretaries as accounting officers of their ministries and vested that power in Ministers. It politicised the role of the permanent secretary and tied the tenure of permanent secretaries to that of the administration that appointed them. This effectively destroyed the independence of the Civil Service and entrenched a culture of arbitrariness that flowed from the military government of the day. The Ayida Reform of 1995 reversed the tenets of the 1988 reforms, restored the Permanent Secretary as the accounting officer in the Ministry and restored the post as a career, rather than political, appointment. However, beyond reversing the 1988 initiatives, it did not move the service much further forward. It did not arrest the rot that had set in by then, recapture the independence that had been lost or rekindle the core values in the chests of civil servants. The wound inflicted by the military on the psyche of the service was too deep.
The President Olusegun Obasanjo government made serious attempts to renew the public service and place it within the context of a wider government reform agenda. The main thrusts of the reform efforts were to modernise core operations using information and communication technology, increase the accountability of public servants to citizens, reduce waste and inefficiency, consolidate various allowances and fringe benefits into salaries, computerise payrolls and introduce a contributory pension scheme. However, there was an attempt to force certain initiatives through, rather than to win hearts and minds and it did not help that the first major initiative associated with the reforms was a large-scale redundancy exercise, mostly at the lower cadres of the service. It also did not help that the Bureau of Public Service Reforms that was supposed to coordinate all reform efforts badly lost its way.
In 2008, a comprehensive programme of reforms was articulated in a ‘National Strategy for Public Service Reforms.’ Its vision is ‘a world- class public service delivering government policies and programmes with professionalism, excellence and passion.’ Using the Strategy, the Office of the Head of Service, the National Planning Commission, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the entire Public Financial Management sector, including the Ministry of Finance, Budget Office of the Federation and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation made significant efforts to improve the operations of the public service as a whole. This strategy has recently been refreshed and updated, awaiting formal adoption by the Federal Executive Council.
Significantly, the President Goodluck Jonathan Administration set up a Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Agencies, Parastatals and Commissions, popularly known as the ‘Oransaye Committee.’ It similarly set up a committee headed by former Head of Service, Alhaji Adamu Fika, to look at ways of repositioning the service. Government has produced a White Paper in response to the Oransaye Committee report and is currently doing the same in response to the report of the Fika Committee. Government has also reconstituted the National Steering Committee on Public Service Reforms, chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation as Vice Chairman. This apex body for the coordination of all public service reforms (including civil service reform) had not me since 2008. With the support of the current Head of Service, Government has additionally taken steps to revamp the Bureau of Public Service Reforms to ensure that it can fulfil its mandate of coordinating the reforms.
The Nigerian Civil Service is led by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. The post-holder attends the Federal Executive Council and is responsible for striking the right balance between the need for due process and the need for political office holders to deliver development quickly to the electorate. Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, successive Heads of Service have made efforts to recapture the essence of the civil service and return it to the well-functioning institution that it was at the turn of independence. Each Head of Service has moved the Service forward in some way. However, at the time that they are elevated to the post of Head of Service they tend not to have very long time left to serve before they have to retire, either on the ground of reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 years or the mandatory service limit of 35 years. This has meant that the country has had six Heads of the Civil Service of the Federation in the last six years, as shown in the table in the previous page.
This has meant, therefore, that a Head of Service that wants to make tangible impact has to focus on a few transformational and catalytic initiatives and fast-track their implementation. Notable examples are the ‘Monetisation’ policy that greatly reduced the cost of governance, and the ‘Tenure’ policy that unblocked the bottleneck at the top of the Service. More recently, the OHCSF has divested itself of its non-core functions in an attempt to focus more strategically on the leadership of the Civil Service as an institution, and performance management.
This book sets out the reforms that the current Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji, OON, has undertaken in the 15 months that he has been in post. Many of these reforms are catalytic, rather than comprehensive. Perhaps most significantly, divesting the OHCSF of the functions now being performed by the Pensions Transition Arrangement Department (PTAD) and the Bureau of Public Service Reforms have set off a chain of events which should hopefully help the service. While it is true that these and many other reform efforts are promising initiatives, it will be necessary to properly and independently evaluate their success in a few years time to see what impact these reforms have made. Having the courage to make the difficult decisions was an important first step.
(book authored by BPSR)
 .Some things which were thought to be jinxed have now moved forward. Various Heads of Service have talked about restructuring the Office of the Head of Service but no one had actually ever done it. Bukar Goni Aji showed great courage to start it.

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