[EDITORIAL] Making civil service reforms work

The federal government recently approved the Federal Public Service Strategy and Implementation Plan (FCSSIP 25).

The new Federal Public Service Strategy and Implementation Plan 2021-2025 succeeds the previous strategy which covered 2017-2020. The strategy aims to break away from the old paradigm for a new paradigm of productive and world-class public service for accelerated national development.

According to the head of the public service of the federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, the dream of the new public service is a service that will be fully digitalized, specifying “by the end of 2025, there will be very little work that will be done with paper; now is the time to start preparing for it.

The Nigerian Civil Service is the body of men and women employed in a civilian capacity and non-political career by the federal and state governments primarily to render and faithfully implement the decisions of government.

In the opinion of this newspaper, this is a laudable idea because a new Nigeria will not emerge without holistic civil service reforms.

Unfortunately, the public service in Nigeria is widely believed to be a cesspool of corruption and inefficiency, waste and redundancy.

We recall that the Independent Commission on Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses (ICPC) recently stunned the nation when it said it discovered 257 duplicate projects amounting to N20.138 billion in the 2021 budget.

The commission also uncovered a union of corrupt individuals within the service that corruptly employs unsuspecting Nigerians, issues them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enrolls them in on-board staff and payroll.

Information System (IPPIS) and publish them to equally unsuspecting ministries, departments and government agencies (MDAs) to start work.

We also recall that the ICPC revealed a few months ago that the anti-agency had recovered 301 houses from two public officials in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Another official, Abdulrasheed Maina, was recently jailed for stealing N2 billion pension funds. The list of sordid Nigerian officials is endless.

Interestingly, since independence successive governments have embarked on various civil service reforms without results.

Experts have argued that successive governments have failed to focus on analyzing the root causes of what is really wrong with the civil service system since independence. They also claim that most reform programs only implement the reform models of developed countries, as advised by the World Bank, IMF and private consultancies.

The various reforms include the Margan Commission of 1963, the Adebo Commission of 1971 and the Udoji Commission of 1972-74.

The Adebo Commission (1971) was oriented towards revising the wages and salaries of workers due to the unbearable cost of living in the country. Large numbers of unskilled people were employed, resulting in overcrowding of the workforce and a high rate of absenteeism (ghost workers), swallowing up around 87 percent of government revenue. This greatly encouraged laziness, inefficiency, corruption and waste.

The Dotun Philips Panel of 1985 also attempted to reform the civil service. The 1988 civil service reorganization decree promulgated by General Ibrahim Babangida had a major impact on the structure and efficiency of the civil service. The latest Ayida Panel report made recommendations to reverse some of the past innovations and return to the more effective public service of previous years.

Indeed, one of the challenges of the public service is the overload of work. We recall that Steve Oronsanye’s white paper on the restructuring and rationalization of parastatal bodies, commissions and agencies of the federal government indicated that there are 541 parapublic bodies, commissions and agencies of the federal government (statutory and non-statutory) and has recommended that 263 of the statutory bodies should be reduced to 161; that 38 agencies should be abolished; that 52 agencies should be merged and that 14 of them should revert to the departments of the ministries.

We strongly suggest that the government show political will to implement the recommendations of the Oronsanye report. Let us recall that the secretary of the government of the federation, the boss Mustapha, recently deplored that the inability to implement the report is costing the government dearly.

Given the current economic realities, the implementation of the report has now become imperative.

It is gratifying to note that the government recently inaugurated a subcommittee on the implementation of the report with a one-year mandate.

It is clear that the digitalization of the civil service will go a long way in improving efficiency, eliminating waste and improving productivity and service. The new civil service should be based on modern technologies.

It is with this in mind that we are calling on the department head to ensure the proper implementation of this new strategic plan. Successive governments have never lacked good plans to reform the civil service, but implementation has always been the problem. A new reformed, efficient and professional civil service is essential.