PUBLIC SERVICE TRANSFORMATION: REFORMS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE
A Lecture Delivered by Mr. SEYE OYELEYE, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, DEVELOPMENT AGENDA FOR WESTERN NIGERIA (DAWN) COMMISSION to Commemorate OGUN State Year 2018 Public Service Day
The essentiality of Public Service to the growth and development of a Country/State cannot be over emphasized because of its roles in policies and programmes formulation and implementations. As a matter of fact, a nation cannot develop beyond the capacity of her public service.
Economic performance, as opined by experts in public administration, is a function of public sector productivity. That is; it is the public administrative system that pushes, or fails to push, the economy of a State into optimal and sustainable performance and development. Hence, it is imperative that a good dosage of attention is focused on the service.
However, the historical trajectory of the public service from the colonial to military era has not only failed to engender development and growth of the country but also eroded the few gains made in the First Republic. Public service institutions, both under the Colonialist and Military junta were not placed at the service of the people but only served the interests of its masters.
At independence, Nigeria adopted the Weberian system of public administration which is based on twin principles of hierarchy and meritocracy.
This approach had a number of distinctive features:
• It relied on centralised control
• It set rules and guidelines
• It separated policymaking from implementation
• It employed a hierarchical organisational structure.
The watchwords were efficiency and effectiveness in the management of budgetary and human resources. While this system benefited some other nations across the world, the military junta who held sway after 1966 systematically destroyed the capacity and competence of the public sector by engendering a norm of bypassing due-process and accountability in favour of arbitrariness, unpredictability, self-interest, ethnicity and lack of respect for the rule of law. Recruitment into the public service that was supposed to be merit driven became a form of reward for political jobbers and government sympathizers.
However, since the advent of democratic government in 1999, there have been pockets of attempts to reform the public service for effective and efficient service delivery by authorities at the Federal and States levels. But the commitment to reform has not been encouraging, particularly at the Federal level. Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun, a renowned scholar and practitioner of Public Administration, in his 2005 work on classification of 29 sub-saharan countries by levels of civil service reform efforts placed Nigeria among countries in ‘Hesitant Reformers’ category while Ghana and South Africa were in the category of ‘Committed Reformers’ and ‘Advanced Reformers’ respectively.
Although public service reform at the Federal level has not been encouraging, some States within the Federation are already taking giant strides towards reforming the process of Governance by institutionalizing reform coordination. Ogun State has been fortunate to have a reform minded Governor in the person of His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who has not only reformed the way things are done (The Ogun Standard) but has also established a reform coordinating agency, Public Service Transformation Office (PSTO), for sustainability of the reforms his government has initiated and for continuous innovation and re-engineering of governance process in the State.
In this paper, I will briefly take us through the concept of public service reform, not as a theorist but a development worker that has cause to constantly interact with the public service. As we say in DAWN Commission, we don’t implement, we solely rely on the public service across the region for the implementation of our ideas and policy recommendations. I will also mention some of the shortcomings of past efforts and how they have been sidestep by the State, while also highlighting areas I believe reforms are urgently needed in the State public service.
THE PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM
Public service reforms has its roots in the Second World War but the drive for public sector reform was initiated during the 1980s in the advanced capitalist democracies as a response to the public sector expansion process as a dominant feature of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
These reforms are meant to serve as a corrective framework that pushes the agenda of government on behalf of the citizens. These ends include making savings (economies) in public expenditure, improving the quality of public services, making the operations of government more efficient, and increasing the chances that the policies which are chosen and implemented will be effective. On the way to achieving these important objectives, public management reform may also serve a number of intermediate ends, including those of strengthening the control of political office holders over bureaucracy, freeing public officials from bureaucratic constraints that inhibit their opportunities to manage, and enhancing the government’s accountability to the legislature and citizenry for its policies and programmes. Public service reform is crucial to the overall development of the State as the impetus for change emanate from citizens who as taxpayers, are entitled to and demand for better service delivery.
Public service reforms is a response to public scrutiny on the kind of services the government provides as citizens expect efficiency, accountability, transparency, productivity, responsiveness, professionalism and value-for-money services from the government.
DIFFERENT PHASES OF PUBLIC SERVICE TRANSFORMATION
20th century kick started with the Weberian system of bureaucracy based on the twin principles of hierarchy and meritocracy. Administrators were appointed on the basis of qualifications, and are trained professionals; There was a functional division of labour, and a hierarchy of tasks and people. The command and control approach to public administration was the reference point for bureaucratic systems introduced around the world and under colonial rule and then after independence in most Commonwealth countries.
This approach worked well in a number of countries, notable is Singapore where the post-independence political leadership built a high quality and efficient public service along these lines. But many postcolonial States including Nigeria experienced a decline in the quality of governance and the effectiveness of public administration in subsequent years as neo-patrimonial pressures asserted themselves and state resources and public appointments were subject to the personal influence of political leaders and their followers.
The resultant effect of that system was that many public bureaucracies were seen as bloated, inefficient and self-serving and then the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme in 1986 gave rise to the New Public Management (NPM).
The New Public Management (NPM) refers to a series of novel approaches to public administration and management that emerged in a number of OECD countries and countries from other regions in the 1980s. The NPM model arose in reaction to the limitations of the old public administration in adjusting to the demands of a competitive market economy.
While cost containment was a key driver in the adoption of NPM approaches, injecting principles of competition and private sector management lay at the heart of the NPM approach. However, the NPM reforms were criticized for its singular emphasis on private sector management principles, the weakening of democratic accountability with the creation of executive agencies, and for their failure to foreground the needs of citizens as the primary focus for public sector reform efforts.
It is this shortcoming and the pervasiveness of democratic governance that led to the introduction of the New Public Service Governance.
The New Public Governance approach places citizens rather than government at the centre of its frame reference. This approach is grounded in the concepts of citizenship and public interest as against aggregation of individual interests determined by elected officials or market preferences of both the Weberian and New Public Management of the past.
Under this model, Public managers need to acquire skills that go beyond capacity for controlling or steering society in pursuit of policy solutions to focus more on brokering, negotiating and resolving complex problems in partnership with citizens. Thus, in seeking to address wider societal needs and develop solutions that are consistent with the public interest, governments will need to be open and accessible, accountable and responsive, and operate to serve citizens.
PUBLIC SERVICE REFORMS IN NIGERIA
Public service reforms is not a new concept in the nation’s public vocabulary. In a bid to address the challenges of ineffectiveness of the public service, there have been series of reforms channeled towards enhancement of productivity, both under colonial and post-colonial governments.
There have been attempts at improving the public/civil service in the line of appointment methods, rules of conduct, structure and process.
As far back as 1946, Sir Walter Harragin had proposed reforms in the line of administrative/ salary review for established civil servants while in 1948, Sir H.M Foot initiated trainings and recruitments of Nigerians into the civil service. While in post-colonial Nigeria, Adebo Commission of 1971 and Udoji Commission of 1972-74 were also mandated to come up with suggestions and recommendations on public service reforms.
However, reforms became more obligatory in 1999 after decades of military incursion in Political administration with the attendant damage done to the public/service. The advent of democratic rule brought about more reforms particularly geared towards restructuring of the civil service for effective and efficient service delivery. Unfortunately, these reforms have not succeeded in achieving enviable excellence in service delivery. The civil service today is still arguably considered stagnant and inefficient.
Some observers have identified some of the challenges that have militated against reforms that have been introduced at different times in Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region. The following are the few of the identified challenges of reforms in the public service:
i. Public service reforms are based on the wrong premises – on the idea of “affordable civil services’ rather than “required civil services” dictated by the logic of a democratic system. For instance, the UK public service has more personnel than all public service in Nigeria, both the Federal and the 36 States public service combined despite our huge population. So, it is about required manpower.
ii. Reforms are based on poor diagnosis – that the public/civil services are over-bloated- a fact that cannot be empirically established for the totality of the service profile. More so, the said over bloat is at the base while there is a substantial shortage at the professional levels.
iii. The reforms sometimes constitute a wrong prognosis; they represent the application of a wrong prescription to the problem confronting the country.
iv. Reforms have tended to be generally minimally participatory, often excluding the key stakeholders, the civil servants, because of the fear that involvement of the stakeholders might slow down the implementation of retrenchment programmes in the service.
v. Reforms have also tended to focus on the short, rather than the long term, because they are more often than not, supported by donors who must come up with immediate results to appease their principals.
vi. The one like it is the issue of timing. While it is easier to change structures, changing behaviour takes time to bear fruit, hence, reform cannot be on ad-hoc arrangement. It will take time for the new culture to be ingrained.
These identified pitfalls must have been taken into consideration in setting up a reform coordinating agency for the State. DAWN Commission was privileged to be part of the process that led to establishment of PSTO and we can attest to the efforts put in place to involve stakeholders in establishing the State’s reform coordinating agency.
But, please, permit to commend His Excellency on the giant strides he and his team have made in repositioning Ogun State in terms of services that have been delivered through plethora of reforms and innovations. The setting up of PSTO is a step towards sustaining and consolidating on those notable achievements.
Thus, the thought about the aforementioned challenges to past attempts at public service reforms must have informed the process adopted when idea of the agency was conceived by His Excellency. For instance, I was told by my colleagues that participated in the process about the roundtable that was held here to discuss the issue of reforms and from the record there representative senior officials of the State Government, including the Head of Service (HoS), and some Permanent Secretaries and Directors in attendance.
The roundtable addressed three key questions on public service reforms.
I. Why have we not got the desired results and effective synergy from public service reforms?
II. How can we make public service reforms sustainable?
III. What should we be doing to benchmark our public service for high performance?
It is important to note that at the conclusion of the roundtable, the participants recommended the need for the State Government to establish an Agency to coordinate public service reforms, catalyze efficiency of service delivery processes across the MDAs, foster excellence in public service delivery and facilitate the public service to be high performing among many recommendations.
Thus, through the involvement of stakeholders, the State has been able to address one of the identified challenges to reforms that I earlier mentioned, i.e the non-involvement of stakeholders in the reform process. The challenge of externally driven timetables has also been addressed because PSTO, as an institution of government, is internally driven and we must congratulate Ogun State for the blessing of the man of vision, His Excellency, who has volunteered to drive the State’s reform process. Hence, the reform office has the glorious opportunity of engendering transformation of the State public service in no distant time.
Political will is an essential ingredient in reform process because civil/public service reforms thrive on institutional support provided by the political actors. The PSTO can also not talk of lack of top political support because His Excellency has not only promised to provide the agency with needed resources but has also volunteered to be the chair of the State’s Reform Steering Committee. The overseer of PSTO.
Thus, all the grounds have been provided for the agency to succeed in this onerous job of improving on the quality of service being delivered by the State’s public/civil service. The management of PSTO should note that no reform process is credible without resultant improved and sustainable service delivery as excellent service delivery is the object and subject of all reform efforts. We are earnestly waiting for the manifestation of their efforts!
Please permit me to add to PSTO’s scope of work within the next one year because of the urgency I think the following issues deserve. In my humble view, the Agency will need to promptly come up with strategies to:
1. Create a new Human Resources policy architecture as well as a new corps of professional HR managers who will deploy new competencies to engineer a shift from existing bureaucratic personnel administration approaches to strategic HR management system. There is a need for manpower planning for optimisation of the available talents while also developing talent for succession plan.
2. Institute a new performance culture that is rooted in strategic plans, performance targets with specified outputs and activities which serve as the basis for which funding shall be sought from budgets; performance improvement plans, annual performance agreement for the heads of agencies and departments. (Though, I am aware you have started something of this nature in the State Ministry of Health)
3. Change the culture of work through metrics which, unlike current annual performance report (APER), provides an evaluation framework that is objective and verifiable. We must shift from procedural culture of ‘doing the right things’ to the managerial one of ‘doing it right’.
4. Strategy to build a pool of professionals as against the service’s generalist orientation. There is a need to rejig the scheme of service and make it more flexible to delineate new vocational specializations based on a classification scheme that recognizes that MDAs operate in a knowledge and information age. For instance, there must be a pool of statisticians and planners that will be seconded to all MDAs to ease administrative data collation and seamless planning in the State.
5. Partner with the Head of Service, the State’s Staff Development Centre and the Ministry of Establishment to design schedule for trainings and capacity development for members of staff to sharpen their skills and improve their capacity to deliver on their responsibilities and duties.
6. And as the idea generating agency of government, there is also a need to establish firm relationships with knowledge generating bodies within and outside the State while also encouraging senior public service officials to link up with their colleagues in other States of the region or country and even around the globe for experience/lesson sharing sessions.
7. The need to carry out staff audit and conduct training need assessments in conjunction with the Staff Development Centre.
8. In the spirit of the New Public Service Governanace, the Agency has to periodically organize stakeholders’ meetings involving all governance stakeholders, namely; Public office holders, Public/Civil Service, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Academia, Media and Donor/ development Agencies to gauge opinions on the performance of the public service.
All the aforementioned are needed for the State to begin to feel the impact of the agency and this should not be difficult considering the expressed commitment of His Excellency to the cause of reform.
Please permit me to conclude by admonishing the State public service to please support the reform efforts for our beloved State to maintain its phenomenal growth and development under this administration and subsequent ones coming. Meanwhile, for continuous relevance, the public service must ceaselessly reinvent itself for the State to continue to meet with citizens’ demands for quality public services.
While it gladdens our hearts to see the success the State has achieved in the area of Ease-of-Doing Business which has attracted many businesses, we also expect the State to become the State with the best educational and healthcare systems in foreseeable future. And this cannot happen without unflinching commitment of the public service to continuous reformation of the system.
It is a task that has to be achieved and it is a task that will be achieved with your collective support.
Omo Ogun ise ya
Omo Ogun ise po fun wa lati se