Nigerian government lacks will to reform public service, says UK govt

Goodluck Jonathan

The public service reform programme is being  funded by DFID

Nigeria’s hope of overhauling its inefficient and corrupt public service is being frustrated by lack of a decisive political leadership, and resistance to change by officials benefiting from the current structure, a UK-funded assessment of a reform programme has said.

The Federal Public Administration Reform Programme, FEPAR, said its efforts at assisting with reforms across government ministries and departments in Nigeria were not backed by sufficient “political and managerial leadership.”

“Effective political leadership is critical to the success of the programme, as is the political will for transformation of the public service. It is clear that this does not exist in all sections of the government,” FEPAR said in an evaluation covering 2011.

“Oversight and coordination arrangements may be ineffective,” FEPAR wrote. “Effective cooperation among the central agencies, key ministries and the presidency to coordinate the reforms may not materialise due to resistance from vested interests, and those that benefit from the current arrangements.”

New assessments are being carried out to check for improvements.

FEPAR, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, was conceived as a five year £25 million (N6 billion) programme running from 2011 to 2016. Its budget has recently been extended to £32 million (N8 billion) while the time scale remains unchanged.

FEPAR says it aims at strengthening federal service to develop and implement policies and plans for national economic and social development, and deliver core services to the people.

The goals are to be achieved through introduction of badly needed reforms to Nigeria’s civil service, helping to refocus the perennially flawed budget and providing some guidance with policy formulation, while engaging the media and civil society to demand accountability.

The programme is coordinated with key ministries involving finance, national planning; and the offices of the Secretary to the government of the federation, the Head of Service, and the Civil Service commission. The government’s service delivery arm, SERVICOM, is also involved.

Nigeria’s civil service is reputed as being notoriously inept, bloated and corrupt.

The UK intervention withholds funding to the Nigerian government for the reforms. Instead, it provides direct assistance by making available advisors to the offices involved.

In several meetings, seminars and workshops, FEPAR said it realized “vested interests” benefitting from the current arrangement in the public service were opposed to reforms.

Parts of the proposed programmes were being unnecessarily delayed by the National Planning Commission. “Previous experience has shown that working with the NPC can be difficult and currently progress on the NPC implementation plan is stalled,” it said. “FEPAR is waiting for NPC to take steps to proceed with the implementation plan, but progress is stalled.”

The assessment said some civil servants were already associating the reforms with retrenchment and downsizing, thereby de-motivating their participation in the next stage of reforms.

“In combination with vested interests, some civil servants may, in effect, frustrate new reform initiatives,” it said.


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