“The underlying causes of low performance level of the civil service are therefore not essentially the fault of civil servants of this generation.”
The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, Tunji Olaopa, has said the Nigerian civil service needs a total overhaul to become a “value-based institution.”
Mr. Olaopa spoke during the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Federal Civil Service Commission Presidential Public Service Lecture on Tuesday in Abuja where he discussed the paper presented by Professor Costantino.
“For the Federal Civil Service Commission to witness the desired transformation, the nation needs honest leadership commitment to implement a game plan that takes development management beyond business as usual; by placing the rebuilding of value-based institution as top priority,” he said.
He said this will entail identifying long-standing structural weaknesses impeding national development performance; as well as disciplined implementation of policies through getting MDAs to consistently focus on targets and performance data and feedback as basis for following through on policies, programmes and projects until desired results and impacts are achieved.
“The subsisting ‘I am directed’ bureaucratic model needs paradigmatic shift,” he said.
Mr. Olaopa said any attempt to reposition the service for it to become the engine of the vehicle for national transformation would not succeed unless there is a total overhaul.
He also criticised the British civil service tradition that Nigeria inherited from the colonialist.
“The civil service that we inherited from the British was a product of three pillars: the Northcote-Trevelyan reform of 1855 in the UK, the Douglas McGregor’s ‘Theory X,’ and Max Weber’s ‘I am directed’ bureaucratic tradition. That tradition is characterized by a career system, the service-wide uniformity of rules and regulations and hierarchical authority structure that leans more to seniority than the authority of knowledge,” he said.
The permanent secretary said serving civil servants should not be blamed for the poor performance of the service.
“The underlying causes of low performance level of the civil service are therefore not essentially the fault of civil servants of this generation, the challenge they face is systemic.
“The today’s civil servant predicament is that they are stuck in a business model or a development carrier that requires a jet engine but that is being operated with the engine of a Beatle car, in a technical sense of speaking,” he said.
Mr. Olaopa said the service missed, in 1974, the paradigm moment that the Udoji Commission Report presented for the nation. The report was to rethink the base fundamental of the civil service and the administrative system.
“We must restore the glory of the profession. For the Adebos, Udojis, Katagum, Ayidas, Asiodu, Fikas, Franscesca Emmanuels, et al, civil service was not just an employment, it was a vocation and a calling; a spiritual endeavour, which entails a daily search for meaning by an elite corps with esprit de corp.
“To be a leader or a boss in the civil service carried with it integrity based on a deep consciousness that one was being looked up to by subordinates and the society. It then meant embodying the ideals of service through leadership by example,” he said.
Mr. Olaopa explained that in the past, entry into service expansion and size was carefully guarded, but that today, “consultants have taken over most of the work that highly competent talents in the service should have been built to do.”
He said there were other defining elements of the glorious tradition of the old civil service worth recreating. This, he said, includes the systematic knowledge incubation through seminars and lecture series and staff development; welfare packages which conferred prestige on civil servants and was guaranteed through housing loans and other social security schemes that created the opportunity for officers to plan their lives within the limit of their remuneration; sufficient remuneration that ruled out affluence then, but guaranteed a reasonably descent living without cutting corners; and a vibrant social-work balance and developmental industrial relations regime grounded on dialogue and Tripartism.
The permanent secretary, therefore, suggested that there is the need to rebuild the service into a value-based institution with emphasis on integrity, pay reform, and workforce study.
“Our gathering should aim at rebuilding a rebranded profession with a new image that is capable of attracting to it and therefore breeding a new generation of highly self-motivated public managers which is what the nation requires for its long awaited transformation,” Mr. Olaopa told his audience.
“This new generation managers will operate in a totally reengineered management system that is performance-oriented, technology-enabled and in a stewardship relationship with the public which it treats as client and to whom it is bonded under service compact.
“The new public managers will strengthen and leverage public private partnership to facilitate industry growth through a shared vision of growth and development and deepen quality service delivery.
“Political leadership must share in this vision and invest in the process to reverse current reality where it expects to harvest from a system to which it has made little or no investment but which it is more inclined to crucify.”