HOS AND FOREIGN DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS
The present administration is committed to changing the manner government business is conducted, writes Ofem Uket
The new civil service structure under the headship of Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita had sought effective partnership within and outside the country to tighten loose ends in the Federal Civil Service and the entire public service sector, as she had cautioned strictly permanent secretaries and heads of agencies to develop cordiality in relating with their political heads.
The overall intent is to achieve the blueprint of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan as major reform process of the public service in Nigeria, aimed at enthroning a new civil service regime.
Structural defects in the past which had brought down the efficiency and productivity level in the public service have been undergoing complete overhaul with strategic inputs from major stakeholders, including research papers which are being translated into action.
Some major players on the foreign scene in the struggle are the Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Before 1945 the colonial government undertook no serious comprehensive planning to reform the public service, as its earliest plan came between 1946-55 Ten-Year Plan of Development (with plan revisions in between 1951-55) and the 1955-60 plan (later extended to 1962), were framed by colonial administrators. As the authors of the First National Development Plan, 1962-68 had a series of projects which had not been coordinated or related to any overall economic target.” After 1960, however, development planning had a broad scope, encompassing government policies to achieve national economic objectives, such as accelerated growth and higher levels of average material welfare. This planning affected the policies of such agencies as the central bank, state-owned enterprises, the Ministry of Education, marketing boards, state-level departments, and extension services.
Nigerian plans included economic forecasts, policies toward the private sector, and a list of proposed public expenditures. Although Nigerian political leaders made decisions about general objectives and priorities for the first plan, foreign economists were the main authors of the actual document. Its authors favoured decentralised decision making by private units and high economic payoffs from directly productive investments as opposed to indirect returns from social overheads. They discouraged increased taxes on the wealthy out of fear of dampening private incentive, and advocated a conservative monetary and fiscal policy emphasising a relatively small plan, openness to foreign trade and investment, and reliance on overseas assistance. Foreign aid was set at one half of public sector investment.
Nobel economist W. Arthur Lewis has suggested that the main weaknesses of the 1962-68 plan was incomplete feasibility studies and inadequate evaluation of projects, accompanied by meagre public participation, followed by excessive political intervention in economic decisions. Moreover, insufficient attention was paid to the small indigenous sector, and the machinery for implementing developments in the public sector was unsatisfactory.
The analogy of colonial reforms of the public service is to give insight to the relevance of the ongoing strategic reform process to reposition the Federal Civil Service, making it more effective, efficient, and productive and capacity building oriented in all departments.
Talking about capacity building and trainings, the development partners on this initiative have commenced effective synergy with the Project Management Teams in the reform agenda.
However, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HOS), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, had robust engagements and consultation with multilateral and development agencies to aid the Project Management Teams (PMTs) towards implementing the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implantation Plan (FCSSIP).
She has maintained this position in all interfaces with stakeholders at all strata. The conversation is that the present administration is desirous and working so hard to change the methodology and the manner government business is conducted.
Only a few days back, high level teams of development partners had engagements with the Head of Service in Abuja, to review the levels of collaboration, the impact so far and the way to go in providing a modest content of the reforms, looking at 2020 dateline, barely two years away.
There are eight PMTs that were constituted after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) ratified the public service reform process strategy plan last year.
The HOS said PMTs and development partners are to set up discussions on the various plans towards the successful implementation of the eight priority initiatives of the strategy.
An estimated 25,000 civil servants will be trained through revamped core modules and 200 future leaders cultivated through the Leadership Enhancement and Development Programme (LEAD-P), among others.
Oyo-Ita expressed optimism that the present reform will be successful because of its features which include high impact prioritisation on initiatives; specificity with actionable and detailed implementation plan, clear governance to drive reforms, partnership for resources to support implementation and change management as well as communication plan.
Apparently, there is a clear-cut stance on the reform process, contrary to previous attempts made so far beginning from the colonial administration, which in its various approaches could not make its desired impact in changing and improving on the national economic plan of government.
It is therefore assuring to see the number of development partners participating in the reform process which is targeted at addressing every misadventure of the civil service in the past.
The headship of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation has taken dogged steps to unify the working relationship between the civil servants and politicians for the interest of a progressive and economically viable state Nigeria.
Conferences and retreats were held in the past to rub minds with federal permanent secretaries on how to relate with political heads in their various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).