Re-inventing Ondo State's bureaucracy for service delivery - The Hope Newspapers
 

Re-inventing Ondo State’s bureaucracy for service delivery

Admin 13 Sep, 2017 Features, News

By Ade Akinbosade
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On 30th August, 2017, the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN officially inaugurated members of Ondo State Executive Council. During the inauguration, the Governor leveraged on the opportunity provided by the event to x-ray some of the achievements as well as challenges of his young and impactful administration.  The ceremony was an epoch making, attended by a large crowd, held at The Dome, Akure. The inauguration served as an opportunity for the Governor to set agenda for the new appointees who included 18 Honourable State Commissioners and 10 Special Advisers. The Governor said as follows:

“We promised to make life more abundant for our people, we will continue to strive to keep that vow within the available resources. We only need men and women imbued with the necessary patriotic zeal and determination to do things differently. I enjoin us to make our appointments impactful on the generality of the people in the State. We must approach issues affecting on their lives with seriousness”.

The foregoing averments , by the Governor give insight into the character and focus of his administration which was elaborated in his inaugural speech of February 24, 2017 and hinged on a 5-Point Agenda summarized under the acronym: JMPPR: Job Creation, Massive Infrastructural Development, Provision of functional Education, Provision of accessible and Qualitative Health Care and Rural Development.

The appointees had since assumed duties in their respective Ministries and offices. As the Chief Executive Officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, they shall be expected to contribute and compliment the developmental efforts of their principal in term of articulating policies and programmes which shall have direct bearing on the citizenry of the State.  In other words, they are little ‘Governors’ in their respective offices as well as in their constituencies and should therefore have the same mind, character and body language as Mr. Governor does in the matter of governance of the Sunshine State.  One does not expect anything less anyway as Mr. Governor had warned of consequences of anything to the contrary.

With the Commissioners and the Special Advisers in place, it is hoped, Chairmen and members of Boards, Commissions, Agencies and Parastatals would be emplaced soon. Thus, it is suffice to assume that the new government has taken off in earnest and not too long a time, Mr. Governor’s vision to develop the land and her people will be delivered.

Importantly, one major institution in the business of governance across the world that needed to be carried along in this onerous task is the State’s bureaucracy. At the inauguration of Mr. Governor in February, he underlined the very important roles of civil servants in the State and vowed to make their welfare a top priority.  True to this, seven months after, the fulfillment of the pledge is self evident as payment of salaries, pension allowance and salary arrears have been on regular basis. A rare feat indeed. Bureaucracy, Simpliciter is the engine or the crankshaft of government’s engine. Thus from time to time, it needs be serviced, oiled and re-invented for improved performance. The returning becomes essential in view of alleged declined productivity across Nigeria. Among such factors being cited by commentators as causes of decline productivity include and not limited to the following: politicization, corruption, unmeritous preferment, nepotism, faulty method of recruitment, poor training or lack of training and god-fatherism among others.

Arising from the following, this paper sets to advance ways in which the Ondo State bureaucracy could be re-invented to a 21st century one that has the inner capacity to deliver like the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and/or own Chief Adekunle Ajasin of blessed memories.  Meanwhile, it is necessary to examine the jurispudential nature of bureaucracy hereinafter called the civil/public service.

CIVIL/PUBLIC SERVICE

The Civil Service is a political innovation of the mid-eighteen century England. It developed from the British’s Colonial administration in India where it was used to describe a “system of selection into Service based on merit”.  Elaborating on this, a seasoned bureaucrat. R. Wey, averred, in 1971, that Civil Service connotes, a “profession, a group of Civil Servants having similar recruitment conditions and prospects as well as a ‘Career’ in an acceptable lifetime employment under the government”.  The margin of difference, if any, between the Civil Service and of Public Service is very narrow as the later was said to have a dominant character over the former which in all honesty are two of a kind. Even then, the Nigerian Interpretation Act (1964) does not help matter as it remained silent on the difference between the two. Nonetheless, it is apt to assert that anyone having a career and employed in the Civil or Public Service is official of government other than those holding Political, Military, Paramilitary and Judicial posts.   The Federal Civil Service Manual (2012), seems to have rested the matter with the definition of Civil Servants as workers employed in a “Civil capacity” with their remunerations being paid wholly out of money voted in the budget by the National/House of Assemblies”.

SIGNIFICANCE OF BUREAUCRACY

The significance of civil service has been well illustrated by the doyen of Nigeria’s bureaucracy Chief Simeon Adebo who in his book entitled “Our unforgettable years” (1983) narrated what he called “Solid Synergy and/or collaboration that subsisted between Chief Awolowo’s led administration and the bureaucracy under his watch as Head of Service/Secretary to State Government in Western Regional Government between 1954  1959.  Adebo opined “that the overreaching achievements of Awolowo’s government in areas like road construction, education, rural development, communication and agriculture among others which remained indelible till today is a function of “sound political administrative leadership collaboration between elected/appointed political leaders as well as the highly motivated bureaucracy that was imbued in the ethics and/or core values of the civil service which was inherited from the British Colonial Government”. He submitted further “that these achievements had been possible due to Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s appreciation of the salient provisions of the (1854) Macaulay’s Committee on the Indian Civil Service which had a singular objective of creating a very critical “mass of civil service officials” well trained/groomed in character and in learning that should provide a top flight support for executive/political policymakers of his administration”  (See pp 48  60).

In Ondo State, bureaucracy under the leadership of the Iwajomos, Emuleomos, Akingbades, Bajowas, and of recent, the Adaramolas, Isijolas, Kudehinbus, Kolawoles and of course the current Head of Service, Toyin Akinkuotu has been widely praised and eulogized for stellar performances. It is on record that a good number of developmental projects emplaced by the successive governments were carried out by the State bureaucracy. For example, bureaucracy under Iwajomo and Emuleomo, was reputed to have laid the very foundation of Ondo State between 1976  1979 in term of developmental programmes and policies that were second to none among States created in 1976. Even in the recent past, the Ajose Kudehinbu’s led bureaucracy introduced what is called Commitment to Excellent Service “COMESERVE” which has the singular objective at enhancing the efficiency of civil servants for quality service delivery. Only the Federal and Lagos State Governments have similar initiatives.

Regrettably, the highly successful bureaucracy inherited from the Colonial masters was to be destroyed years later by the Military regimes which superintended on Nigeria between 1966  1999. A good number of public service reforms orchestrated by the junta had a combined impact at mitigating the efficiency and effectiveness of an otherwise utopia institution, once reputed the best in Africa. One cannot forget the Udoji Public Service Reform of 1972, 1974/1975 civil service purge, Decree    No. 1 1984, the Dotun Philips’s 1988 civil service Reforms, and other policies and/or decisions that detract from merit wittingly or unwittingly emplaced variously by State Governments across the country.  The combined effect of which has castrated bureaucracy hence the allegation of declined productivity. No wonder, President Olusegun Obasanjo (as he then was), while inaugurating the SERVICOM initiative in 2003 lamented this castration as follows”:

“Nigerians have for long been feeling short changed by the quality of public service. Our public officers have for too-long been showcases for the combined evils of inefficiency and corruption, whilst being impediment to effective implementation of government policies.  Nigerians deserve better. And we will ensure they get what is better”.

Thus, in order to institutionalize a bureaucracy of our dream, the following line of actions are suggested:

WAYS TO REINVENT THE STATE’S BUREAUCRACY

Appointment to Commissions and Boards

The Civil Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, House of Assembly Service Commission are organs provided for under Section 197(1) (a, b, c) of 1999 Constitution (as amended).  Membership enjoys a five-year tenure. Unlike other bodies: the Local Government Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission, Health Management Board, etc which are creation of subsidiary legislation. The Commissions/Boards are empowered to perform such functions which include and not limited to the following: recruitment, discipline and management of career of civil servants. In the discharge of her functions, Commissions/Boards are guided by Rules and Regulations that are best administered by retired bureaucrats preferably at the headship. Thus, in order to ensure efficient service delivery, preponderance of members/chairmen of the Commissions/Boards be sourced from retired bureaucrats cum politician who share the same vision with Mr. Governor, apart from being men and women of proven integrity and/or fit and proper as lawyers would say. The good news is that, there abounds many bureaucrats in the political firmament across the party lines.

Staff Recruitment and Needs Assessment

Recruitment into bureaucracy is one of the cardinal duties of Government at all levels. Though, recruitment nowadays, has been impeded by the current economic recession.  Recruitment however, being a social welfare which Government can’t shy away from, as there will always be need to carryout recruitments in some critical areas.  Whenever, this is to happen, the need to carryout needs assessment to prevent surplus manpower leading to under employment cannot be emphasised.  Where however, surplus staff do exist, or where officers do have relevant qualifications, deployment to area of need should not be foreclosed.  The State Government exercised this option in year 2013 when officers with Education degrees were re-deployed from the Local Government to Teaching Service to fill the obvious gap of teaching staff in secondary and primary schools.  This action is what is known in public administration “acting on grounds of public policy.”

Total Quality Management (TQM)

This is the method by which management and employees involve in a continuous improvement of the production of goods and services. It is a combination of quality and management tools aimed at increasing business or services capacity and reducing losses due to wasteful practices. TQM seeks to integrate all organizational functions (marketing, finance, design, engineering and production, customer service, etc) to focus on meeting customer needs and organizational objectives.  Essentially, the duty of bureaucracy is to implement governmental policies with minimum cost with a view to ensuring efficient and effective service delivery.  Unfortunately, this mandate has been jettisoned almost irretrievably in the last two decades hence, various governmental interventionist programmes like Service Compact with Nigerian (SERVICOME) by the Federal Government in year 2003, Commitment to Excellent Service (COMESERVE) introduced by Governor Olusegun Mimiko in (2010) and Service Contract (SC) by Governor Raji Fashola SAN of Lagos State in (2010).  All these initiatives aim at        re-inventing our bureaucracy for optimal performance or result oriented.  The Ondo State’s COMESERVE entails among others, removal of Television from offices, punctuality, acknowledgment of mails timeously, dress code. The COMESERVE Initiative has however remained largely dormant over a time now. “’TQM” as a policy remains a veritable mean of energizing performance of the bureaucracy. It’s components can be introduced with minimal cost.  Besides, the COMESERVE Initiative, the Stare version of ‘TQM’ can be reinvigorated for enhanced performance across Ministries, Departments and Agencies. To this end, a separate unit or outfit be created and staffed as COMESERVE office, in the Governor’s office to take charge of this. At the Federal level where SERVICOME has achieved tremendous success, the office is located in the Presidency under a Director-General.

Review of Service Regulatory Books

Service Regulatory Books, among other are the: Civil Service Rules, Civil Service Commission Regulations, Administrative Guidelines for Boards, Commissions and Parastatals, Financial Regulations, Code of Conduct for Civil Servants, Local Government Service Regulations, etc. Whereas, the extant law provides that, Regulatory Books shall be reviewed five yearly in tandem with realities of the day. However, the current Ondo State Regulatory Books were published in (1999) during Governor Adebayo Adefarati’s regime.  A committee was set up in July 2011 by the then Head of Service, Mr. Ajose Kudehinbu to review this. The Committee had Prince Fioye Bajowa, a retired Head of Service as Chairman.  The report of the committee is still being expected. Government should look into this. No doubt, the 1999 edition of State Regulatory books have become obsolete in many critical areas and therefore need to be reviewed bringing in the  key components of COMESERVE, Fiscal Responsibility Public Finance and the Public Procurement Laws that were recently passed by the State House of Assembly.

Public Service Training Institute (PSTI)

The Public Service Training Institute is a training Institute under the office of the Head of Service. It specializes on the job training of middle level officers in the State Public Service.  The institution has in its curricula such training modules like Secretariat Studies, office management, file keeping, office etiquette, etc. Before now, the Institution was located along Adekunle Ajasin Road, opposite Police Officers’ Mess, Akure.  The new Institute was commissioned in year 2016 and it is located in Ilara-Mokin. It occupies over 40 hectares of land with a beautiful architecture design to match. The School, has world class facilities such as 3 large lecture halls, 12 highly equipped syndicate rooms, 6 large conference rooms, big dining hall and a state of the art library with a large space in and around the school corridors. Government to give necessary wherewithal for full operation and patronization be extended to both the public and private sectors. This institution, no doubt, is a veritable mean of generating revenue for the State Government, apart from being a training ground for effective service delivery.  The institute can collaborate with Universities and the ASCON with a view to running Post-Graduate courses, among others.

Trade Development Centres

The Ministry of Women Affairs houses the well equipped trade centre located within the office premises, Akure. The centre has a wide range of equipment for cloth making and weaving, sewing machine, button making machine, etc.  The centre, in addition, has a moderate lecture room and a good number of ICT equipment that can be deployed for training.  With this, the centre can be converted to a veritable training ground for Junior Workers and the unemployed graduates.  It must be mentioned here, that in time past, the eighteen Local Governments had specialized trade centre in each of their headquarters. Okitipupa Local Government used to produce soap and palm oil while Ilaje specialized in mat and fish production. These centres can be resuscitated and equipped to be functional. Apart from being a veritable revenue yielding outfit, it will also serve as avenues for training unemployed school leavers.

Technical Colleges

Closely linked with the above is State Government owned Technical Colleges established to train school leavers in various trades such as Bricklaying, Electronics, Electric Wiring, Carpentry and a host of other trades provided for in the law establishing it.  The six Technical Colleges are located in the following towns: Oka-Akoko, Owo, Okeigbo, Okitipupa, Idanre and Ayetoro; even though, Ayetoro’s College is moribund. Should these technical colleges be staffed with the competent hands and some of the courses affiliated with Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa or Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, the Colleges shall attract a sizeable number of students.  It is a pity to note that a survey conducted recently by a local news magazine indicated that 90% of artisans residing in Ondo State are non indigenes.

Similarly, graduate scheme platform can be introduced through “school-on-wheel” programme whereby graduates are trained in this locality through a vehicle equipped with technical gadgets and ,acjome that move from one town to another.  The National Directorate of Employment used to have School on wheel on her stable, in time past.

Law Reforms Commission

Nathan Roscoe Pound (1870  1964) a distinguished American Legal Scholar had long conceptualized law as social engineering. Roscoe, a former Dean of Harvard Law School (1916  1936) wrote in one of his treatises that “lawmaker acts as a social engineer by attempting to solve diverse problems using law a tool”.  The use of law a tool in solving Nigeria diverse challenges has been more apt given the present economic meltdown. Thus, in Ondo State, the Law Review Commission should be appropriately fitted to undertake this onerous task. The Commission should therefore be properly equipped and staffed in a manner as to carry out periodic reforms of State laws with a view to making it compliant with today’s realities. New laws can be introduced which has the capacity of expanding the revenue base of the State or the Local Government, thereby increasing the State Internally Generated Revenue and thus reducing the over dependent on the Statutory Allocations.

Ministry of Local Government and Efficient Service Delivery by LGAs

Handbook on Local Government Administration in Nigeria published by the then Office of the Vice President, Abuja, 1992 at page 28 provided that the Department of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs (Ministry of Local Government) shall have the following responsibilities:

Issuing guidelines for the preparation of development plans and annual budget to Local Governments to ensure conformity with State development objectives.

Providing secretariat for the Joint Account Committee, see Section 162 (1) of 1999 Constitution as amended.

Providing the secretariat for the meeting of the Chairmen of Local Government with the Governor.

Coordinating matters relating to Local Government Reforms.

Advising the State Government on matters relating to the creation of new Development Areas from Local Government Areas as and when necessary.

Coordinating common services where applicable.

Dealing with complaints and petitions from Local Government Areas.

Relating with the following bodies:

(i)   Local Government Service Commission

(ii)  Office of the Auditor General for Local Government

Monitoring and ensuring the implementation of guidelines from higher levels of government.

From the above, it is clear that Ministry of Local Government has enough powers without prejudice to the office of the Governor, to emplace quality control and efficient service delivery by Local Governments through circulars on policy directives.

OSRC, TV, ORANGE FM AND THE HOPE NEWSPAPER

The importance of information dissemination in a society cannot be overestimated. Thomas Jefferson, a one time American President, was a proponent of efficient and effective information management for sustenance of democratic government. No wonder, he called the media a “third estate of realm”. Thus, the need for effective management of the state owned information organs cannot be overs-tressed. The challenges that are confronting the State owned OSRC and TV were well articulated by the Governor during the inauguration of Honourable State Commissioners. The Governor had submitted as follows:

“we inherited a very weak and incapacitated OSRC/TV, with comatose equipment dilapidated physical infrastructure as well as unmotivated staff whose competence and professional capacity had become considerably weakened”.

In view of the roles of these media outfits as well as the need to ensure its sustenance and for uninterrupted information dissemination to the citizenry, government should ensure that media professionals be brought on board as chairman and members as soon as its revamped. In addition, financial discipline should be the directive principle in the running of the affairs of the media outfits.

In similar vein, the Hope Newspaper can be constructed in a manner to be in newsstand every day. This used to be the case until very recently. In order to get the best out of workers in these media outfits, on job training for effective and efficient service delivery be sustained. No doubt, the State media parade the best practitioners in the South West.

CONCLUSION

Bureaucracy, a necessary tool for development has been well articulated in this write up. A government that seeks to develop rapidly and sustainably shall require a civil service that is professional, efficient, effective and accountable in the execution of government policies and programmes. Thus, in the quest to achieve this, the State Government shall be expected to commit herself to transforming it to a 21st century one guided by the following five principles: professionalism, accountability, client orientated, inclusiveness, apolitical innovativeness; and garnished with the following values: Discipline, Integrity, Transparency and Loyalty. These principles or values are critical to achieving bureaucracy that should compete favourably with the developed countries like that of the Great Britain.  In achieving this, emplacing a “Performance Management System (PMS)” is a key component. This entails ‘engineering a paradigm shift’ from the old colonial version of civil service to the essentially performance driven type according to Tunji Olaopa (2009) that requires setting up of specific standards or targets for civil servants to reach and compares the actual performance of work executed with the input provided. To achieve this, the Permanent Secretary and other Accounting Officer have key roles to play.  Some of these areas are: mobilizing expertise to set performance, results or outcomes. In addition, they organize the framework for policy and programmes implementation through work scheduling, monitoring, ensuring due process or compliance with rules and regulations.  The overall duties of Permanent Secretary has been summed up as follows: “he/she should be able to engage a mix of planning, programming and project management functions, while also reporting, monitoring and evaluating to ensure the achievement of desired results” (Olaopa 2009).  He posited further that the Permanent Secretary or other Accounting Officers can only do this if they are sufficiently skilled, competent, knowledgeable and experienced enough to cope with the uncertainties and challenges associated with the multiple accountabilities of the position.  To attain this height, appointments within the Bureaucracy and continued growth therein should be merit driven rather than extraneous considerations.

Akinbosade is the Permanent Secretary, Ondo State Local Government Pension Transition Department Akure

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