2015 Federal Civil Service Commission’s promotion examination for directors: Matters Arising

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

Regular promotion of staff in places of work, especially in the public is a key determinant for overall dreams, commitment and progress necessary in moving the establishment forward.

So long as the employers of labour demand increased productivity, observers in the labour sector are of the opinion that such demands are accompanied with regular promotions for employees.

As good as promotion exercises seem to be the modalities for such promotions are purely that of the employers. While several employers insist on written tests, some prefers the oral tests alone. But in some cases too, the employers may go for both.  The tests becomes very important in determining the level of skills acquisition, competence and adaptability of the worker on the job over the years as well as a determining factor for salary adjustments

Just recently and in line with its yearly tradition, the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) released the results of officers promoted from salary grade levels (SGL) 16 to salary grade level (SGL) 17 with effect from January 1st, 2015.

A circular from the Federal Civil Service Commission to that effect obtained by The Guardian dated October 8th 2015, with reference No. FCSC/PS/048/Volu. 1 duly signed by the Permanent Secretary, S.K. Yemi Adelakun revealed that out of the 1, 416 candidate that participated in the exercise, only 91 of them got promoted to director cadre across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) 

The circular read in part: ‘’The Federal Civil Service Commission, (FCSC) has approved  the promotion of the following candidates from Salary, Grade Levels 16 to Salary Grade Levels 17 with effect from 1st of January, 2015, Promotion of other Directorate Level Officers will be announced in due course.”

Indications has emerged also that since the release of the circular, the commission has been on the front burner of a barrage of accusations and counter accusations by some staff who were not so fortunate to make the list.  A leader and a deputy-director in one of the ministries (name withheld) told The Guardian that the exercise was a fraud.

According to him, it was based on massive bribery, corruption, tailored to favour a particular ethnic group in the country to the detriment of others.

“Mr. Please we will like you to help us tell the world that the promotion exercise conducted for us to the Directorate level is a sham. See, it was meant to favour the Yorubas alone. I am from North-Central, if you go through the list properly, you will see that the entire North was not favourably considered, tell me, do you mean only the Yorubas were qualified to scale through the examinations?

He continued: “You see, the Chairman of the FCSC simply jettison the Federal Character principle as enshrined in the civil service rule. For example, why should this woman make us to write examination and equally subjecting us to oral tests? This is not good enough because we are supposed to go through written test but not the oral as well, you can see that she brought in the oral test that enable her to frustrate many of us not to quality for the promotion. As far as am aware, anybody that writes the exams and scores above 60 per cent is qualified to be promoted, but that is not the case here, more so, she will come to tell you that promotion is also based on existing vacancies. Our worry is that despite the fact that we scored more than 60 marks and above, we have already been denied this year, but if we will not be made to face similar examination next year, we will not mind, as it is now, they will still insists that we write fresh examination next year before being promoted, is that good?

“Am quite convinced that the chairman of the Commission has one commissioner with her at the commission’s Headquarter whom she used to collect bribes from the highest bidders for them to scale through the entire exercise, this is highly unfortunate in our country,” he noted.

However, a close look at the Guidelines for Appointments, Promotion and Discipline issued by the Federal Civil Service Commission negates some of these claims by the aggrieved staff. Tagged, “Promotion Interview”, [1] All officers due for promotion shall take written examinations. Officers on Grade levels 07-13 shall be interviewed/examined by the Senior Staff committee while officers on Grade levels 14-16 shall be interviewed/examined by the Federal Civil Service Commission, a representative of the Head of Service shall be present at the interview/examination of officers on Grade levels 14-16 as an observer, [11], In order to ensure fairness to all attending a promotion interview, they shall all be asked the same questions which must be set at the time and place of the interview in one day, fresh questions of equal weight shall be drawn on subsequent days, [111], Interview/examination marks shall be awarded as follows -[a] Interview 70 per cent, [b], APER 20 per cent, [c], Seniority 10 per cent and [d], Overall Pass Mark is 60 per cent respectively even as Effective Date of all promotions shall be 1st January, following the promotion exercise.”

Responding, the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Deaconess Joan Ayo told The Guardian in confidence that the allegations were not only baseless but also unfounded. She also stated that it was a calculated attempt to tarnish her image and that of the commission by those who are bent on getting promoted by all means regardless of their poor performances.

“At the recruitment level, FCSC ensures meritocracy, quality control, standards, professionalism, efficiency, transparency and strict adherence to rules and regulations, mindful that if any of these core values is compromised, the overall strategic importance of the civil service to good governance will be jeopadised.”

She noted that recruitment/secondment is strictly based on qualifications, experience, merit and availability of vacancies without prejudice to the principle of federal character, adding that in line with the global principle of meritocracy in service is strictly on merit while Federal Character principle is not applicable.

The FCSC boss said, ‘based on what I am preaching, therefore, there is no way I can involve myself in any form of corruption. Moreover, I comport myself well before the commissioners, again, based on my posture for discipline and official relationship with the commissioners, I will not demean myself by colluding with anyone of them for corrupt practices, indeed, in the Commission, we have zero tolerance for all forms of corrupt practices.”

She went further: “In recruitments, we are subjected to adhere to the principle of Federal Character, but promotion is strictly on merit. Now from the system we have put in place, there is no way anybody can doctor the results of our interviews, there are 16 files for the commissioners containing all the names of the people who have sat for the examinations, but while working on the examinations, the names are not there except their numbers so, the only day we all are privilege to see the names is when we start collating, all the marks would have been recorded, collated with numbers and at the last stage before the names comes forward, by this time, it will be too late for anyone to change anything at such a time.

“Not only that, if you change yours, you cannot change the ones from all the other commissioners, you can not change the files of all the commissioners because all of them guides their zones or constituencies jealously, so which commissioner will now allow you to put the name of your constituency to take over his or her own, it will surely be to the detriment of that constituency. More so, these files are kept in the vault of the Directorate of State Security Service (DSS), nobody has access to the files, we only have access to the files at the conference table and as soon as they finished, they are packed into the boxes and goes back to the DSS. So now tell me, how is it possible for somebody to unilaterally favour one section of the country against the others? Besides, I was appointed by the President not by any other person or group, so there is no way I would favour any State, I don’t even have any constituency of my own. Nigeria is my constituency.”

On the issue of playing ethnicity cards: “I have never worked in my state; I’ve always worked at the federal level, so I do not have that ethnic learning that will make me allow ethnicity to spoil my honour and integrity. I’ve always been a federal government officer and all my bosses know me for that, if you look at my office now, majority of the officers in my office represents the whole of Nigeria, I think it is only one out of my 15 officers that comes from somewhere in the Southwest and that one was posted here by the office of the Head of Service based on his level of competence, so where do I come in with ethnicity? If you get to my house, you can’t even see anybody from the Southwest working for me, be it my cook, driver or my security, so am one of those who are Nigerians to the core. I am a Nigerian, am not an ethnic oriented person.”

She said that she effected a lot of changes when she assumed office in 2012. “For the 2015 Promotion Exercise, the FCSC introduced more stringent/innovative measures to enhance credibility and transparency in the conduct of the examinations. They include introduction of Bio-Metric accreditation for all the candidate sitting for the examination, the bio-metric exercise was carried out by the DSS on behalf of the commission, printing of customised answer scripts for the FCSC by DSS to enhance integrity of the system, setting and marking of questions and collation of results by the FCSC, with the DSS, ICPC and the civil Defence in attendance at the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN), Kubwa, recognised professional bodies like, ICAN, NIM along with retired and serving officers of proven integrity, were invited as resource persons to set and mark the Professional questions while the FCSC Commissioners set and marked the civil service and current affaires questions.”

On why she introduced oral interview after the written tests, she noted: “The reason is this, the comportment, the exposure, the carriage at that level of a Director, oral interview has become imperative. We want to see what the persons look like physically, this is because we do the same thing for the permanent secretaries and from all indications, they are our next permanent secretaries. So we must know the people who are called managers, the people we will entrust the service to, in terms of dressing, others.

She explained further that the Federal Character Principle only applies at the recruitment point where every state of the federation is represented but stressed that the principle do not apply during promotion exercises, adding: “I met the policy on ground.”

In his contributions, a retired Director, Promotions, Federal Civil Service Commission, Gabriel C. Ukomadu told The Guardian:  “You know, every year, the vacancies are not carried over to another year, so every year, the vacancies are specific for that year and when candidates are presented for promotions, they are so presented for that particular year, as soon as the vacancies are exhausted for the year in terms of selections based on merit, the other candidates, whether you make the pass mark of 60 per cent or above, you now become a new candidate for another year. It is also based on the vacancies that will be available that year, it is not the commission that determines the vacancies, it is the Head of Service.”

He further said that having worked in the commission for three years, he believes that it is only the Angels that can do better than what the commission under the current chairman is doing.

Another source informed The Guardian that the chairman of the FCSC had the right to bring new innovations into the service like the introduction of oral Interviews recently introduced to the system by the commission’s Chairman, Deaconess Joan Ayo.

“So after passing your examination, they look at you, your dressing, spoken ability, comportment by the panel to ensure you merit the position of a director.”

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