Anxiety over audit of federal civil servants

Accounting. Image source waldkirch

Accounting. Image source waldkirch

THE Federal Government has commenced an internal staff audit of personnel in the Nigerian civil service to enable government determine those who are valid members of staff.

The exercise, expected to precede a major shake-up and reduction in the size of the public service, is also intended to determine the scope of duties performed by members of staff of various cadres. It is believed to be as a consequence of shortage of earnings from oil.

While The Guardian can confirm that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have since commenced an evaluation of members of staff through filling of review forms, top bureaucrats such as permanent secretaries, directors-general and executive secretaries, who earn huge sums in monthly pay, are also to be affected by the downsize plan.

Permanent Secretaries, who are core civil servants, are appointees of government and are chosen on regional and state basis based on years of experience.

Each of the six geo-political zones and the states produce one candidate each for the position of permanent secretary in the federal civil service, an arrangement that government is currently weary of given the dearth of revenue to sustain such huge bureaucracy.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in India restated that the country is cash-strapped and would require tough measures such as pruning down of size of federal ministries, departments, agencies, numbering well over 500, many of which reports of review committees say are mere duplication of offices.

Although Nigeria’s about 540 MDAs were created by acts of the Parliament, especially during the administration of late Musa Yar’Adua, Olusegun Obasanjo and during the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan, as well as earlier administrations. Their creation at the time were expedient, given that it was during the oil boom era based on the need to address nagging issues and problems. The scenario has since changed with the all time drop in price of crude in the world market, a situation that is forcing government to embrace radical measures.

In total, Nigeria currently has 45 slots for federal permanent secretaries spread out in Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF), Ecological Funds, Political Affairs, Economic Affairs, Cabinet Secretariat.

Others are resident in Service Policy and Strategy Office, Special Duties, Chief Security Officer’s Office in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Accountant-General of the Federation’s Office, the Auditor-General of the Federation’s Office and at the State House. Permanent Secretaries who are Level 17 officers are also in all federal ministries such as Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Aviation, Communication Technology, Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, among others.

The impending disengagement of some permanent secretaries, especially those who had served for long time is coming on the heels of merger plans of federal ministries as cost-saving measures.

Although the directors-general and executive secretaries of agencies and departments are appointees of government, they are often hired based on geo-political equation, which are not usually free of political inputs from state governors and other stakeholders on party affiliations.

Many civil servants are now jittery over plans to cut down the size of the bureaucracy, especially those who contribute marginally to total output of the Nigerian public service sector.

Sources close to the Presidency say that the reduction of personnel size in the public service will commence as soon as the ministers are allotted ministries to help in overseeing the successful completion of the cost-saving measure.

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