Enthroning efficiency in the civil service – Part 2

Fed. Secretariat Abuja

Fed. Secretariat Abuja

Continued from yesterday
The offices of the SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) and Head of Service are a mishmash of politics and bureaucracy. This must stop. The President must insist on an efficient productive Civil Service otherwise his administration would be like a car without an engine. It would not work.

Changing Colleges of Education to Universities is a sign of inefficiency and the practice must stop. So should this nonsense of plethora of special universities, such as the Petroleum University, Maritime University, etc. It is unheard of. In pushing these anomalies, someone claimed N13 billion for the land! What parameters are used to judge the Civil Service and the Police? Where are the statistics of solved and unsolved crimes? These must be important for promotion and for measuring the crime rate – whether it’s going up or down.

Cleanliness of Civil Service environment must be undertaken. Too often the offices are dirty and dingy. It is not always necessary for efficiency to cost money e.g. Old Police College in Ikeja was a fantastic, clean police college – roads well laid out, lawns beautifully kept, police recruits ultra clean and well-behaved. In fact efficiency can save money.

Mr. Kale the head of Bureau of Statistics rebased our economy last year. Rebasing our economy was patently a political move; it was shameful. Now, Mr. Kale says Nigeria’s population may not be 170 million. How can the Director- General of the Bureau of Statistics be so vague?

How, When, Why? What have they done with the money? These should be constant questions we must always ask political figures.

Cheating in travel expenses is rampant now in the Civil Service. A crack down is called for. Money paid to principals or Head of schools are not spent on the teachers or civil servants. Some principals put the money in 30-day deposit accounts. Others do not pay transfer allowances or setting down allowances in full – they convert most of the money to their personal use, believing that newly recruited civil servants or those on transfer dare not report.

There should be sanctions for waste against the State and Local Governments. This is because today, the waste is really incredible. A good 30% to 40% of expenditure could be saved, if the Government is seriously minded to do so. The State Government, when efficient, collects greater internally generated revenue.

Maintenance of roads, budget performance monitor should be reinstituted and enforced. The Civil Service is too unresponsive and too arrogant, for example, the civil service does not reply to letters. Governor Lateef Jakande’s example is worth following. Every day he was in his house at 5p.m. and anyone who wanted to see him was admitted into the hall and he listened to complaints from 5p.m. to 7p.m. I do not believe there was one instance of reported corruption. The President and Governors should have time to listen to people directly. The whole mess of withholding tax; dormant accounts in banks are all avenues of corruption and inefficiency. Dividend payments which run into billions are not collected and paid. All these matters should be dealt with.

Registration of birth/deaths: who does this? Should it be Local Governments? It is in the Local Government’s schedule of duties, why are they not doing it? The Local Governments must be made efficient. If they are not, the Federal Government should withhold further advance of money. Let them go to court. The Federal Government must enlist public support and it will get it to fight State and Local Governments’ inefficiency.

General taxation of all adults above a certain age has become an urgent necessity tax receipts. Already, people have forgotten that without tax clearance you cannot get passports, bid for jobs, open bank account, etc. More restrictions should be applied to those who do not pay taxes.

Payment of tax gives the right to demand accountability from the Government, which must strive to reduce the gap between Government and the Governed through projects and better communications. If we are poor, why these sirens, 14-car escorts – many of them bullet-proof and all those Mobile Policemen? They should be sent to their duties and the work of keeping peace and investigating crimes.

The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) should monitor deteriorating GSM services. Roaming charges are ridiculous and a clear rip-off.

Audit Departments in parastatals and ministries should not only be expanded – especially now in the digital age, but strengthened. It is possible to have effective monitoring in a digital age: from monitoring to enforcement is but a short step. All ministries and Local Government Areas etc. to be online. Attempts must be made to tackle inefficiency in the National Assembly, State Assemblies and Local Government Area Councils.

A roving body of Auditors should be established to check all expenditure; expand the role of Code of Conduct Bureau – and the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission: there must be some statement as to how money was spent: and how it was mobilised.

In this period of austerity and in tune with the economic indices, pensions of entitled political office holders including the President and Governors must be drastically reviewed with a view to reduce them substantially – the present terms of pension are ridiculous and unsustainable.

The Government should strengthen the position and role of the Ombudsman – Public Complaints Commission: give them originating functions. If DPR is efficient we would not have 5000 registered tankers and twice or three times that number unregistered. All tankers should be moved to places designated outside towns and only those due for loads to come in – they have chocked Lagos almost to death. Government should revive the distribution pipelines especially in the North and also revive the use of rail tankers. Efficiency drives in Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Maritime Authority must be undertaken to save cost of operations and therefore remit more to the treasury.

All monies belonging to Federal, State and Local governments from collection etc. must be paid into official accounts of the Federal Government or relevant respective Government within 48 hours of collection: the Federal Government itself must pay its debts also when due within 48 hours. Delays would not be countenanced.

A Banking Ombudsman should be established to check banks’ sharp practices to clients: strict guidelines of what banks may do to be established, not the rubbish in the so called Financial Services Commission (FSC) – which was a political bulldog for charging PDP opponents.

Nigeria should do what it says: if election petitions are to be finished by a certain date, let it be so: so that incumbents are sworn in without fear of recall. How can the Chief of the Air Staff allegedly appropriate for his personal use N550 million monthly for nearly two years without the connivance of almost all the officers in the Air Force and the Ministry of Defence? Were all the other top Air Force officials unaware? If they were and said nothing then they were complicit either through active encouragement to look elsewhere or vicariously complicit and negligent to the uniform and rank they wear. Maybe they benefitted directly too?
Has such an extensive audit equally been done for the other services i.e. the Army, the Navy, the Police and the Customs and Immigration Services too? What level of rot are we expecting to unravel there? Are we to say that the above mentioned service chiefs did not know of such practices or if they did, was their silence an indication of what they equally were doing or would do if given the opportunity?

We certainly do not have a proper and accountable Military in Nigeria. Were officials of the Ministry of Defence, the Permanent Secretary, the Accounts Director and the Auditors all unaware? And they signed off on what apparently were legitimate papers but did not follow up on whether what they signed off was actually done and done properly.

The Ministry of Labour had many departments including a register of the unemployed i.e. an unemployment register. Where are these registers? What is the basis of the 70% unemployment rate in the country? Co-operatives existed in all facets all over the country – self-run cooperatives for formers, carpenters, masons, market women and in every walk of life. A little encouragement will awaken and strengthen these entities which are efficient message carriers with effectiveness.

The Civil Service is not a place where lazy people find a home. It is a place for hard work; a place to help people, not stifle and frustrate them.

How helpful is the Civil Service to industry, to business, commerce, agriculture, transport, communications, Labour, productivity and growth? But none of this is possible without a clear vision and political will to revamp the Civil Service.

• Ambassador Cole is a Consultant to The Guardian Editorial Board.

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