Federal Civil Service must move beyond bureaucracy, says Perm Sec

In Nigeria
Jun 23rd, 2014

A civil service reform expert and the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, Dr. Tunji Olaopa has called for a change in the bureaucratic culture within the civil service. This, according to him would to give a new compelling logic of open government paradigm to the system.

Olaopa spoke, the annual public lecture for the public service week in Lagos yesterday. He  stated that cultures that must be dropped within the civil service for compelling logic of open government to work includes, the tendency to want to follow rules and regulations blindly with scant regards for measuring and reporting with stakeholders partnership results of the impacts of policies and programmes; subversion of meritocracy due to weak systemic controls that normally should disallow the objectively less deserving from reaching service managerial positions; a culture of playing safe and risk aversion that invariably limits innovation and creativity and service’s closure to systematic entries from other professions and the resultants evidence of genetic inbreeding.

According to Olaopa, who spoke on the bureaucratic administrative civil service structure and how it responds to the challenges of open government, ‘the challenge for public managers resides in the Official Secret Act-conditioned subsisting orientation which renders governments operations as being synonymous with the hoarding of information and where provided, are scanty and propagandist and failing to properly address the concerns of the citizenry. This information gap he said is invariably filled with inflammatory information from social media users, sources that are neither controlled nor substantiated.’

He said: “The challenge for public managers is in their responsibility to ensure that government processes are open, with stakeholders afforded opportunity to be much more deeply involved in processes leading to policy formulation and processes that propels implementation, thereby ensuring that interest groups collaborate on issues of common interest.’

The permanent secretary who took cursory assessment of the Fashola administrative success story in Lagos State, proposed civil service action plans which includes a deep rethinking of the whole concept of the civil service in Nigeria in a manner that accords both with the democratic and technological demands of the knowledge age. In this regards, he made a case for a modernised traditional administrative model within a philosophical bent underpinned by the rubrics of neo-weberianism.

As part of his recommendations, he proposed that “we need to ensure that service leadership are exemplars of the new brand of service being built and the new service must open itself to periodic peer or outside reviews within a framework of a re-engineered system of national planning that is aligned to sector plans, MDAs business/work plans, the budgetary streams and performance management, operated within competency-based new metrics that objectively distinguish between and accordingly reward high-performers and exits irredeemable low performers and, has a better deal for staff.”

“The new service must institute a new learning infrastructure that enables cross-fertilisation of ideas and practices with other professions; with research and global knowledge networks, within praxis galvanised by an active networks of a community of practice and service.  As government data are usually unharmonised, there is the need to create simple, reliable and publicly accessible data formats and standards which in turn requires that new skills be built in the public service in data science; capacity for predictive analytics to identify trends and create models; for better use of technologies for social engagements and for deeper understanding of emerging policy patterns and the use of IT to solve them e.g. cyber security/terrorism,” he added.

On the civil service reform, Olaopa concluded that the current bureaucratic culture in the Nigerian civil service must shift to give room to an entrepreneurial cum democratic managerial culture with a strong dose of the technocratic that ensures that the civil service is managed like professional organisations.

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