The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Ms. Winifred Oyo-Ita, was recently conferred with the prestigious National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) for her productivity and commitment towards nation building. In this report CHIZOBA OGBECHE examines her vision for the civil service, which is to develop and institutionalise an efficient, productive, incorruptible and citizen-centred (EPIC) culture.
Head of Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, was among notable Nigerians honoured at the 17th edition of the National Productivity Merit giving a clear indication that the process of evolving an Efficient Productive Incorruptible Citizen Centre (EPIC) Civil Service has methodically advanced in its implementation strategy just few months after its inauguration.
Oyo-Ita was presented the award by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, in recognition of her productivity and commitment towards nation building, and for the growth and development of the country.
Since her appointment as the HoCSF in January 2016, Oyo-Ita has not hidden her vision for the civil service, which is to develop and institutionalise an EPIC culture and under her leadership, a three-year strategy and implementation plan to chart a new course for the service and reposition it as an effective machinery of government for improved service delivery was initiated.
The 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan was launched in February 2017 and according to her, the strategy, which is in tandem with Pillar Four of the National Strategy for Public Service Reforms (NSPSR), is in line with President Buhari’s “Change Mantra” and the Economic recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The Project Management Teams (PMTs) are the core drivers of the implementation strategy plan of the on-going public service reforms of the federal government structured to guarantee productive and growth driven performance at the discharge of official responsibilities of low, middle and top government functionaries in the Ministries Departments and Agencies MDAs.
The major focus of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan ERGP of government is to not only recover loss and revenue leakages but increase sources of revenue which are economic indicators that are capable of forming the National budget through estimates from the executive and yearly appropriations of parliament.
However, the office of the head of civil service is about the first to make recovery of a little above a hundred billion naira through savings from cleaning Human Resources data on IPPIS to improve overall transparency and administration in the public service, which of course may have given credibility to the leadership of HoCSF, especially in an administration whose major focus is to eliminate corrupt practices in the public service.
At the service wide sensitisation workshop/conference on the implementation strategy of the public service reforms in Abuja for directorate cadre in the ministries and extra-ministerial departments, Oyo-Ita had posited that the civil service is the engine room of any administration desirous to deliver on its mandate.
She told federal workers to stop playing the ostrich, and rise up to their responsibilities, arguing that the Federal government is working on modalities to give commensurate welfare package and good working conditions to stimulate high productivity and incorruptible efficient oriented service delivery.
Encapsulating from past reforms, the on-going process of sanitizing the public service to stimulate growth and work plan in the public sector is adjudged to have been most transparent, open, efficient and more effective to achieve the desired change.
But, the assertion of the framers of past reforms captures the state of chaos and near despair that characterized most of the federal institutions after the Ayida reform of 1994. Outside the inherent loopholes associated with the panel’s report and its implementation afterwards, there were myriads of factors that further compounded the problem of central government machinery and more to the federal civil service (Adebayo, 2004 and Abba, 2007).
The relationship between government officials (politicians /public office holders), public servants and citizens was beclouded with mistrust, corruption and inexperience (Jega 2007, and Okorie 2007), inefficiency in the delivery of social services, insensitivity to general welfare, indifference to the norms guiding the conduct of public official and rampant corruption (Olaopa 2008: 157).
Nigeria’s machinery of public bureaucracy from the last lapse of military junta was characterized with capitalist bureaucrats whose interest is rather what they would gain and not necessarily what they would inject into the system.
These are the processes of greed and fraud that the current leadership of the Head of Service is committed to eliminate and bring in a system structure that is citizen friendly not looking at personal gains amongst the civil servants who ought to be the anchors to moderate conduct and performance in government policies.
It is very instructive to note that the provisions of the past Ayida’s committee report left the public service with greater confusion, cadre conflict and disregard to the principles of neutrality and non-partisanship which is the crux of survival in the civil service. Among the 42 recommendations of the panel which continued as the bedrock before 1999.
The flaws destroyed what was left of the civil service until remedial measures were deployed to carry out the reforms that expanded the civil service through the creation of new Federal ministries, Departments and Agencies, though it could not address the major problems around the civil service that has to do with corruption.
And today, the on-going reforms takes a critical and holistic look at wroth in the public service among other measure processes that are targeted at boosting the economy and expanding government resource base for sustained growth.
One of the discontentment that flanked past reforms in public service was the inability to provide a biting force against corruption in the civil service.
In order to provide the needed lead for war against corruption, the present administration is poised to clean up the public sector from corruption by providing what it considered the road map for a sustainable and economically viable state.
The fundamental focus for the initiative is to determine the actual cost of governance in order to prevent wastages and financial leakages in all government businesses, and to improve the pay package of public workers.
The policy is on-going with the expectations that midway into the strategy implementation plan a new civil service of your dream would have been in place.
Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are key to the attainment of reform initiatives. Prior to the present administration, MDAs in Nigeria have assumed monopolistic status and that was anti developmental. MDAs are channels through which government policies are initiated as well as implemented so that the essence of government would be felt by the masses.
Monopolistic status of MDAS was spearheaded by bureaucratic tyrants and is retrogressive. There is need for attitudinal change campaign to re-orientate Nigerians and service providers on the rights of each other in government business and provision of service.
The past reforms were faced with the problems such as what is the best way to get government work done? How can the service be re-designed around customer requirement? How can the Nigeria people secure quality service and what is the reliable redress mechanism?
Constructive reply to these questions provided a sign post for this administration and located it within the reams of its reform agenda.
It widened its door to accommodate national and international partners, even though the reforms are home grown, conceived, developed and implemented by the civil servants devoid of external interference except for the partnership mentioned earlier.
Oyo-Ita, who has more than three decades in the public service, is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Prior to her appointment as the Head of Civil Service of the Federation in 2015, she was the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, and also served as Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs.