Beaming searchlight on civil service commission
That Nigeria is drifting towards economic hardship may be stating the obvious in the face of brazen corruption and unbridled acts of impunity pervading all strata of the society. So much is the effect that it became a campaign mantra for President Muhammadu Buhari who stated that “if you don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill you.”
Curiously, most Nigerians beam their searchlight on politicians as major culprits in this act of pilfering from the national till without a look at the civil service which became willing collaborator in the whole mess.
Corruption does not start and end with stealing money alone. Abuse of power and privileges, nepotism, favouritism, among others can be considered as corruption.
It is no longer a subject of debate that the civil service that was hitherto an epitome of excellence has suddenly lost its lustre. Such values as dedication, thoroughness, merit, order and discipline have ceased to be the hallmark of the service. This institution was once noted for maintaining high ethical standard but it has suddenly become a cesspit of corruption, indolence, indiscipline, absenteeism, disloyalty or insubordination.
It is nevertheless, expected that the Federal Civil Service Commission [FCSC], which is saddled with the responsibility of recruiting, promoting and discipline senior personnel should be above board, in the first instance. This is because the civil service will not only be brought to ridicule and odium if the Commission fails to carry out its responsibilities to the nation. A Civil Service Commission that capitulates to pressures from politicians and other self-serving individuals cannot effectively superintend over the operations of the service.
This explains why the Federal Civil Service Commission is in the eye of the storm in the media. The Commission has continued to attract criticism over the way it is driving its operations without following laid down civil service rules as enshrined in the act that established it. The Commission is currently being accused of lack of transparency in the appointments, promotions as well as retirements of officers coming into the service and the outgoing ones.
The Federal Civil Service Commission derives its powers from Section 153(1) d of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Specifically, Part 1 (d), paragraph 11 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution vests the Commission with the power:
(i) to appoint/promote persons to Offices in the: Federal Civil Service; and
(ii) to dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding such Offices.
The Commission has three core mandates Departments ‘-Recruitment, Promotion and Discipline and four service Departments of Human Resources, Planning, Research and Statistics, Finance and Accounts and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Specifically, the commission was alleged to have refused or neglected to retire 168 officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, even when they ought to have be eased out of the service as mandated by their rules of engagement.
But the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission [FCSC], Mrs. Joan Ayo said. “The decision of the FCSC was that they should be retired based on the notional promotion. However, this decision was set aside because of a court ruling on notional promotion as it affected a former NIA officer. With that precedence, the officers decided to go to court and so FCSC was asked to rescind its decision.
Their continued stay has therefore grossly distorted the establishment pyramid of the ministry. But before then, by foresight, the FCSC had initiated the proposal to embark on succession gap exercise to address the lopsidedness in the staffing position in the Foreign Affairs ministry through an internal and external online advertisement.”
The FCSC boss similarly denied the allegations of 530 illegal appointments of the aides of the former President, Vice-President, ministers or any key political figure in the Jonathan administration, saying that, at no time did the commission employ aides of the above mentioned office holders.
She said: “FCSC in the discharge of its mandate has put in place internal checks and balances in the process of appointments and promotion, this guarantees transparent process that checkmates activities and antics of fraudsters who are in the business of issuing fake appointments letters”.
Also speaking on the Issues of some directors illegally recruited, the FCSC Chairman said: “So much has been said about some directors being illegally recruited into the Service. Some people just say it out of ignorance and I am ready to explain. Now, in accordance with the principle of Federal Character, whenever Permanent Secretaries are to be appointed, they ensure that each state is represented by a Permanent Secretary and not only that, they also have Permanent Secretaries that represent Geo-political zones.
So, this makes up the total number of Permanent Secretaries currently in the Service. As far back as 2012, before I even got here, it was discovered that some disadvantaged states did not have any directors that could be considered whenever it was time for Permanent Secretaries positions to be filed in those states. The States are Bayelsa, Ebonyi and the Federal Capital City [FCT].
“They would have been handpicked in line with the previous indiscriminate transfer. In line with meritocracy and political neutrality, I insisted on their being interviewed. The commission interviewed all those recommended from the state government and selected from each senatorial district based on performance.
“I have colleagues who are not in the Federal Service, but when we needed directors from those States, they came in, we have seen people coming in from other States, from local governments even from parastatals within the service on transfer.
In fact, we had people coming from other services like from the academics, even from the private sectors, for instance, we advertised online for directors who would drive our ICT projects; after six weeks period of mandatory advertisement, nobody was forthcoming, the advertisement was extended to eight weeks and eventually we got seven prospective candidates. One was interviewed on online in Canada, he turned it down because the pay was too low compared with his present employment.
The other from one of our industrial conglomerates also turned down the offer for same reason. In conjunction with ICT ministry, four were finally selected; they are not within the service. They have been deployed to different MDAs to head the ICT departments. We needed to do this because many senior officers were not computer literate and so cannot drive our performance contract programme.
Indeed, they have been instrumental as eye opener to many of the problem relating to the IPPIS. They are great asset to the service. Those directors that have come in are in no way affecting the career progression of serving officers.
In any case, the system has a way of flushing out non performing directors based on the four year tenure in the first instance renewable after four years.”
Commenting on the current stand of the Commission in the area of appointment and promotions, the Chairman stated, “It is part of our mandate to promote, appoint and to discipline these are our constitutional mandate as enshrined in secton 153 the 3rd schedule paragraph 11 of 1999 constitution as amended. We will recruit or appoint when vacancies are declared through the office of the Head of Civil Service.
That is what we do regularly; it may also interest you to know that in accordance with the NYSC procedure, there is what they call, Presidential Honours Awardees.
The awardees of 2012-2014 totaled 173 beneficiaries. We got the list as usual in accordance with existing procedure from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. We have already invited the 173 awardees for a one-day induction course, to introduce them to the rudiments of the service and that is what we do when recruiting officers.
I have also heard some people saying, we brought in youth corps members and we are giving them salaries on grade levels above their qualifications. That is not true.
The number, as I said earlier, totaled 173; some of them have master’s degree certificates, those ones will be on grade levels 09, and those with first degree certificates will be given grade level 08. Similarly, those who are medical doctors will be given grade level 12 and GL 13 for those medical doctors who have passed part 1 of their specialist examination in accordance with their entry positions.
So those who are saying we gave them Assistant Directors status are either being mischievous or they are talking from the point of ignorance on what is happening in the Service .”
Also commenting on the integrity of the civil service and the FCSC, a retired Director, Mr Charles Chikezie, said that the Nigerian Civil service is still a credible institution and ready to continue to play its constitutional role of nation building. According to Chikezie, ‘’ the service is made up of the MDAs, and given the level of decadence in virtually all sectors of the economy, there are chances that a few bad eggs in the service engages in dubious activities that is currently working against the image of the service, no doubt, what i still believe is that , given the right attitude and environment to perform, the Nigerian Civil service is above board’’