Saving public service from culture of wrong practices
I had assumed that the change he made at the retreat was permanent, only to discover in subsequent public outings that he had reverted to this American mode. The two Governors who stood corrected, the moment I addressed the issue at their respective Cabinet Retreats and had maintained it till date, are the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi and the Governor of the State of Osun, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola.
I went ahead to list 16 channels through which political heads seek the connivance of Permanent Secretaries to abuse the provisions and control measures prescribed in the Public service Rules, Financial Regulations, etc. as discussed in Adegoroye (2015) RGGN vol.1: pages 144-164 as follows:
i. Taking Deliberate Advantage of Subsisting Accounting Gaffe to pay political office holders for items already covered in their emoluments; ii. Large Retinue of Aides with unregulated and unapproved designations: like “Senior Special Adviser”, “Chief of Staff” to Ministers; etc
Iii. Payment of Hotel Accommodation/Rent to political office holders already receiving Daily Allowance in lieu of hotel;
iv. Official Travels without Approval of the President;
v. Unwieldy Delegation Size on Official Trips
vi. Air Travel Costs and the Newly Acquired Taste for Chartered Flights;
vii. Manipulation of Estacode rates, Warm Clothing and Contingency Allowances to undeserved delegates;
viii. Double dipping in the funding of official tours, from Ministry and agencies at the same time;
ix. Payment for Unofficial Trips, including Weekend Trips to home towns from government purses;
x. Attendance of Social Functions and Festivals at Government expense;
xi. Payment of Irregular Allowances e.g. Police Uniforms;
xii. Press and Public Relations;
xiii. Organization of Out-of-Station Retreats, Workshops and Meetings in home State of Ministers;
xiv. The Burden of Over-sight Functions of the National Assembly
xv. Election Year Pressures of the Ruling Political Party
xvi. Off record purchases of Official Vehicles and Personal Computers
I had to stress repeatedly the weight of responsibility carried in the provisions of the Financial Regulations 104 (iii) which states that:
“The Accounting Officer shall be held personally and pecuniarily responsible for all wrongdoings in his Ministry/ Extra-Ministerial Department. Delegation of his duties or functions shall not absolve him from these responsibilities and liabilities”; and pointed out that failure to promptly reply audit queries has been responsible for most of the public embarrassment faced by Permanent Secretaries and HCSFs.
I had to go to this great length, in order to show these Permanent Secretary-designates the challenges that lie ahead of them. Together we were able to come to the realization that the trail of wrong practices, processes, procedures and protocols, which are now inadvertently being institutionalized as the norm in the service, were a product of Weak Permanent Secretary capacity, sustained over time, coupled with inept subordinates at the Directorate level especially those in the habit of circumventing the direct line of authority of the permanent secretary to egotistic and oftentimes overbearing political heads. They now know that, upon deployment to their duty posts, they cannot just take everything on ground for granted as the norm but to deploy their critical thinking to unravel wrong practices, processes, procedures and protocols and to bring the weight of their offices to correct them wherever they may be. The case of the ICPC logo, that has subsisted for the entire 20 years of its existence without catching the eagle eyes of its past political office leadership, should be a lesson. More importantly, together we were also able to appreciate that the way out is their own capacity, which in turn is a function of certain innate and acquired personal qualities revolving around integrity and courage to take the right actions.
Concluding, I stressed the imperative of making the weight of their office count, by:
(i) Commanding the respect of their Ministers through the full display of their respective experience, proactive initiatives, quality of advice, maturity in handling sensitive issues and timeliness of response to ministerial, legislative and presidential directives;
(ii) Ensuring that the provisions of the various Rules, Regulations and Guidelines of Government come alive to their responsibilities of upholding the public trust;
(iii) Rising above the pedestrian level of conniving with subordinates to manipulate the provisions in those statute books for personal gains/favours; and
(iv) Ensuring that approvals that carry their signatures are those that they can defend before external auditors, public accounts committee and any commission or panel of inquiry.
Obviously, we have gone on this road many times before but we can never get tired of walking it again. That is the import of Induction Workshops. Parodying the words of the American singer and song writer, Bob Dylan, the question is: how many roads must the service walk down before it makes its impact as the service of our dream? Whether this class of 2020, dubbed the 12 Apostles / Sahabah, being put through the furnace of this just-concluded training by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, will turn out to be the champions that the service needs to realize that dream, time will tell as the answer, for now, is blowing in the wind. My prayer, especially in the spirit of Eid el Kabir at this time, is that God will imbue them with the right wisdom and courage to face the challenges ahead and make the weight of their office count, so that they can succeed, even where the efforts of my generation have fallen short of public expectations.
Adegoroye, PhD, OON, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary and pioneer Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) is also the National Publicity Secretary of the Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries (CORFEPS).
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