SWEEPING changes in the federal civil service similar to the reforms undertaken by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo have been initiated by the Federal Government.
There is however a proviso in the reforms: That there would be no job losses. The focus, it was learnt, shall be on the quality of the leadership of commissions and agencies, and in some cases the top hierarchy of ministries.
Curiously, the National Assembly appears to have endorsed the planned restructuring by the Executive arm of government.
Apart from appointing competent hands for the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), some outfits would be realigned or merged, especially in ministries considered as too large.
The House of Representatives‚Äô Committee on Science and Technology seems to have affirmed this move last Monday when it hinted of plans to amend certain legislations to merge some agencies considered to be performing overlapping functions in the science and technology industry.
Chairman of the committee, Abiodun Akinlade, who addressed officials of the Science and Technology Ministry and its agencies at the National Assembly, had said the measure was to reduce the cost of governance.
Akinlade said: ‚ÄúIt is the cardinal pre-occupation of the Seventh National Assembly to ensure that the cost of governance is brought to the minimum so that commensurable values are derived for funds invested by the government. This committee, in line with our avouched legislative agenda, has resolved to raise the bar of performance in the ministry and all its agencies in order to ensure the delivery of democratic dividends to the people.
‚ÄúIn line with the resolve of the House to have compact but efficient agencies, we would crave your co-operation in this regard because there may be need to merge some of the agencies that are considered to be having some overlapping functions in order to maximise value for money.‚ÄĚ Accordingly, the committee is determined to review the laws establishing commissions and agencies with a view to eliminating duplications of mandates and reducing waste.
‚ÄúWhere more than one agencies of government are carrying out similar functions, the committee will initiate legislations to streamline and or consolidate the duties and functions of such agencies into one. This will achieve efficiency, effectiveness and value for money in the administration of government business.‚ÄĚ
The lawmaker told the officials that the committee would insist on having all outstanding projects in the ministry completed even as he added that only projects that are extremely necessary would be initiated and funded by the House.
He also called on the ministry and its agencies to regularly make available their quarterly reports to the committee so that the lawmakers could assess their performances from time to time and offer advice where necessary.
The ministry‚Äôs Permanent Secretary, Dr. Dere Awosika, who represented the minister, Prof. Okon Bassey Ewa, insisted that there was no case of functions overlap among the agencies in the ministry.
She told the committee that the ministry has 17 functional agencies as against 50 outfits being peddled in some government quarters.
On its part, the Senate is pushing for reforms that would create more jobs and not worsen the unemployment situation in the country.
The Upper House, at its debate on the abuse of expatriate quota by some private enterprises in Nigeria on Tuesday, warned that nothing must be done to worsen the situation. It mandated a panel to investigate allegations of abuse of expatriate quota in the country and pledged to ensure that Nigerians get the jobs they are best suited for in the private sector.
For now, the Presidency is concentrating its efforts on how to get a seasoned administrator as the next chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) to join Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, the new Head of the Federation, to drive the bureaucracy.
It was learnt that the Presidency believes that with a strong Economic Management Team headed by the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chief Pius Anyim Pius as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who has a strong background in the Legislature, an astute Head of Service (Sali), it needed a seasoned public servant to lead the civil service commission.
Interestingly, Okonjo-Iweala, who was a major player in the reforms of the Obasanjo years, is a key figure in the current administration.
Presidency sources told The Guardian there is a consensus that the first institution that needs some radical reforms in the government‚Äôs transformation agenda is the civil service, which has been accused of aiding corruption in the system.
It was learnt that Okonjo-Iweala is part of the current move to recruit a top-rate chairman for the commission.
The sources said the Presidency is convinced that the office of the chairman of the commission created by the Constitution is very strategic to the revival of the federal bureaucracy because the FCSC is vested with the powers ‚Äúto recruit, promote and discipline civil servants.‚ÄĚ
A Presidency official, who responded to inquiries by The Guardian, said: ‚ÄúThe President is serious about a comprehensive overhaul of the federal bureaucracy and if he does not act now, his transformation agenda could be endangered. And that is why he got a Head of Service of Sali‚Äôs calibre through a quiet but wide consultation...Now, the next hurdle is choice of a competent chairman of the FCSC to lead the commission away from conflict with the Head of Service‚Äôs office...‚ÄĚ
It was further learnt that while the President is frantically searching for the FCSC chairman, ‚Äúhe is also sensitive to the expediency of geo-political consideration in the sharing of the Human Resources Management Office in the Presidency.‚ÄĚ
The office of the FCSC chairman will become vacant next month when the current occupant, Ahmed Al-Gazali, will complete his second term of five years. Al-Gazali from Borno State in the North-East zone became chairman of the FCSC in November 1999. He took over from Ambassador A.U. Galtimari from the same state and zone.
The Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution sections 10 and 11 provide for the ‚ÄúFederal Civil Service Commission that shall comprise a chairman and not more than 15 other members, who shall in the opinion of the President, be persons of unquestionable integrity and sound political judgment.‚ÄĚ
The Guardian had reported on Monday, September 19, 2011 that ‚ÄúPresident Jonathan is sufficiently aware that in recent years, the two offices - HoSF and FCSC - have attracted criticisms bordering on integrity‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ a point that was also made by the Adamu Fika Committee on Public Service Reforms, which submitted an interim report to the President about two months ago.
Some civil servants have however cast aspersions on the integrity of the FCSC processes, especially its promotion interviews and tests.
The regularisation process of workers of defunct agencies such as the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), the National Agricultural Land Development Agency (NALDA), Petroleum Tax Fund (PTF), the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP), the National Centre for Women Development, among others, carried out between 2001 and 2004, were said to have caused problems in the service hierarchy as officers of the agencies were made to supersede their colleagues in the mainstream.
There are, however, speculations that for political expediency and the need to assuage South-West zone, the only section of the country yet to get any high profile position in the administration, the next FCSC boss might emerge from the area.The Guardian