An Overview Of Service Delivery Initiative: 12 Years After
Otive Igbuzor, PhD
PAPER PRESENTED AT THE NATIONAL POLICY DIALOGUE ON STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING SERVICE DELIVERY IN GOVERNMENT PARASATALS, AGENCIES AND COMMISSIONS IN NIGERIA AT STATE HOUSE, ABUJA ON 27th MARCH, 2017.
The Public Service is very important in the provision of service to the citizens of any country. It is through the public service that government can manage its activities effectively and efficiently. Public service plays a vital role in delivering and distributing public services across a country. The major function of public service is to provide services; provide enabling environment for economic growth and prosperity for citizens as well as securing and strengthening democratic institutions.
Over the years, there has been poor service delivery by the public sector in Nigeria leading to the launch of the Nigeria Service Delivery Initiative by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR in March, 2014. The Federal Government signed a social compact with all Nigerians (SERVICOM) to improve citizen satisfaction by promoting service excellence in Public Service.
In this paper, we examine the quality of public service delivery twelve years after. But first, we underscore the imperative of service delivery and the need for reform of the public sector to be able to deliver efficient, effective and responsive services. We argue that there are blockages to service delivery which need to be removed through comprehensive and holistic public service reform.
2. THE IMPERATIVE OF SERVICE DELIVERY
Service delivery to the people is a key function of government. Government has a responsibility to provide services to its people. It is in recognition of this that the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government and that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring :
It must be pointed out that the fact that this section of the constitution is not justiceable by virtue of section 6, subsection 6 © does not mean that it is not a part of the constitution. Interestingly, the oath of office of the President and other executive and legislative officials clearly states that they “will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Government therefore has a responsibility to ensure that its policies, programmes and actions are in consonance with chapter two of the constitution.
From the above, it is clear that governance is all about service delivery. A survey indicates that the Nigerian public expectations from the public service in terms of service delivery include:
In an effort to meet the expectations of the people and as part of the Federal governments’ reform agenda, the Service Delivery Initiative (SDI) was launched conceptualized as a social contract between the Federal Government and all Nigerians: Service Compact with all Nigerians (SERVICOM). SERVICOM gives the Nigerian people the right to demand good service as entitlements, contained in SERVICOM charters reflecting the mission and vision statements of each government department along with goals, objectives, details of services, standards of performance as well as system of redress should there be service failure. Unfortunately, the present state of the public service can neither deliver services to meet the expectations above nor to the standards expected by SERVICOM for several reasons including lack of capacity, poor orientation and attitude, weak incentives, weak monitoring and evaluation system and corruption. This is why there is the need for a comprehensive and holistic reform of the public service.
3. PUBLIC SERVICE AND THE NEED FOR REFORM
Reform of the Public Service in Nigeria is imperative because it is the systems and processes through which the machinery of government operates. Meanwhile, there are several challenges facing Nigerians especially in terms of provision of health services, education, transport, waste disposal, security, regulation and enforcement of legal duties. The Public Service helps to put in place systems and processes that will help to deliver services to citizens. It is envisaged that by making core systems and processes more effective and by addressing specific delivery issues, we will have more capable government at all levels that is increasingly using transparency and accountability mechanisms to pursue delivery of service targets. As service delivery solutions are implemented and core system improvements and accountability mechanisms are used, governments will act more responsively to deliver improved performance in some areas of public administration and service delivery.
It is no longer news that there is dysfunction in the Public Service in Nigeria leading to failures in service delivery, a lack of accountability and poor performance of the machinery of government. In order to put in place a strategy for public service reform, it is necessary to identify the fundamental root causes of this dysfunction and identify the issues that need to be addressed taking into cognisance the root causes. Some analysts have identified three main fundamental root causes for the dysfunction of public administration in Nigeria namely weaknesses in accountability; patronage and corruption and weaknesses in the machinery of government.
The weaknesses in accountability in Nigeria manifests in weakness of oversight institutions, weak external demand, lack of transparency, weak monitoring and evaluation and lack of internal control. On patronage and corruption, it is well known and documented that corruption is widespread, deep and endemic in Nigeria. Nigeria has been consistently rated among the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International in its Corruption Perception Index. In 2011, Nigeria was ranked 143rd out of 183 countries. In 2012, Nigeria was rated 139th out of 176 countries and in 2013, Nigeria was placed at the 144th position out of 177 countries. In 2014 and 2015, Nigeria ranked 136 out of 175 and 170 countries respectively. In the public sector, recruitment practices are susceptible to patronage and corruption. Several probes and committees have established that public procurement is a cesspool of corruption. According to the Presidential Committee on review of reform processes in the public service 1999, “there is no functioning public service in Nigeria-we are operating a patronage system that destroys merit.” Weaknesses in machinery of government manifests in overlap and duplication of institutions; weak human resource management including misuse of the federal character principle; inappropriate appointment/posting; non-existent performance management; overlap and conflict between planning, policy and budgeting; lack of strategic focus on policy; poor Public Finance Management; weak capacity and poor strategic and operational management.
In order to address these weaknesses, there is the need to build capacity and implement change programmes in Human Resource Management, planning, policy co-ordination, public finance management, service delivery and accountability in budgetary matters. If these processes are improved with due process, professionalism, proper guideline and absence of discretion, then the space for patronage and corruption will be constricted.
There are several blockages to effective service delivery. We shall examine some of the issues:
a. Cost of governance: It is well known that the cost of governance in Nigeria is very high. About 70 percent of the federal budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure. The political and bureaucratic classes are over bloated. Cost of doing business with government is high. Most of the procurement in the public sector is inflated.
b. Effective Budgeting: The budget is perhaps the most important instrument in any modern state apart from the constitution. The focus on budget has assumed greater prominence in recent years with increasing democratization, civil society participation and the desire to respond to the development challenge of poverty. Budgeting is very crucial for the economic development of any nation. Good budgeting can lead to economic growth and development. But to prepare a good budget requires a responsible leadership, special staff assistance, broad, accurate and reliable information, complete plan, a financial calendar and effective monitoring and control over the execution of the budget plan. Meanwhile, the budget has been described as the most important document for the development of any country. It is the most powerful way that a government can meet the needs and priorities of the citizens. The budget process is crucial to good development outcomes. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secret. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to citizens and corruption is guarded and protected. Effective budgeting requires an open budget system. A budget is regarded as open if citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information. The Open Budget Index 2012 scores Nigeria 16 out of 100 which is a poor rating of the quality of budgeting in Nigeria. There is the need to institute an open budget system because democracy will be meaningless if the citizens do not participate in how government raise and spend money.
c. Public Finance Management: There is still opacity and lack of transparency in the oil and gas sector. Oil theft continues unabated despite the effort of government and security agencies. According to NEITI Audit report 2009-2011, Nigeria losses N578.990 billion annually to oil theft and NNPC owes government $5.8 billion from Liquefied Natural Gas which has not been paid into the federation account since 2006. There is still late releases of funds to ministries, departments and agencies. There is improper project design, costing, monitoring and audit. The end result is low capital budget implementation and unsatisfactory public expenditure outcomes.
d. Civil Service Reform: In the civil service today, there is the culture of self-interest and patronage. The recruitment process does not supply the right people in the right numbers to the right places to meet the service needs of citizens. The civil servants are not managed, promoted or rewarded based on objective measures of performance. The end result is that the civil service functions as an employment mechanism and not a service delivery mechanism with the with over 70 percent recurrent expenditure. Consequently, there is poor delivery of public goods and services.
e. Planning: There is no systematic planning framework for the country that ensures that adequate data and research, good information system, monitoring and evaluation and tracking of results. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor plan implementation and poor service delivery. For instance, it has been documented by the Presidential Assessment Committee report that 11, 886 projects worth N7.7 trillion have been abandoned across the country denying citizens of the benefits.
f. Policy: There is no process or criteria or mechanism for filtering policy ideas in the country. Policy proposals are often not evidence based because ideas that enter into the policy agenda are based on the private interest behind them. The result is that the policy ideas are not strategic and implementation do not give the desired result leading to wastage of resources due to duplication and failed programmes and projects. The World Bank Resource Allocation Index and Global Competitive Index rate Nigeria very poorly in terms of policy. There is the need to turn the around the present state of policies in Nigeria which are insubstantial, incoherent, inconsistent and insufficiently aligned to strategic priorities identified in national development plans.
g. Sectoral Issues: The ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) in the different sectors such as Trade, agriculture, education, health, and security are expected to deliver government services to meet the needs of Nigerians. But the poor recruitment and posting, lack of motivation, poor allocation of resources and poor management has resulted in weak capacity, weak accountability and poor performance of the MDAs.
h. Constituency projects: Constituency projects constitute a huge challenge to organizational effectiveness in the public sector. Most of the projects are put in the budget without proper design and costing. The nature, location and choice of contractors for the projects are determined solely by political considerations. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor execution and poor service delivery to citizens.
i. Corruption: As noted above, corruption is widespread and endemic in Nigeria. But we know that the problem of corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our times leading to underdevelopment and poor service delivery in Nigeria. Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development whether social, economic or political. Corruption not only leads to poor service delivery but loss of lives. Corruption is pervasive in Nigeria with serious negative consequences. Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies fighting corruption in the country, corruption has remained widespread and pervasive because of failure to utilize universally accepted and tested strategies; disconnect between posturing of leaders and their conduct; lack of concrete sustainable anti-corruption programming and failure to locate the anti-corruption struggle within a broader struggle to transform society. Some scholars have recommended that the anti-corruption fight must be guided by legislative framework for transparent and accountable government; political will and commitment to fight corruption; comprehensive strategy that is systematic, comprehensive, consistent, focused, publicized, non-selective and non-partisan; protection of Whistle blowers; political reform to curb political corruption especially election rigging; reform of substantive programmes and administrative procedures; mobilisation for social re-orientation; independent media; adequate remuneration for workers to reflect the responsibilities of their post and a living wage; code of ethics for Political office holders, business people and CSOs; independent institutions especially electoral, human rights and gender commissions and a movement for Anti-corruption.
4. THE QUALITY OF PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY: 12 YEARS AFTER
Every government strives to improve the quantity and quality of public service to its citizens. One way in which government tries to do this is to increase expenditure on public services. But there is a paradox in Nigeria. While the Federal Government has increased its expenditure over the years, the quality of public service has decreased as a result of the blockages discussed above. For instance, the Federal Government expenditure increased by about 500 percent between 2000 and 2012, but the aggregate public service quality increased by only 1.9 percent based on the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
It is interesting to note that Federal Government expenditure increased from 701.1 billion naira to 4.2 trillion naira between 2000 and 2012. But there was a higher level of increase in the recurrent expenditure (seven-fold increase) than the capital expenditure (four-fold increase). The Federal Government expenditure on education and health sectors increased by 87.5 percent and 194 percent respectively between 2009 and 2014 but Nigerian ranking remained 126th and 142nd of the 148 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index in 2014. In the education sector for instance, despite Federal Government increase in expenditure from 147.8 billion in 2009 to 493.5 billion in 2014, Nigeria still ranks low in key education indicators such as enrolment rate, completion rate and number of out of school children. In fact, Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world estimated at 10.5 million.
Quality of service is very important and its measurement necessary. But historically, it has been difficult to measure public service quality. Luckily, in the past two decades, several indicators have been developed to capture public sector performance which can be used as proxy for quality of service. Two popular indicators are the World Governance Indicators (WGI) produced by the World Bank and the Mo Ibrahim Indicators of African Governance. The World Governance Indicators captures government performance along six dimensions: voice and accountability; political stability and lack of violence; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law and control of corruption. Nigeria scored below average in all the indicators between 2000 and 2011. The Mo Ibrahim Indicators of African Governance captures provision of the political, social and economic goods that a citizen has the right to expect from his or her state and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizen. Government performance under the index is measured along four dimensions: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity and human development.
The challenges of Public Administration and the poor performance of the Public service is not a new problem in Nigeria. This is why there has been several efforts to reform the public service including but not limited to the Public Service Review Commission (The Udoji Commission, 1972-1974), the 1988 Civil Service Reforms and the 1994 Review Panel on Civil Service Reform (the Alison Ayida Panel). Despite these efforts, the public service quality has continued to decline. The literature is replete with the factors responsible for the failure of these reforms including lack of political will, poor management, faulty diagnosis, poor recruitment policies, lack of human resource capacity building, political patronage, quota system and lack of democratic practices in the management of the public service.
Our study shows that there are several factors responsible for the declining public service quality in Nigeria. The factors include poor planning; policy discontinuities, reversals and somersault; lack of participatory, open, transparent and inclusive budgeting; diversion of public funds; poor human resource management and poor performance management.
In Nigeria, it has been documented that right from the colonial period, development planning was viewed as a major strategy for achieving economic development and social progress, particularly, in the spheres of socio-economic infrastructures, industralisation, modernization, high rates of economic growth, poverty reduction, and significant improvements in living standards. Three plans featured in the pre-independence era for the periods 1946-1956, 1951-1955 and 1955-1962. Over the 1962-1995 period, three major phases in the planning experience emerged, namely, the fixed medium-term planning phase (1962-1985), policy oriented planning (1986-1988), and three year rolling plan phase (1990 till date). Scholars have pointed out that the golden period of planning on the African continent, 1960s and 1970s, could not be sustained from the 1980s because of two major factors: failure of development planning to meet the high expectations of rapid growth and development; and the resurgence of neo-liberalism and the implementation of short-term stabilization and structural adjustment programmes which are predicated on liberalization and deregulation. Meanwhile, these programmes that substituted for national development plans are counter plans which have failed to solve Africa’s myriad of economic problems. This is why some scholars have referred to the 1980s and 1990s as the “lost development decades” for Africa.
The challenge is that since return to civil rule in 1999, there has been a lot of sporadic and adhoc planning without adherence to long term planning. The National Economic Empowerment and National Development Strategy (NEEDS) and the Seven Point Agenda was abandoned after a few years. It is worse at the sub-national levels. Between 2004 and 2007, all the states developed the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS). But since 2007, most state governments do not have overarching development strategies. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan released recently is a medium term plan.
In addition, there is no systematic planning framework for the country that ensures that adequate data and research, good information system, monitoring and evaluation and tracking of results. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor plan implementation and poor service delivery.
Scholars are in agreement that strategies and policies are fundamental to progress and development of countries. But many Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Nigeria are without strategic plans. For many of them, policies have not been reviewed for over a decade. Even the implementation of the policies have been characterized by discontinuity, reversals and somersaults. Meanwhile, there is no process or criteria or mechanism for filtering policy ideas in the country. Policy proposals are often not evidence based because ideas that enter into the policy agenda are based on the private interest behind them. The result is that the policy ideas are not strategic and implementation do not give the desired result leading to wastage of resources due to duplication and failed programmes and projects.
In any case, there is some level of improvement in the budgetary process since the return to civil rule with increasing citizen participation. But there are still huge challenges including late passage, limited citizen participation, fiscal indiscipline and poor oversight by the legislature.
Another huge challenge is diversion of funds. Nigeria was ranked 142 out of 144 countries on the index of diversion of public funds on the World Economic Forum Index of official corruption. Finally, there is the challenge of human resource management and performance management. Human resource management in the public sector is characterized by weak incentive structure. There is a great difference between the real wages between the topmost level of public servants and the middle level/junior workers. In addition, there is a lot of favouritism. The World Economic Forum Global Competitive Report ranks Nigeria 125th out of 134 countries in the extent to which connected individuals and firms influence government policies and the award of contracts.
Performance management is the process of assessing and managing individual performance of workers. It requires supervisors to plan, explain, clarify, test for agreement, monitor and provide feedback. Performance management in the public sector is poor and ineffective.
From the above, it is clear that the provision of public service directly by government institutions or through creating enabling environment for private service providers involves processes and activities. Poor service delivery is primarily caused by problems in the service delivery process. This is why arresting the declining public service quality requires dealing with the problems in the service delivery process.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian public sector performance is weak despite increased public expenditure. It has been shown that the increased expenditure has not translated into service quality and performance. The missing link is poor public service delivery process. This is why the way out of the problem is a comprehensive Public Administration Reform to produce a public service that is efficient, effective, transparent and responsive. The public service processes that need reform are planning, policy making, budgeting, human resource management and performance management.
It is important to point out that the pattern of increasing expenditure and declining quality of services is probably worse at the subnational levels (State and local government). This is why the Public Administration Reform needed in Nigeria must be comprehensive covering all levels and tiers of government.
5. THE PUBLIC SERVICE AND THE CHANGE AGENDA
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration was inaugurated on 29th May, 2015, a time of monumental changes across the world. There are a lot of changes taking place with increasing uncertainty, growing ambiguity, increasing complexity, access to massive information and new technology.
The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the economic sphere. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled. Yet, poverty has increased to record high levels. The major problem is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people while majority of the people live in abject poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 1998 report documented that the three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined Gross Domestic Product of the 48 least developed countries. In 2014, eighty five richest people in the world had the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.4 billion people). By 2015, only 80 richest people have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, income inequality is at its highest level in the last fifty years. The average income of the richest 10 percent of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10 percent. It has been documented that the drivers of inequalities include globalization, skilled biased technological change and changes in countries policy approaches (ascendancy of neo-liberalism).
In the last ten years, there has been a lot of changes in political leadership across the world. In 2008, the political leadership of the United States of America changed from the Conservative Party to the Democratic Party and then back to the Republicans . In 2011, the political leadership in the United Kingdom changed from Labour Party to Conservative Party. In the last decade, there has been changes in many countries across the world including France, Italy, Greece, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cote D’Voire, and Senegal. One slogan that has reverberated across the world is change.
We have always argued that change will happen in any society when the conditions are ripe. In our view, for change to occur in any society requires the presence of objective and subjective conditions. Objective conditions exist when situations are evidently abnormal with huge contradictions which can only be resolved by change. The subjective conditions are the organizational preparations required to bring about change. There is no doubt that the objective conditions for change has been existing in Nigeria for a very long time. There is high level of poverty in the midst of plenty. Corruption is widespread, endemic and stifling progress. The wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of a few. There is social disintegration with high levels of promiscuity and divorce. Rape is on the increase. There are several cases of incest. There is high level of greed, selfishness and nepotism. The state of affairs is not sustainable. The challenge has been the absence of the subjective conditions with the requisite organization and platform to mobilize for social change. It was therefore easy for Nigerians to buy into the change agenda of the All Progressives Congress leading to the inauguration of the government on 29th May, 2015. The challenge before the government and the Nigerian people is the nature of change and how to actualize the change.
We have argued elsewhere that the kind of change required in Nigeria must be comprehensive affecting all facets of life. The change must affect the five key areas of security, economy, politics, social and technological. In terms of security, there is the need to decisively defeat Boko Haram, stem the rising militancy in the Niger Delta, tame the rampaging Fulani herdsmen and deal with increasing crime wave across the country. In the economic arena, there should be change in the structures and institutions of economic management; diversification of the economy; promotion of transparency and accountability and promotion of pro-poor policies. In politics, there should be change of the 1999 Constitution; institutions of horizontal accountability; the electoral system; democratic culture; party financing, campaign finance and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In the socio-cultural arena, there should be re-orientation on social values; re-orientation on work ethics and corporate Social responsibility and investment. Finally, there should be focus on acquisition and utilization of new technology. In addition, there should be change in the way public administration is organized.
In any case, it must be recognised that to bring about change in any country is a process that must be meticulously thought out and implemented. It should start with accessing the need for change. This assessment should affect all aspects of life of the country including structure, culture, strategies, human resources, organisational processes and leadership. It is on the basis of this assessment that the government can decide on the change to make. While deciding on the change to make, cognisance should be given to possible resistance. There are many reasons why people resist change. Some people are establishment or status-quo prone and will resist change. Others resist change because of self-interest or misunderstanding of the content or nature of change. Studies have shown that globally, about 70 percent of all change efforts have failed.
The challenge before the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is to put in place a strategy for change and a model for managing resistance to change. A strategy for change should recognise the three basic stages of unfreezing, moving and refreezing in the change process. Unfreezing is the stage where you conduct a diagnosis and then unfreeze the old organisational culture. This involves clear communication on the negative consequences of old ways while developing new modes of operation. Moving is when you produce a new strategy and initiate new ways of doing things to effect structural, cultural and individual change through effective leadership. Refreezing is a systematic way of strengthening new behaviours that support change and reinforcing the new behaviour continuously.
A model of managing resistance to change will include specific strategies to enlist co-operation of the people to support the change process. Several approaches can be used to enlist co-operation. The citizens should be educated about upcoming changes before they occur. The nature and logic of the change should be clearly communicated. As the change process is going on, the government should listen to the people affected by the change. Training and resources should be provided to the people who need to carry out the change and perform their roles under the new circumstances. Incentives should be offered for co-operation and punishment should be applied to those who resist change.
In addition, government should recruit change champions. These are people who are passionate about change, know the nature of change required and are prepared to lead the process of change. They should be able to develop a vision and strategy for the change process including a description of the state of affairs after the change has been implemented. The vision must be clearly communicated and the people mobilised to support it.
Nigeria was ripe for change. The Buhari Administration promised change. Nigerians are waiting for the change to manifest in every facet of life. The government and the people of Nigeria must understand that change is a process and must be prepared to go through the process to bring the required change to Nigerians. Nigeria and Nigerians do not deserve anything less. For the change process in Nigeria to succeed, the change leaders must live by example; constantly link the change process to the change vision, mission and values; build a sense of urgency and support for the change process; align every process, structure and system to the change agenda and build the capacity of the people to manage the change process. Finally, the change leaders must not only establish and monitor measurable goals, they must also empower the people and ensure accountability in all actions.
6. THE WAY FORWARD
The Public Service is very important in the provision of service to the citizens of any country because it is through the public service that government can manage its activities effectively and efficiently. It is the desire to promote excellence and improve citizen satisfaction that led to the launch of the Nigerian Service delivery initiative in 2004. But twelve years later, the state and quality of public service is still lamentably poor by all statistics. There is therefore the need to continue and deepen public service reform while ensuring that both government and citizens ensure the proper operationalistion of the change agenda. It is only when the blockages are removed that the service compact will be accomplished.
 Igbuzor, O (2015), Nigeria: Public Administration Reforms and the Emergence of Buhari
 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Chapter Two, Section 16 (2)
 National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS 2)(2007). Abuja, National Planning Commission. P.270
 Igbuzor, O (2015) Op cit
African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD)
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