Monday, 14 December 2015

Dr Joe Abah, DG BPSR on How To Make The Public Service Great Again.

The director general of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Joe Abah has revealed the total number of civil servants in Nigeria.

DG, Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Joe Abah
He said the total number of federal civil servants in Nigeria as at October is 89,226 with another 3000 waiting to be captured adding that the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) has saved government 185 billion naira and weeded out 65,000 ghost workers.
“I am able to tell you that as at October, the number of the federal civil servants that Nigeria has is 89, 226 with another 3000 waiting to be captured. I would never have told you that if I didn’t have a system that enables me to say so. Now if you look at various other developed countries….I lived in the United Kingdom for 15 years before moving back to Nigeria and every year when you go back to the United Kingdom something has become more difficult to do. Something that you were able to get away with last year this year they would have tightened it up. It’s not as easy as it was.
“Bureaucracy is about process. And where we have improved our processes, the results are obvious. I will give you an example with our payroll system. We have an Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) which the BPSR put into place. Which have saved government 185 billion naira so far and weeded out 65,000 ghost workers.”
Speaking at a round-table discussion organized by United States embassy to mark the 2015 International Anti-corruption Day, Dr Abah said the public service is now focused on thinking through its initiatives before jumping into conclusion. He however revealed that the public service is still dealing with the fall out of the merger of ministries and its attendant consequences.
“The first that we are trying to do in the public service is to make sure that we think through what we do before we jump into conclusion. A very good example is the question should we merge Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and in every other works of life you will do proper due diligence to determine whether it is viable or not before you take the decision to merge.
“We should not just be jumping into things. We are at the moment dealing with the fall out of the merger of ministries and that has its own challenges. There are number of things we should have done before we consider whether to merge certain ministries or not which we are now needing to cope with.”
He however lamented the porous nature of institutions in Nigeria saying that the country’s focus is more on ‘arrest and displays’ instead of taking concrete steps to tighten the system and make corruption difficult to perpetuate.
“Unfortunately our focus is on arrest and displays and you know. We don’t actually put in enough efforts in tightening the system that makes these things easy to perpetuate. And so we looked at the various rules we have –the financial regulations, the public service rules, and public procurement act that we have and various other things. Because you need to think that regardless of these rules and regulations we are still where we are with regards to corruption and so it is not only a matter of law it is a matter of process. So how do you procure? How do you recruit?
“How do you manage finances and how easy is it to actually divert government funds? Those are what I think that the bureaucracy must be asking itself which in my view we actually don’t do enough of. If the systems are weak and lapsed it doesn’t matter whether it is Nigeria or any other country people will take advantage of it. A good example is the so called ‘expense scandal’ in the UK parliament. Of course in Nigeria we will say it is corruption and theft but in the UK it is labelled ‘expense scandal,” Dr. Abah said.
Speaking on the helplessness of the system, Dr. Abah pointed out that “our system actually makes it easy for people to take advantage of them.”
He went further: “The more we can tighten up our processes, our systems and on the things that people are able to do and not able to do I think the easier it will get. Are we making progress? Absolutely without a doubt. Absolutely we are making a lot of progress. It is far more difficult to move large amount of cash without detection because of the electronic measures that we have put in place to handle resources. It is now far more difficult to just acquire large plots of land without anybody knowing.”
On how the public sector can begin to work, the director general said: “The example I will give you about the way in which the public sector can actually work very well to tackle a difficult issue such as corruption is the way in which we successfully fought Ebola.
“It was a combination of leadership, good intergovernmental relations regardless of political affiliations. You know a Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) government worked with an All Progressive Congress (APC) government…actually in Rivers and Lagos states, the media and public awareness, the ability to isolate the problem and so the Ebola problem was immediately isolated. I think we must be able to learn from how we did this because if we can tackle Ebola I have absolutely no doubt that we can tackle corruption.”

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