Ibrahim Jato: Building An Effective Civil Service

This is a fact that will shock you: Kaduna States federal allocation for April, 2016 was N2.4bn and its civil service wage bill for the same month was N2.2bn. To put this in context, if the state relied on federal allocations alone, it would have been left with just N200m for all of its development needs in that month.

Kaduna’s overall population is estimated at being somewhere between 9 and 10 million and the staff strength of its civil service is around 87,000 – 100,000 workers. In plain terms, less than a hundred thousand workers or less than 1% of its population consumed 91.6% or N2.19bn of all its federal allocation in April, 2016, while a paltry 8.4% or N200m remained for the development of over 9.9 million people, inclusive of the very same civil servants.

It is when you consider scenarios like the above that you begin to understand why the Kaduna State Government decided on the 10th October 2016 to begin a long overdue reform process of the civil service.

Besides the cost implications, the state’s service is largely aged, under trained and remunerated poorly such that productivity is hampered.

Principal among the objectives of its reforms project is filling 30% of all civil service ranks with youths between the ages of 22 and 35 in the immediate term. It is hoped that this 30% will be further increased to 50% in 2018.

The reality that the Kaduna State Civil Service was bloated and largely redundant became apparent in 2001. As opposed to taking the painful and proactive measure of verifying its workers, the People’s Democratic Party led government decided to tow the lazy route and respond to this realization by placing an embargo on recruitment.

Successive PDP governors that followed did nothing to remove this embargo and only granted exceptions in 2008 when a case was made for the recruitment of teaching and medical staff. A direct fallout of this failure of leadership is the fact that staffing gaps were created on levels 1- 8.

It is these gaps that the el-Rufai led administration intends to fill with younger, more vibrant and well suited candidates.

More than 500,000 entries have been made to an employment database set up by the state in August 2016. The database will cater to qualified youths resident in the state who are between the ages of 22 and 35. It is designed to allow them register their details in a backend that ultimately becomes a reference point for employers looking to recruit suitably qualified people.

Besides the creation of opportunities for youth employment, the reforms will see manning levels realigned to reflect skill set. This will further be supported by appropriate training opportunities and wage bill adjustments that are directly proportionate with skills level and performance.

The reforms will also ensure the development of retirement options that are fair, profitable and balanced to both the state and its retirees. After all, the state has said time and again that it considers it a priority to look after those who have contributed their most progressive years to bettering its fortunes.

Already, the reform efforts are beginning to yield results. For instance, it has revealed that a N14bn pension obligation inherited from the PDP’s Mukhtar Ramalan Yero led government in 2015 was inflated by some N5 bn. This discovery was made after a series of painful and tasking verification exercises were conducted on all pension and death gratuities.

These verifications have also seen the state wage bill fall from N2.4bn to about N2bn at present and its size reduce by at least 10,000 persons. Other restructuring efforts involving revenue collection, expanding the tax bracket, opening new land layouts and clamping down on defaulters has seen the state advance from an internally generated revenue of about N800m in 2015 to N1.6bn currently.

The focus really is on creating a simpler, younger, more effective public service complete with laws, training and updated skills, at least to the extent that it supports economic growth and enhances access to public service delivery. In the end, no matter how progressive the political structure and its ideologies are, all its efforts will amount to nothing without an efficient public service that is aligned to achieving the same goals.

The Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai led administration knows this. The administration realizes that effecting civil service reforms is about the future of the state, about its sustenance and sustainability. This is what governance should be about; the will to build structures that endure beyond the administration itself.

Ibrahim Jato is a public finance expert based in Kaduna.