The Report of the Fika Committee on review of the reform process is half-hearted
Two years after its inauguration, the Adamu Fika Presidential Committee on the review of the reform process in the public sector has, at last, submitted its report. Considering the composition of the panel, made up of strange bedfellows, some of them angry victims of the "reform process" itself, it was no surprise that it had a divided house, even witnessing a resignation and boycotts. The division was affirmed when a minority report was submitted ahead of the major one.
Perhaps one of the landmarks of the Yar'Adua administration was having the courage to determine the tenure of directors and permanent secretaries in the federal civil service. The 2009 reform policy swept away many permanent secretaries, some of them unproductive and ageing, but who under the old order would have been in office for almost as long as they liked. Indeed, some of those affected by the policy had spent more than a decade on the same seat and still hoping to be in office for many more years. Even so, some of them still did not want to go down without a fight and the review panel was more or less a fall-out of this protest.
It is therefore not surprising that the report clearly went against the tenure policy, urging the government to abrogate it because the policy was introduced without impact assessment study, and that "the current tenure policy violates the rights of those affected to serve in accordance with their terms of engagement." In addition, the report concluded that the policy had depleted and deprived the service of some of the most competent and experienced hands and had led to a rapid turnover of senior officers in the service. Perhaps as a form of at least conceding something, the committee recommended that only directors who have spent some years on general administration of personnel management should be eligible for consideration for appointment as permanent secretary.
Even if the committee is double-speaking on the tenure system, it was bold and almost forthright in condemning a system that allows barely one per cent of the population in the public service to consume a disproportionate amount of the wealth of the nation. The report said: "the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission fixed and allowed the gross amount for salaries allowances to rise to N1.126 trillion. Of this, salaries took a mere N94.59 billion while allowances gulped the whole of N1.031 trillion. It is certainly not morally defensible from the perspective of social justice or any known moral criterion that such a huge sum of public funds is consumed by an infinitesimal fraction of the people." We agree.
Indeed, the overall - burden of the payroll of the public service as a percentage of the budget is not only alarming but unsustainable. The huge personnel cost of the public service to the population is more than 70 percent of the budget, and rising. Thus, the government is left with pittance to provide basic social services to Nigerians. This was the point that the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was making when he said that the public sector had to be right-sized and trimmed to save costs for government to be able to provide the much needed infrastructure for development.
That is why we are worried by the aspect of the report which recommends that the tenure determination be sidelined. It should not. We think that for too long, the sector has been weighed down by those who had no business in the service. There is need for institutional renewal. Moreover, there is considerable overlap of functions in the ministries and agencies of government, leading to unnecessary duplication. And aside the phenomenon of "ghost workers" who constitute a serious drain on our finances, there are too many old and lazy workers in the public sector. The cost of maintaining the public sector must be contained.