STATES complain about the size of their civil service. Most of them do nothing about it. The services are over-staffed. This accounts for the fact that most states are unable to foot their overhead bills.
Most States are classified as “civil service States” because their bureaucracies guzzle the lion’s share of funds federally allocated monthly.
A typical civil service is lazy, inefficient, corrupt and has ghost workers. State governors have the responsibility to ensure the workforce is sufficient for optimum service delivery without constituting a drain on public resources needed for development. The complaints are increasing; diminishing public resources make it mandatory for governors to rescue the situation, otherwise States are doomed.
Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi recently used his State to illustrate the waste the civil service could be. According to him, delivering a letter to the head of a government department could involve as many as five clerks. Some people join the civil service with falsified documents. Employment racketeering abound in most civil services.
Some retirees find their way back to the payroll, while ghost workers haunt resources of the States like real ghosts. According to the governor, the situation is so bad that 85 per cent of the State’s revenue go into recurrent overheads, leaving only 15 per cent for capital projects.
A decision to conclude a staff rationalisation exercise that the preceding administration of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala started is generating a lot of heat. Alao-Akala hired consultants who performed a staff audit that disengaged 3,000 workers. Some vested interests are reading political meanings into it.
Governments contemplating “right-sizing” should ensure fairness is applied in disengaging staff from service. Focus should be on those who join the service irregularly and use of modern technology to clear the service of frauds that now dominate many of the pay rolls. Biometric technology is useful in this regard.
Another challenge that bisects the service at all levels is its reduction to an appendage of the political party in power. Political patronage has adverse consequences for the service. It also creates instability.
Oyo State Government is setting up a committee to hear cases of those wrongly listed for retrenchment. The action is commendable, especially if the process ensures fairness. It would give people a feeling of a listening government.
The task of reducing the cost of governance has become a national challenge. We advocate that a collective constitutional approach would include limiting number of political appointees. Bloated civil services are drags on governance. Without an efficient civil service, governments cannot discharge their duties to the people. Important as the service is, it cannot be at a cost that would drown the government.