The Essence of Government And The Role Of The Civil Service BY VENATIUS IKEM

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics

By CrossRiverWatch Admin

Governor Ben Ayade addressing the Cross River State Head of Service, Mr. Ekpenyong Henshaw (file pix)
Governor Ben Ayade addressing the Cross River State Head of Service, Mr. Ekpenyong Henshaw (file pix)

Yesterday, I wrote in my piece on this platform, Our Tenured god etc, where I posited that rather than appointing useless money sharing behemoths in the name of boards of non existing government agencies , government should rather be employing fresh hands into the civil service to enhance and regenerate it for better service delivery now and in the future.

A few calls challenged me on the necessity and value for such employment especially in the face of economic recession and low public funds. I have decided to publish my reasons here.

Sometimes we seem to get lost as to the real essence of government. Governments exist primarily to offer services of a public nature, services general to all of us and essential to the survival and well being of citizens of any given nation, country or community.

These would include but not necessarily be limited to the collection of taxes( to pay workers to perform those public services) , provide security, educate the citizenry, keep the environment and especially public places safe and clean, provide housing and health care, recreation, entertainment,etc.

Over time as the definition of “public services” has continued to evolve, so have those services expanded,extending in some societies to include areas that ordinarily should be the personal concern of individual members of society.

But all in an effort to provide better welfare and a better quality of life for majority of the citizens who may otherwise not be capable of providing for themselves, depending on each society’s definition of its priorities, the nature of its government method and the aspirations of majority of its citizens.

These priorities and overall objectives and aspirations of the majority of members of the society are arrived at in the modern models of society through organised processes of agreeing on them through what has become known as ‘politics’.

Elections provide the vehicle through which politics and politicians market their ideas and approach to the management of communities’ priorities and interests.

Majority do so through political parties. Those who government employs to provide these services are known as civil and or public servants.

Broadly speaking this lays the foundation for the importance of the civil service to society. If then they are not that important what is more important?

The modern management methods that have tended to down play the role of the service have done so to stem the tide of abuse of the service and not to diminish it’s role in the scale of priorities of the community .

As is true in all human affairs, there is bound to be abuse and breech of public trust, especially where money is involved and so issues of corruption, abuse of office in various forms have over time naturally become pervasive in this all important business of managing our public services.

And with this malaise have emerged various attempts at finding solutions to them including those who today have recommended a business-like approach to the management of public services in such a manner that can be more purposeful, productive and efficient NOT PROFITABLE!

While the bottom line of an average business ledger is measured in terms of profit, the ledger of a public service is measured in terms of SATISFACTION OF CITIZENS FOR SERVICES RENDERED.

The reasons for scrutiny for accountability, therefore is to block leakages and abuse especially for self aggrandizement by employees and managers such that will compromise and sabotage efforts at providing these public services EFFICIENTLY.

The reason why governments tended to have veered into business over time was essentially to shore up revenues that can enhance the collectible taxes aimed at helping in the provision of these public services.

Governments’ adventure into various businesses over time was therefore a means to an end not an end in itself. It has been proven a failure in most societies and most governments have since taken their hands off business.

Now, to the main discuss: my position therefore is that trying to save cost by limiting the number of public servants to the point that will impair the capacity of the service to function EFFICIENTLY is to undermine the very essence for which we have the service in the first place.

It’s like cutting your nose to spite your face or being penny wise and pound foolish. The better the public service, the better government’s ability to meet the demands of community in service quality required.

In more practical terms, how much does it cost to pay an average public servant’s immediate monthly wage bill?

On the average starting scale, Maybe N50-N70,000. Minimum wage, N18,000!

In other words, an injection of additional N200,000,000 ( two hundred million naira) monthly can employ about 4,000 public servants!

In today’s government expenditure, that represents only one item in the governor’s expenditure, called “security vote”! Depending on the situation, it could be much more!

On a good month it could also represent his (himself and family) travel expenses depending on where he chooses to go, how often and for how long!

Rearranging our priorities as a people and becoming more realistic in the management of public funds for the BENEFIT of THE COMMUNITY and not self, is the only key to the so called financial crisis or recession.

The bane of our democracy is that it is too expensive by being over bloated with wasteful expenditure. And to make it worse, We are just not holding our leaders to account at all as a people.

The need for the rising demand for accountability is being under estimated at our collective peril at all levels. We have no business with unemployment.

The wage bill of thousands of unemployed people is consumed by just a single family elected to lead, (manage) our welfare! How tragic!

So while “saving” money by not employing adequate doctors and nurses in hospitals to provide us health care, we leave enough money for the the governor to travel to any part of the world at his whims and caprices, to for instance, sign an “MOU” ostensibly on our behalf which he accounts to nobody for even if it yields no results, but represents the waste of the equivalent of the monthly wage bill of about 20 doctors, 40 nurses or 50 teachers!

I can cite at least half a dozen similar wastes that if properly harnessed can add 4000 – 5,000 young graduates on the wage bill of the Cross River State government without affecting anything, except enhance services, apart from maybe the governor’s greed alone!

I often tell people that Nigeria seems on the brink of a mass revolution and they laugh it off. They say I like conspiracy theories and the like.

Truth is, If we do not address the waste going on in government houses and the population of unemployed continues to grow at the pace it is and despair continues to set in, as it must, palliatives like emergency appointments “to put food on people’s tables” will be seen for what they are: hypocrisy.

You cannot keep me away from food by denying me work and put crumbs on my table to pacify me temporarily and I will become satisfied, knowing there is no future in those tricks.

People need sustainable hope built on genuine efforts to solve genuine problems and provide lasting solutions by digging deep into the causes of the problems and addressing same!

Elite greed and lack of empathy for the plight of the suffering masses we encounter everyday must be addressed and confronted for a realistic solution to unemployment to be found.

Public waste and eroding public confidence in the managers of our public affairs ( leaders) is an existential threat to our collective survival.

Expanding the public service will create more efficiency in service delivery, rebuild public trust, cut wastages, stem the tide of crime and grow the economy in terms of taxes from those legitimate jobs and other multiplier effects.

When the economy grows, businesses thrive and private sector investment and growth is enhanced and guaranteed. More jobs are then created.

Conversely,expanding political appointments in this way will merely inject some money into the wrong pockets, waste more public funds, thereby contracting the economy, create more desperation for appointments, create more insecurity and violence, increase the need to steal by public appointees, create more apathy amongst the citizenry because a good number of those so appointed are known criminals, uneducated, ex convicts, some even awaiting trials!

Is that what we seek to achieve? Certainly NO!

But those are the predictable, though unintended consequences of our knee jerk approach.

I rest my case!

Vena. A. Ikem.

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