Cross River Civil Service Reforms: The Task Before Governor Bassey Otu BY MISSANG OYAMA

In Breaking News, Opinion, Politics

The civil service plays one of the most critical roles in the effective functioning of any government. It serves as the backbone of administrative machinery, responsible for implementing government policies and delivering services to the people. The civil service has often been touted as “the engine room of government.” That phraseology is not far-fetched by any means. It is rather a statement of fact. 

In Cross River State, the civil service has been grappling with various issues for many years that have hampered its efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. However, with the election of Governor Bassey Otu, a new ray of hope should emerge on the horizon for the much-needed reforms in the state’s civil service. This piece explores the pressing issues faced by the Cross River State civil service and the essential tasks before Governor Bassey Otu to bring about lasting reforms.

One of the primary concerns is the high rate of redundancy in the workforce. Over the years, the state’s civil service has witnessed exponential growth, leading to a large number of redundant employees and an increased financial burden on the state’s coffers. This has resulted in a lack of efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.

Furthermore, the civil service has been plagued by a lack of skilled and qualified personnel. The recruitment process has often been subjected to nepotism, political interference, and corruption, leading to the appointment of incompetent individuals who lack the necessary qualifications and experience for their respective roles. This has significantly impacted service delivery and eroded public trust in the government.

Another crucial issue faced by the Cross River State civil service is the absence of a performance-driven culture. The absence of a merit-based system has led to complacency among employees, as there are minimal consequences for poor performance or lack of dedication to duty. As a result, there is a lack of motivation among civil servants to excel in their roles and contribute to the development of the state.

There is no gainsaying that Governor Bassey Otu has inherited a monumental task of reforming the Cross River State civil service to make it more efficient, transparent, accountable, and fit for purpose. To achieve this, several key areas need immediate attention and action.

Workforce Restructuring

One of the first steps in the reform process should be the restructuring of the civil service workforce. Governor Otu needs to conduct a comprehensive personnel audit of the workforce to identify redundant positions and assess the skill gaps. This will enable the government to streamline the workforce, ensuring that each employee’s role is essential and contributes to the efficient functioning of the government machinery.

Merit-Based Recruitment and Training

To ensure the civil service is staffed with competent and qualified individuals, recruitment and promotion should be based on merit, transparency, and equal opportunity. Governor Otu must establish an independent and impartial civil service commission to oversee recruitment and promotions. Additionally, investing in training and capacity-building programs will enhance the skills of existing civil servants and prepare them for present and future challenges.

Performance Management System

Implementing a robust performance management system is crucial to instilling a performance-driven culture within the civil service. Governor Otu should introduce a transparent and fair system that rewards exemplary performance while holding underperforming employees accountable. This will motivate civil servants to strive for excellence and deliver quality services to the citizens.

Technological Integration

Leveraging technology is vital in modernizing the civil service in Cross River State. Governor Otu should invest in the development of an integrated e-governance platform that facilitates efficient communication, data management, and service delivery. This digital transformation will streamline administrative processes, reduce bureaucracy, and improve the overall efficiency of the civil service.

Anti-Corruption Measures

Corruption has been a significant impediment to the Cross River State civil service’s progress. Governor Otu must adopt a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and implement stringent anti-corruption measures. Establishing an independent anti-corruption agency with investigative and prosecutorial powers will send a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated. 

The starting point for the anti-corruption crusade in the civil service is for the governor to embark on a comprehensive personnel audit to eliminate ghost workers in the system. The recent case of the neighboring Abia State Government under the leadership of Governor Alex Otti is quite instructive. Following an ongoing verification exercise of civil servants in Abia State, more than 2,300 ghost workers have been eliminated from the state’s payroll, saving more than N200m on the monthly wage bill.

Again, electronic payment systems should be introduced at all state revenue collection points in the state to reduce cash handling by government officials.

Public-Private Partnerships

Governor Otu should explore public-private partnerships (PPPs) to address certain service delivery challenges and promote innovation in the civil service. Collaborating with private sector entities can bring in expertise, technology, and funding, thereby improving service quality and efficiency.

The Cross River State civil service is at a critical juncture, and the success of Governor Bassey Otu’s administration hinges on the successful implementation of comprehensive reforms. Addressing the issues of workforce restructuring, merit-based recruitment, performance management, technological integration, and anti-corruption measures will be instrumental in transforming the civil service into an efficient and effective institution. Governor Otu’s commitment to these reforms and his ability to garner support from all stakeholders will determine the success of the state’s civil service under his watch in meeting the needs and aspirations of the people. By taking bold and decisive actions, Governor Otu can leave a lasting legacy of a reformed civil service that serves as a catalyst for the development and progress of Cross River State.

Oyama is an economist and a concerned Cross Riverian who writes from Abuja. He can be reached via missangoyama@gmail.com 

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Missang Oyama, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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