The imperative of service delivery in the life of a nation

 

 

Linus Aleke:

The imperative of adequate and prompt service delivery in public and private sector in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized hence the need to accord SERVICOM all the needed support, encouragement and legal backing it deserves to function optimally.

Nigerian government is losing billions of dollars annual to the twin evil of corruption and inefficiency arising from activities of public servants who ordinarily should act otherwise in the interest of the nation.

Unfortunately, successive administration in the country had deliberately refused to provide SERVICOM with the necessary tools to carry out its responsibilities to the Nigerian people or at best had chosen to pay lip services to issues relating to funding and other logistics required by the agency to perform maximally.

 It is no longer news to the ears of an average reader and kin observers in Nigeria that service delivery in this part of the world is nothing but a mirage. However what constitute news are pockets of effort been made by good spirited individual, corporate bodies and international development partners to address the aforesaid debilitating trend frontally?

In virtually all government establishments, stories of inefficiency and dissatisfaction in service delivery fills the air as clients and ordinary citizens who have one reason or the other to visit public offices have avalanche of gory and dissatisfying stories to tell.

An Abuja based journalist who did not want his name in print observed that some public officers who should know the working of government businesses are grossly ignorant of their functions thereby skyrocketing inefficiency and poor service delivery in most government offices.

He noted that the ugly practices in the system had continued to thrive because of the endemic corruption in the Nigerian civil service, adding that government had vehemently and persistently refused to fund SERVICOM which is aimed at entrenching service delivery to the public timely, fairly, honestly, effectively and transparently due to what they stand to benefit individually to the detriment of the public.

Even as he also seized the opportunity to advocate for regular training for the civil servants to properly educate them on the latest methods of attending to government businesses in line with global best practices with the view to serving the public better.

 “You are all aware that civil servants and public office holders had perfected various means of extorting money from clients or even follow civil servants who may have the need to trace his file for documentation or other thing. Those who have the need to see a director or permanent secretary are treated like second class citizens by their secretaries. And people who come around to do a follow up to their letters are also given some dehumanizing treatment. I give you example, when I submitted a letter of inquest in foreign affairs, I was asked to check back the following week which I did but to my utter amazement my letter only moved from the ministry registry in 7th floor to another office in 6th floor and was trapped there. Even as I speak to you now, I had not received any further correspondence from them more than one month after the submission of the said letter. Even when I visited the ministry regularly to make sure that the letter is given the urgency it deserves. Government spends billions of dollars each year to pay salaries of staffs that contribute little or nothing to the economic growth of the nation. Most of them receive salaries for doing their private businesses without recourse to the civil service rule that debarred them from engaging in private business while in active service. It is also an open secret that top civil servants and politicians equally engage in inflicting of contract sum or contract padding as it is fondly called in government circle. In some cases contractors are left with little to take care of themselves and the contracts are abandoned to the detriment of the general public. A lecturer collects money from students to pass him in examination he failed or did not even write. A nurse in public hospital treats a patient who deserves and requires maximum care with reckless abandon. The list is endless yet no individual or corporate body is asking questions. God save Nigeria.”

Before proceeding further, it is important to attempt a definition or explanation of the concept SERVICOM for proper understanding of it by the readers: SERVICOM literarily means service compact with all Nigerians.

 To the staff of the establishment who preferred anonymity, “It is a government agency charged with the responsibilities of ensuring the fact that government ministries, commissions, department and agencies deliver adequate, prompt and efficient services to the public in line with global best practices.”

He enumerated SERVICOM principles which all government departments are committed-to to include among other things; affirmation, conviction, consideration and dedication. He further explained the four principles thus: “Affirmation of commitment to service of Nigerian nation, conviction that Nigeria can only realize its full potential if citizens receive prompt and efficient service from state, consideration for the needs and rights of all Nigerians to enjoy social and economic advancement and dedication to deliver quality services to which all citizens are entitled in a timely, fair, honest, effective and transparent manner.”

In addition, “SERVICOM could also be said to mean the ombudsman in-between service providers and their clients.”

It will also interest you to know that after the expiration of the agreement between Nigerian government and the International Development Partner (DFID) who build the capacity of the pioneer staffs of the agency, provided office equipment and funded the operation of the agency aside from salaries which was shouldered by government, federal government had refused to take full ownership of the project for reasons best known to them.

 However the agency had been operating below capacity as a result of zero allocation of resources to it since the development partner withdrew its sponsorship in accordance with the terms of agreement between her and Chief Obasanjor’s led government at the time. But the questions now begging for an answer in the lips of all Nigerians are, had SERVICOM joined the league of government’s abandoned projects across the country? Will President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration take the bull by the horn by deciding to fund this beautiful initiative aimed at entrenching effective and efficient service delivery in the country? Only time has answers to the following queries.

It was however in realization of the above anomalies in the public service that the former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo while inaugurating the new members of the National Assembly, in 2003, declared in his speech that Nigerians deserve better service delivery.

According to him,”Nigerians have for too long been feeling short-changed by the quality of Public service. Our Public offices have for too long been a showcase for the combined evils of inefficiency and corruption, whilst being impediments to effective implementations of government policies. Nigerians deserve better. And we will ensure that they get what is better!” 

It could also be recalled that in 2003, a research project was commissioned to review service delivery in Nigeria: the institutional environment for service delivery; a reflection on people‘s views and experiences; to end with a roadmap for a service delivery programme. After  the research, a report, service delivery in Nigeria: a roadmap was published in 2004. The report’s conclusions and recommendations include but not limited to the following.

“Services are not serving people: they are inaccessible, poor in quality and indifferent to customer needs, public confidence is poor, and institutional arrangements are confusing and wasteful as well as the need for a far-reaching transformation of Nigerian society through service delivery programme as a step in the process of moving to government that is more in touch with the people. Others include; the service delivery programme should: create citizens’ and customers’ demand, instill higher expectations of public services, communicate service entitlements and rights, publish information about performance, and redesign the services around customer’ requirements.”

In another special Presidential retreat held to deliberate on the report, President Olusegun Obasanjo again remarked that, “This Retreat is to assert our ownership of the initiative to serve Nigerians better. We accept full responsibility for driving it to a successful end. This is the core of the message from this Retreat to the people. That message should also be about leadership that has all the attributes which we all agreed to in the last retreat, namely selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and patriotism. It is also the message of leading from the front in the battle to sanitize our system morally, politically and economically. Above all, it is the message of the leadership that the Nigerian people can trust.”

Having gone back memory lane, one may now wonder what the core objective and functions of SERVICOM are, they include the following: quality services designed around the requirements of their customers and served by staff sensitive to the needs of their clients, set out the entitlements of the citizens clearly and in ways they can readily understand list of fees payable (if any) and prohibit the demand for any additional payments, commitment to the provision of services (including the processing of applications and the answering of correspondence) within realistic set time-frames, details of agencies and officials to whom complaints about service failures may be addressed, publish these details in conspicuous places accessible to the public, Periodically conduct and publish surveys to determine levels of customer satisfaction among others.

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Nonetheless the success of this Programme will require committed leadership from the top; ministers must therefore demonstrate their commitment with a leadership declaration about service delivery if the aforementioned lofty objectives must be realized.

With the foregoing in mind, it is heart worming to conclude with the words of foremost British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill who said that “My one fatal mistake was trying to achieve a great enterprise without having the plenary authority which could so easily have carried it to success.” “What you have no right to do is to ask me to bear responsibilities without the powers of effective action.” Nigerians must not also expect too much from SERVICOM without providing it with matching resources to carry out its duties to the Nigerian nation. ‘A stitch in time they say saves nine.’

One comment

  1. This writer has thrown up salient issue concerning societal development. The sign off point is no: nation can progress without effective and efficient service delivery. We only pay lip service to transformation if we are not committed to our we serve our citizens. In order to develop that consciousness for citizen focused service delivery the MDAs should begin from this simple step: Deliver services on the basis of promises made in Service charter- a primary document that launches any serous minded MDA in map of good service delivery. It is important to set standards of delivery in the service charters and regularly monitor how these are being met. MDA should have the courage to own up in cases of failure and should design ways to improve on any noted poor performance. This concept is non-existent in the Nigeria context. Ministers are fond of giving perfected speeches of their achievements without providing bases for it. What best practice requires is that from day one, a Minister should set out his objectives, a set of standards to meet them. These should specify timeline. Take two examples. Make a promise of when to complete a road construction, specify quality and how long the road will last. Give opportunity to citizens to freely assess the road to determine level of satisfaction. It is citizen report card that the Minister should take to the press. Another example is the supply of kerosene which government has promised at N50 per litre for six year no formal report have been published by govt to show how many citizens are getting it at that prize and with what ease. Determine gaps and seek earnestly to close them.
    We can go on endlessly with these kind of examples in the Nigerian public service. What the writer ALEKE Linus has brought to the fore is the importance of making this subject an issue for national discourse to educate Nigerians. It is my hope that the tempo will begin to build up from this platfrom

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