“Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge” – Robert Greene
Civil service is in itself a culture. It is a system that has its mores, and evolves its modus operandi strictly observed and adhered to by its actors. But it is not just a culture, civil service is an engine without which government could operate. It is sine qua non in the art of governance. Therefore, it remains a matter of doubt if elected political officials, particularly, could match the civil servants with profundity in statecraft. Civil servants can account the way every government administration lives its life because governance is a fundamental element in the civil service culture. In a sense, civil servants are so malleable in such a way that they, unstintingly, could help political leaders that desire success to excel, and can follow the ones who really deserve downfall with flummery till they fail.
More interestingly, civil servants know when to trust and when not to trust politically-elected and appointed officials operating above their rung of administrative order. They can easily detect propaganda from goodwill. Civil servants are aware of when they are beguiled, and when their welfare packages are unfairly subjected into outright manipulation. If you think that because you are a political leader, that you can smartly deceive the civil servants, then know that you are dancing naked before them.
It is an utter misapprehension that all is well in Akwa Ibom State Civil Service. Most specifically, the senior civil servants that are overdue for promotion are seethed with frustration over deprivations of whatever benefits accrued to their being elevated to the next rung of civil service ladder. According to 2010 edition of Akwa Ibom State Public Service Rule, section 020607, “the effective date of all promotions shall normally be 1st January of every year or as may be determined by the State Civil Service Commission.” But from 1st of January 2015 through 1st January 2017, promotions of senior civil servants have not been effected, and there is no guideline issued by the State Civil Service Commission with any date within this period for promotional exercise. The civil servants have not been called for promotion interview or examination, not to talk of being promoted in real terms. Their unpaid backlog of promotion arrears are mounting by the year. And that is the sorry situation.
Certainly, a lot of pundits would swing into argument that why promotion is being put on hold is as a result of insufficient funds. The same reason the state government could not conduct the local government elections. Granted, but how could Akwa Ibom citizenry come to terms with the claims that there is actually a dearth of funds when the financial situation of the state is shrouded in secrecy? Beside the fact that Akwa Ibom is amongst the top allocation beneficiaries from the federation account, Mr. Udom Emmanuel is yet to come out plain and tell Akwa Ibom people how much he met in the state’s coffers at his arrival as the state governor, so that the public could be convinced well enough t see reasons with him. Unless the governor demystifies the state’s financial status then, the excuse of insufficient funds at every point is bogus and baseless.
Another problem that apparently constituting bottleneck in the promotion of senior civil servants in the state is the examination. The amount of money required to conduct the exams could have possibly constrained the state government from calling for promotion processes. If lack of funds for exams could fundamentally impede the routine progress of civil servants to the next senior grade level, then state government could have come out with a circular that dispense the written examination and resort to other cheaper procedures of ascertaining the suitability of civil servants that are due for promotion. It should be noted that the essence of exams is not to punish civil servants by way of disqualification because they fail, but to test their aptitude on the up-to-date practices in the civil service. Until promotion examination was made popular beginning from the era Mrs. Grace Anwana was serving as the Head of Civil Service, cumulative record of devotion to duty and of efficiency was deemed sufficiently adequate to judge the fitness of candidates that were due for promotion. Not quite many of the civil servants that are in the echelon of service today would come out to defend that they routinely went through promotion examination. To avoid a procedure that is characterized by vexatious delays and unnecessary expenditure in promoting civil servants, the Akwa Ibom State Public Service Rule should be considered for amendment in order to bring more credibility to the system.
For instance, as criteria to ascertain the suitability for promotion, emphasis ought to be laid more on the minimum number of seminars/workshops attended by the civil servants in a year. Premium could have been placed on Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) in order to bring forth those with efficiency and devotion to duty. More significantly, practical test should have been adopted to assess the aptitude of candidates vis-à-vis the responsibilities expected to bestowed upon them. However, the federal civil service has de-emphasized promotion examination as process of evaluation, and it is high time for Akwa Ibom State Civil Service to follow suit in order to eliminate wastes in the face of this prevailing financial crisis. Again, credence on promotion exams is not encouraging hard work because there are those who are apt to abscondment of duty, but could use two to three days to prepare for exams and pass easily, then got promoted.
It is time for Akwa Ibom State government to earnestly consider promotion and clearance of backlog of arrears. According to Henry Moscowitz in his article titled ‘Old and New Problems of Civil Service’ published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 64, in March 1916, page 156: “without an opportunity for promotions there would be no incentive to remain in the service. The civil service should provide a goal for the ambitious to reach as a result of their service record… There should be automatic increases of salary within grades, based on seniority and efficiency alone.” Against this background, upgrading of civil servants is a motivational incentive for greater productivity. Civil service job could be so drudgery, and without incentive like regular promotion, it could enervate the system beyond invigoration. Putting the promotions and the related backlog of arrears for over three years period on hold is systematically making the civil service to pale in permanent stagnation. It also blocks employment that could have help galvanize and energize the system for improved productivity. The ripple effects of this defect can have strong bearing on government’s overall performance because civil service is a machinery of governance. When citizenry do not feel strong positive impact of such government, then such government administration is more or less a bad one, and condemned to be out of favour with the common masses.
Again, one significant thing about promotion of senior civil servants is that it serves as means of reward and penalty. According to Akwa Ibom State Public Service Rule 020602 (b), “All officers who fall due for promotion and have been screened for any promotion exercise shall be considered except those who are under disciplinary action.” What this implies is that promotion could serve as a veritable tool of discipline for erring staff of the civil service because their upgrading to higher level could wait while their penalty lasts. Failure of letting all due promotions and their benefits off the hook for more than three years now is implicitly encouraging impunity amongst the civil servants.
There is a ray of hope anyway. In my interaction recently with the Permanent Secretary of the Akwa Ibom State Civil Service Commission, Mrs. Jessey D. Ekpo, who, on behalf of the commission, besmirched all claims of deprivations in the State Civil Service. She maintained that since the new board was instituted in October, 2016, the Civil Service Commission is working assiduously to settle all the pending personnel matters beginning with very critical ones.
According to her, “within the short span of time between October 2016 and now, the commission has handled about 1500 cases of personnel matters that were pending. We have a work plan, and we are taking them one after the other. We started with the cases of confirmation of appointment, upgrading, conversion, appeals and transfer of service. So the commission has done that within the short span of time. On the promotion issue, there is no delay at all because we could not have taken all the cases at the same time. So the promotion is the next line of action, and it is in progress. We have done so much about the issue of promotion, and let’s see what the 2nd quarter will hold.”
The new board in the commission has heralded brighter days. Members of the board should not attempt to emulate certain elements that preceded them. They should not be tempted to see promotion examination as an opportunity to lick fingers, or else this would continue to constitute a cock in the wheel of progress. We are waiting to see how things would change by the end of the next quarter.
Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For Comment, send SMS to 08189914609