The Federal Government of Nigeria has begun moves to end the perennial rifts between permanent secretaries and other stakeholders in public sector administration.
The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, made the disclosure in her keynote address at an induction training programme organised for permanent secretaries in Abuja on Friday.
She explained that the induction was part of government’s deliberate efforts to rebuild mutual trust and confidence among parties concerned, adding that it would enhance service delivery to Nigerians.
“Over time, my office has observed recurring tension between permanent secretaries and other stakeholders in public sector administration such as ministers and their aides, members of the National Assembly, heads of extra-ministerial agencies domiciled under them and organised labour unions.
“It has been observed that there are gaps that need to be filled to minimise areas of conflict.
“There is also an urgent need to build mutual trust and confidence amongst all parties concerned to enhance efficient service delivery to Nigerian citizens.”
The Head of Service further added that permanent secretaries’ three generic roles come with a lot of challenges, especially in the present era of dwindling financial resources and escalating competing demands.
Oyo-Ita explained that the induction and other programmes have been designed to assist permanent secretaries build their capacities to play their roles effectively.
She said this was the first in the series, disclosing that there are plans for a joint retreat of ministers and permanent secretaries in the future as soon as they have the funds.
The Acting Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Simon Etim, in his goodwill message identified disbursement of funds and procurement matters as major causes of the frictions.
He stressed the need for constant consultation and dialogue between permanent secretaries and ministers and other political heads.
He stated that:
“There are insinuations in some quarters that the manner in which some permanent secretaries have exercised their responsibility appear to generate friction and conflicts between the affected permanent secretaries and their political heads.
“In most cases, the issues around such frictions are mainly on disbursement of funds and procurement matters.
“Permanent secretaries often complain of the overbearing pressures from political heads to breach extant rules as accounting officers for which they will be held directly accountable to satisfy the financial demands of political heads.
“Such situation requires tact and knowledge of extant rules which permanent secretaries should politely place at the disposal of such political heads.
“Furthermore, there is need for constant consultation and dialogue between the permanent secretaries and their ministers/political heads on the disbursement of funds.
“There should be flexibility rather than rigidity on both parties without infringement on the rules.”
The chairman of the induction’s planning committee, Dr Yemi Esan, in his remarks, noted that the event was coming at a time the country was witnessing evolution of the civil service.
She said it was the obligation of the civil service to drive the implementation of government programmes.