As is to be expected, a conflict situation in any country is usually a devastating one that extremely undermine the institutional integrity of that country. During the Nigerian Civil War, estimated 2’000’000 casualties lost their lives. In the space of four horrific months, from April to July, 1994, Rwanda lost an estimated 800’000 citizens, Hutus and Tutsi alike. What is immediately obvious is that wars decimate the human capital of any state. In both the Nigerian and the Rwandan cases, those on whose shoulders ought to rest the burden of national development were lost to either death or forced migration away from the theatre of war and conflicts. Recovering from a war situation takes acute commitment from the leadership of any country. Nigeria’s road to recovery and reconstruction was due to the commitment of both its political and bureaucratic leaderships. The same commitment explains why, twenty years after the genocide, Rwanda now has become a poster boy for post-war recovery, reconciliation and reconstruction in Africa. Nigeria’s capacity to learn from Rwanda’s administrative experience derives from the fact that post-genocide Rwanda has made some spectacular advancements that have constituted a study in courageous policymaking and committed leadership. So, what did Rwanda get right about its commitment to institutional reforms that Nigeria needs to learn from?
The post-genocide Rwanda shared a fundamental administrative response to war with the post-civil war Nigeria. Since the war undermined the institutional capacity of the public service to function, it became logical that there would be a massive employment of personnel to redress the capacity gap that was bound to face the public services after the war. In both countries with ethnic compositions (with Nigeria’s ethnic map more complex than Rwanda’s), there was bound to be a serious issue with who to employ and in what ethnic ratio. The result of this attempt at ethnic balancing was a massive recruitment into the public service. it was soon to dawn on both countries that this massive recruitment was not tantamount to efficiency. And because the wage bill became too difficult to maintain, it became logical for there to be a purge of the public service. This happened for Nigeria in 1975. Rwanda’s took place in 1999 and 2006. Central to these cases of retrenchment, and to retrenchment in other public services all across the world, is the fundamental issue of efficiency and making the public service system capacity ready. But there was a difference between Rwanda and Nigeria that makes one succeed and the other a massive failure.
Downsizing had always been a very thorny issue in the study of administrative efficiency. it has been found to be the first condition for institutional efficiency. This is because a bloated public service, most of the time, does not compensate for the competency and skill gap that undermine efficiency of the system. Thus, while it is recognized that there is a need for right-sizing the system, the challenge becomes that of not only easing out the deadwoods, but also recruiting and retaining the best and competent staff. Before the first retrenchment in 1999, Rwanda had 14’000 civil servants. The first downsizing in 1999 took away 4’000 staff (more than 3’000 of whom were ghost workers!). The second retrenchment effort took place in 2006 further reduce the overall staff strength to 2’000. The important point in this downsizing reform, however, is that it was not just an arbitrary purge. The Rwandan government had to first think through the issue of post-retirement package that would help ease the retirees into a life after service. The post-retirement plan had two levels. First, there was a programme of retraining that would enable the laid-off workers to smoothly ease into a post-retirement life. Second, the government made available six-months’ salary and other incentives (like loans and scholarships) to encourage the workers to be laid off.
There is a deep insight here for Nigeria that is also struggling with a cost of governance burden as well as a capacity gap arising from an overburdened and non-performing service. Nigeria’s case is even worse because there is an active and adversarial trade unionism that operates an industrial action that requires to be reconciled with performance and productivity indices. And there is a cruel logic to the stubbornness of the trade unions. And this is that they are ready to protect the post-retirement lives of their members. Yet the government has not put in place a post-retirement package, like Rwanda’s, that could enable the unions to see reason why downsizing must be a prelude to enhanced efficiency and productivity. There is a further lesson which even Rwanda failed to get right: retrenchment must not gloss over the critical issue of institutional and administrative memory. Deleting such memory through downsizing simply implies starting from ground zero.
The Rwandan bureaucratic leadership got a second fundamental condition of administrative reform right. It instituted an active and visionary Public Service Commission in 2007. One of the immediate processes the PSC put in place was a set of standardized and systematized procedures that will enable recruitments into the service based on specific competence and skills requirements. Merit was number one on the list. But since merit will not always win the argument for the urgency of efficiency, the leadership of Rwanda had to create specific safeguards against bureaucratic corruption. Recruitments were then targeted at high-skilled workers whose recruitment were then attached to new job descriptions, compensation dynamics and redesigned organizational structures. And then recruitments were targeted to the needs of the agencies and ministries. And this was backed up by a massive pay and compensation restructuring that will ensure that those recruited stay and commit their competence to achieving productivity for Rwanda. A significant hiccup for Rwanda is the absence of an effective human resource framework that could backstop the mission of the PSC. A human resource policy ought to have come into existence simultaneously with the PSC. The question Nigeria ought to ask are numerous: How effective is the Nigeria Federal Civil Service Commission with regard to its professional gatekeeping responsibilities? Has it been able to align merit with standard recruitment procedure that will do justice to Nigeria’s ethnic configuration? What are the anti-corruption procedures and processes in place to checkmate external influences and pressures?
Very critical to Rwanda’s institutional reform success is its adoption of a performance-based public finance management. This reform has two significant part.