By PATRICK OGBE
In any country, the public service, remains an integral part of the country’s workforce. Its relevance and contribution towards the steady, but noticeable progress of each country’s development remains ever undeniable. In Nigeria, the public service, comprising workers from different spheres and categories, accords Nigeria the honour that is associated with the image of the country as a whole.
However, sadly, the public service in Nigeria is plagued with the problem of corruption as well as lack of transparency and accountability in the conduct of official activities. Many public officers are not above board in their dealings at their various places of work. It is in the light of all these facts, that there is the need to enforce and by so doing, raise integrity standards in the public service in our country.
Integrity has been defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. The quality of exhibiting integrity, can be in personal and professional matters or in artistic matters.
Integrity, basically, has to do with the quality, or virtue, of acting, behaving or doing things according to laid down rules, laws or dictates, such that an individual can be adjudged to be a law abiding citizen.
The public service, on the other hand, generally comprises civil servants and other paid workers who work for the government. Such workers can be at the local government level, state level or at the Federal Level.
While a civil servant is a person who works in the civil service; the civil service of a nation, is the government departments in a country. The public service in its entirety, comprises civil servants as well as Armed Forces personnel, (Uniformed Workers) as well as elected office holders or political office holders, that we can also refer to as politicians.
There are many reasons why there is need for integrity. There are many reasons to enforce integrity in the public service. This requirement is aptly enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Public Service Rules). The deep seated desire to build a nation whose citizens are imbued with a sense of honesty and strong moral principles. Specifically, section 15(5) states that: “State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”. Similarly, section 23 of the constitution provides for National Ethics which shall be: “Discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, self reliance and patriotism.
Secondly, and to a large extent, the image of a nation is determined by the integrity of its public servants that are in positions of authority. We must quickly call to mind the biblical injunction which states that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”.
Also, integrity in the public service deepens transparency in the governance of a nation. The absence of honesty, probity, justice and fairplay in the conduct of public affairs, which is glaring in the public service in Nigeria, remains a challenge that needs to be tackled.
Currently, the Buhari administration is making frantic efforts to restructure the public service.
Ways in which we can maintain, sustain, enforce and or raise integrity in the public service include: constitutional means; sections of the public service rules in the constitution of the country should stipulate how individuals that are public servants should conduct themselves, behave or act towards other people/citizens/working colleagues with a view to sustaining integrity in the public service.
Through by-laws and ordinances guiding the conduct of official activities in government parastatals, Ministries, Agencies and Departments.
Three, by punishing public servants, duly and adequately, whenever they engage in any act, deed or activity that is not in conformity with integrity practices.
Four, by rewarding, periodically, members of the public service who are noted for conducting their official activities and businesses with integrity.
Practices in the public service that are caused by absence of integrity include: bribery, fraud, inflation in the prices of goods and services, examination question leakages, favoritism and nepotism in employment, tribalism in the conduct of official government business, forgery and embezzlement.
Integrity in the public service is the bane of development in any nation. Thus Nigeria has need of this virtue in its public service. We must here quickly call to mind the Biblical injunction which states that “righteousness exalts a Nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”.
• Ogbe writes via [email protected]