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Tuesday, 01 August 2017 17:52

DR. JOE ABAH: A PRAGMATIC PUBLIC SERVICE REFORMER

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I must admit that writing an article on a boss that has inspired, mentored and brought out the best in you and other staff, is slightly an arduous task to perform.

As Murray Newlands puts it, “effective leaders inspire movements that exist only when people choose to move in the same direction. Without a leader, movements fragment and get nowhere. The leader’s job is to inspire people to work together in the service of something greater than themselves”.

Dr. Joe Abah assumed duty as the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) in 2013. Before his assumption of office, the Bureau, to say the least, lacked effective leadership, vision, focus and was literarily adrift. It was a reform house in need of internal reform. The first task of the new Director-General was to carry out “effective internal cleaning”. The Departments were renamed, given new specific responsibilities, Heads of the Departments and staff were also moved around taking into consideration of their skills and orientations.

-          Dr. Joe Abah (Ph.D) attended University of Calabar from 1981 – 1985, holds a Bachelor of Laws LL.B (Hons) Degree. Called to the Bar by the Nigeria Law School, Lagos, 1986.

-          Holds a Ph.D. from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht University, Netherlands where he is presently serving as a visiting Lecturer. His area of focus is Governance and Public Policy Analysis.

-          Dr. Joe Abah reckons with the fact that Public Sector reforms in the developing counties like Nigeria are influenced by policy experiments, policy inconsistency, and lack of political will/commitments by the leaders. He embraced from day one, the need to develop a range of public management models that are appropriate in different contexts and putting the needs and interests of citizens at the heart of public service reforms.

-          He has been consistent on the view that you cannot discuss public service reforms in isolation without taking into cognizance the structures of government, especially the MDAs, its degree of meritocracy, neutrality or otherwise of its civil servants, mechanisms for policy making and coordination for coherent unified programme implementation.

-          For him, you cannot separate civil servants performance from their remuneration and employment conditions. He firmly believes that a living wage should be instituted at the lowest base for adjusting salaries at higher level. Taking into consideration, the complexity of the job, private sector salaries for comparable work, the fringe benefits that should accompany public service, job security, challenges and satisfaction. As Dr. Joe Abah succinctly puts it in his twitter handle “The primary purpose of public service reforms must be to make TANGIBLE improvements in the lives of citizens. Everything else is an input”.

-          Since his assumption of office as the Director-General of the BPSR, he has achieved so many set out objectives some of which include:

o   Pioneered the organization of Self-Assessment Tool (SAT), a tool which aims at enabling MDAs understand their own strengths, weaknesses, and to create continuous improvements in the service they render.

o   Freedom of Information Portal

o   Produced a guide on “how to manage and reform government agencies and parastatals

o   Updated the National Strategy for Public Service Reforms (NSPSR)

o   Carried out on pilot basis, restructuring of MDAs

o   Restructuring and rationalization of Agencies, parastatals and commissions

o   Introduced community of practice

o   BPSR monthly reform magazines

o   Installation of Robust Website in the BPSR

o   Enforcement of FoI Act as exemplified by the report on BPSR activities from 2014 to date

o   Perception Survey on service delivery in Nigeria especially as relate to bottlenecks in obtaining international passport, drivers license and tax clearance

o   Introduced BPSR Lunch Time Seminar series, with over 10 editions held to date

o   Introduced citizen to government participation portal.

o   The Community of Practice enables continuous learning on how to manage and coordinate reforms for improved service delivery

o   Midwifed the creation of Reform Coordination Department in the MDAs to coordinate and refocus reform programmes across the MDAs.

o   Put together, the first in Country, A compendium on Public Service Reform

o   Re-launched the Steering Committee on Public Service Reform

o   Pioneered the use of social media for public education on government programmes, activities and policies

o   For his efforts and roles, a lot of Agencies of government now know they are been watched and assessed by the kind of service they render to the Public and thus becoming more responsive to public inquires.

o   Dr Joe Abah has ensured that Donor Agencies no longer dictate what MDAs should do with the grants they give. MDAs decide what programmes they tend to run with such grants.

CONCLUSION

In concluding this article, it quite reasonable and safe to say that Dr Joe Abah has made a lot of new, innovative and pragmatic impacts on the way Public Service is perceived by the citizens, the way public service is run and laid a solid foundation for a modern civil service that will compete with the best anywhere in the world.

ADEGOKE ELEFIKU

Is a staff of BPSR.

Read 57 times Last modified on Tuesday, 01 August 2017 18:05

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