By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
With the decline in the integrity of individuals and government institutions in Nigeria, Accountability Lab Nigeria has held a 2-day Integrity Innovation Lab that seeks to support the development of integrity culture within government and facilitates lessons sharing approaches for value shifts from individual integrity to broader institutional integrity, which is core to the implementation of reforms in the Public Service.
Delivering a keynote speech during the beginning of the workshop in Abuja on Wednesday, the Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Mr Dasuki Ibrahim Arabi stated that Integrity is a hallmark for driving individual and corporate businesses, as it sets standards and guidelines for operations within the service.
Mr Arabi stressed that Issues around ethics in the Public Service are therefore taken very seriously, as it reinforces a set of expectations required from officers, and as well prescribes the rules that regulates the moral conduct of officers while in Service.
“Pursuant to the mandate of the Bureau, is the responsibility to initiate, Coordinate and ensure full implementation of Public Service Reforms in Nigeria. Reforms cannot strive without a set of ethical values by Public Officers, and it is obvious that where these set of values are lacking or absent, then issues of credibility and integrity suffices.
“Public Integrity connotes the consistent alignment of shared ethical values, principles, norms and prioritizing public interest over private interest,” he said
The DG added that Public Service Rules serve as an instrument through which rules are stipulated that guides the moral conduct of officers. This is complimented by other working guides / publications, such as handbook manuals, circulars, Standard Operating Procedures(SOPs) etc.
These documents amongst others he said, defines the relationship of co-existence and standard of professionalization between workers, explaining that the culture of integrity is important in the Public Service as it helps to build trust, which is exemplified in the way information is divulged to the public.
“This accounts for why government signed into law the Freedom of Information Act 2011, in order to open access to Information to Citizens.
“Government motive for introducing the Freedom of Information Act is premised on the need to ensure inclusiveness in governance,” Mr Arabi added
“Pillar 1 of the National Strategy for Public Service Reforms provides for an Enabling Governance and Institutional Environment which objective is to enable Public Service Institutions (PSIS) to deliver public goods and services with integrity, transparency and accountability, in accordance with their mandates.
“Part of the underlying principles to entrench integrity in the Civil Service are also captured in The National Strategy for Public Service Reforms (NSPSR) under Pillar IV :Civil Service Administration Reform: it provides for periodic review of the Public Service Rules, and the Financial Rule after five (5) years, part of the strategic interventions was to create the Service Policies and Strategy Office under the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to develop a framework that guides the uniform enforcement of Public Service Rules.
“Furthermore, the NSPSR under Pillar IV provides for the promotion of a professional and result-oriented civil service, through the introduction of a Performance Management System (PMS), which tends to motivate excellence, result-oriented achievements, accountability, whether at individual or corporate levels.”
He however noted that pursuant to building a culture of integrity in the Public Service, the Bureau of Public Service Reforms(BPSR) has over the years worked with various Citizens Based Organizations, in order to elicit their participation in governance through different initiatives and programmes such as; “Monthly Lunchtime Seminar: This is one of BPSR flagship monthly Programme where topical public issues are dissected and espouse for citizens participation, and as well communicating public policies to the citizens.
“The Bureau also developed a score- card for ranking the performances of MDAs websites. This invariably, is to ensure that Public Service Institutions are responsive to the citizens, through competitive benchmarks that will spur them for efficient and improved service delivery
“BPSR had over the years being working with Civil Societies Groups towards the ranking of MDAS on Compliance to Freedom of Information Act 2011. It will interest you to know that the Bureau had always ranked the top positions since the inception of the exercise in 2013.
“The Bureau is also working with the Federal Ministry of Justice as a critical government agency in the thematic area on Access to Information, towards the implementation of the 2nd National Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership Initiative.
“Most recently the Bureau initiated the drive to address service delivery challenges facing the Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with the aim to ensure that the various intervention programmes by government are accessed by Citizens.
“The Bureau has been mandated by the SGF to develop a policy guide that will engender Non-State Actors participation in governance, and that process is presently on-going.
BPSR also partners with Civil Society Organizations in the various thematic areas of the Open Government Partnership Initiative on the implementation of the National Action Plan, especially in the areas of good governance and anti-corruption,” he explained
The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, represented by the ICPC Commissioner, Hassan Salihu in a goodwill message commended the Accountability Lab Nigeria, a member of the ICPC’s NACC for its effort in striving to contribute its quota to the overall goal of nation building.
He stated that the growth/development of a nation is tied to the quality of its workforce; be it military, paramilitary or civil service.
“It is apt to say that the growth/development of a nation is tied to the quality of its work force; be it military, paramilitary or civil service. The Commission appreciates this opportunity to collaborate with Accountability Lab in building the capacity of civil servants who are the personnel and managers of Nigerian system. It is hoped that this will bring about the much needed ethical change especially at a time like this when the nation is battling with endemic corruption alongside other issues such as terrorism, banditry and, lately the upsurge in kidnapping, ” he said
He therefore enjoined all participants of the event to deploy the knowledge acquired from the workshop, from the lesson sharing and problem-solving approaches in tackling integrity issues in their various MDAs to ensure that they stand out as corruption free zones.
“We are all stakeholders in the Nigerian project, if corruption is allowed to fester in our systems, then, it would have affected the very heart of the future of this country.”