The concept of SERVICOM, a short form of Service Compact, was introduced to Nigeria in 2004 as the outcome of an engagement titled: “Three-day Special Presidential Retreat on Service Delivery with the President, Ministers, Special Advisers, Presidential Aides and Chief Executives of major Extra-ministerial Departments and Parastatals” convened by then President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja.
As an institutional mechanism, SERVICOM is meant to be a solemn compact between the Nigerian government and its citizens, conceptualized to fight against service failure by ensuring that organs of government in Nigeria deliver – for both Nigerian citizens and non-citizens resident in the country – the services to which they are entitled to. In other words, SERVICOM is meant to promote effective and efficient service delivery in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to help bridge the performance-expectation gap between government and citizens, on issues of service delivery.
In August 2015, the SERVICOM unit in Kano was upgraded to the level of a directorate under the Office of the Governor, by His Excellency Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, as part of the policy thrust of his administration aimed at reforming the public service for improved service delivery for the benefit of Kano’s populace. The mandate given to the Kano SERVICOM Directorate was to formulate and implement the Kano state SERVICOM policy and service charters for the respective MDAs and Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
The Directorate which has at the head of its management the executive governor of Kano state (as chairman), head of civil service (as vice chairman) and a serving permanent secretary (as head of administration), was also tasked with the responsibility of establishing and maintaining a system of customer relations or grievances redress. Other tasks of the agency are ensuring service improvement across the state’s MDAs and LGAs and unlocking private capital for intervention in the rehabilitation, renovation and provision of needful items towards service improvements in key sectors such as education, health and water supply sectors.
In the last 4 years, amongst others, the Kano SERVICOM directorate has supported the development of a service charter for several MDAs in Kano state; some of which had been validated while others are already being implemented. The Kano SERVICOM also conducted sensitization across the entire MDAs in the state and also among the general public about its mandate – using radio, television as well as Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials.
The Directorate has also been working with various citizens groups in the state and development partners such as the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) through its Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme and the EU through its Support to State and Local Governance Reforms (SLOGOR) project.
Within this period, the Kano SERVICOM has received and attended to numerous complaints regarding service failure by government agencies; based on which it alerted the government on issues that required its attention such as dilapidated infrastructures in schools and hospitals. The Directorate also conducted regular supervision of boarding school feeding programme to ensure quality assurance and made various service delivery-related recommendations to the government, amongst numerous other key achievements.
However, the Directorate’s activities are seriously being hindered and limited by lack of legislative backing, limited funding and weak reporting system regarding the mandates of MDAs; with most government agencies foot-dragging in terms of operationalizing of reporting mechanism – an important requirement of their engagement with the directorate. Whereas MDAs consistently hide behind insufficient funds as reason for non-performance, citizens are not proactive enough in terms of coming forward to track service delivery failures.
Thus, it was part of efforts to empower the agency to better achieve its laudable service delivery-oriented mandate that the Kano State Government is currently working towards providing legislative backing to the agency, in the form of a bill for the establishment of an agency that will be known as the Kano State SERVICOM Bureau, “for the purpose of ensuring effective and efficient service delivery to the citizens by MDAs and LGAs as well as taking into consideration citizens’ rights and entitlements and for matters connected therewith.”
This was the subject of a 2-day session held last week in Kaduna focused on drafting a bill for the Kano State SERVICOM Directorate, organized by the Kano State Government in collaboration with UK-DFID’s Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme. It was attended by stakeholders from within the Kano State Government and representatives of citizens groups. Earlier in 2018, PERL had supported the Directorate to develop its service charter which stipulates its standards of operation.
“The Law is meant to strengthen the existing SERVICOM office in Kano state towards optimum achievement of its mandate and functions. The need for a law came about after the realization of a gap in the capacity of the existing SERVICOM to bring about change in public service, especially at this time when there is serious observable decadence. However, when there is a service failure there should be a redress and how do we get that? It is by having a legislative instrument – beyond government policy pronouncement,” said Abdullahi Musa, permanent secretary at the SERVICOM directorate, shortly after the conclusion of the session.
Musa, who said if the bill was passed into law it would help promote service delivery in Kano state and change people’s life by ensuring effective and efficient service delivery added that enacting the SERVICOM law was part of Kano’s State Action Plan (SAP) for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process, which the state joined in 2018, as part of effort “to deepen institutional reforms, fight corruption, and grant citizens’ right of access to public records and information and to enable citizens to effectively participate in governance.”
Safiyanu Bichi, a member of citizens groups working with the SERVICOM directorate in Kano who attended the session believes the legal backing being sought for, for the directorate would strengthen and empower the agency adding that the involvement of citizens groups in the process would help enhance acceptability and understanding of the law among the masses of Kano – who are the chief beneficiaries of the proposed law.
“The law will help the masses secure redress in cases of service failure in health, education, water and electricity supply. These are essential services that are required by the common man on daily basis; the current SERVICOM is handicapped in the sense that it cannot effectively seek redress on behalf of the masses. The proposed bureau should, among others, have a call center with dedicated phone lines as well as dedicated nodal officers and contact numbers boldly and noticeably pasted across all MDAs, schools and hospitals for complaints,” suggested Bichi.
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