Taking Servicom to Next Level

15 Mar 2013

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Senator Anyim Pius Anyim

Dr. Tunji Olaopa

Governments are distinguished by three complementary functions: the policy management, regulatory and service delivery functions. The urgent reform of these functions constitutes the fundamental theme of good governance as a global imperative. Nigeria cannot afford to be side-lined given that the possibility of erecting a truly functional and legitimate governance model depends on the transformation of government business. In spite of some of our earlier thoughts on the state of the civil service, there is a need for a “diagnostic audit” of its capacity as the machinery for efficient service delivery.

The essence of service delivery is basically to bring the government in touch with the people and conversely to unfold the loyalty of the people in the service of the state. Customer experience, the culture of demands that is instituted and the institutional capacities to backstop the demand are therefore the cogent factors in the functionality of service delivery trajectory of any nation. For Michael Hammer, the American author, “Serving the customer is not a mechanical act but one that provides an opportunity for fulfillment and meaning.”
The challenge of service delivery in Nigeria derives from the overall poor performance of the governance dynamics and its consequences on service delivery. This stems from the fact that services are inaccessible and inequitable, ineffective and bureaucratic, not adaptable to customers’ needs and inherent poor quality of public goods. Added to this is the fact that MDAs are fragmented in their approaches and lack the necessary capacities to tackle the challenges of delivering services efficiently. This is further heightened in Nigeria by the distortion created for governance by military rule. To deliver democratic dividends, governments need to convince the people of their good intentions. A government’s claim to legitimacy is thus informed by its capacity to deliver a range of unique services to its population through the operational capacity of the civil service.

There are two components to any rethinking of service delivery. The first concerns the issue of institutional performance with regard to how policies, systems, processes, technology and resources can be harnessed to give efficient synergy. The second component is the individual performance which connects accountability with job description, training, ethical conduct and effective utilisation of the available resources. These two components are then brought under a rigorous reform programme that would open up the government to its citizens.

This reform framework is represented in Nigeria by the SERVICOM brand, an irreducible framework around which the service delivery trajectory is articulated. SERVICOM is undergirded by series of fundamental principles, including holding public servants accountable for service rendered to the public, and essentially the building of a citizen-centric public service. These are fundamental because the right of the citizens to demand the delivery of qualitative public goods occupies a central place in the reclamation of the national project. However, while SERVICOM constitutes the tangible route to the realisation of a developmental state that is citizen-centric, it needed to be conceptually and operationally expanded to carry the weight of a formidable contract between government and citizens.

If services have not been serving the people, then there is the need for a creative process of reform that begins from a restructuring of the institutional dynamics of service delivery through a genuine framework of collaboration. This rethinking is what defines the Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) usually operationalised through various PPP arrangements. This became necessary simply because there is no once-size-fits-all approach to delivering service effectively. The ASD would however also require a reform model that would serve as its fundamental instigator. Sir Michael Barber has suggested three paradigms for reforming the delivery of public goods—the command and control, devolution and transparency and quasi-markets paradigms. The devolution and transparency model offers obvious fascination for the Nigerian context because it offers the benefits of governmental control of the public goods while devolving their production to other governance actors for effectiveness and efficiency.

This model can be defined around two strategic frameworks for service delivery. The first is the integrated approach primarily motivated by the need to find a more cost-effective and technology-driven responsive delivery of government service through strengthening the existing bureaucratic structures and diversifying their operational dynamics. At the heart of the integrated approach is the core competency thesis which contends that an MDA becomes a high performing organisation if it concentrates on its core functions and outsources its non-cores. The operational dynamics can be either of a joined-up leveraging technology, one-stop-shop or no-wrong-door policy. For instance, the “no-wrong-door” idea operates through a common web-enabled information platform that enable a number of agencies enlarge their responsibilities to each other by attending to their respective customer irrespective of who is contacted via a common information clearance platform.

The second strategic framework demands a separation of responsibilities between the provider and the producer of service. This strategy focuses government’s recognition that the governance space can be enlarged so that the service delivery functions can be shared with legitimate governance actors like the private sector, individuals and voluntary organisations. What is required of the provider is only the aggregation and articulation of the demands of the citizenry as well as providing the fund for financing the public goods. The producers face the technical dimension of transforming the aggregated demands into outputs for consumption.

To get to the next level in the trajectory of an effective and efficient service delivery framework requires the enlargement of the governance structures to ensure that the government receives the required institutional capacities to achieve its objective of empowering the social contract. This enlargement will, ultimately, increase the quality and quantity of the services provided. This requires not only getting the MDAs effectively on their feet but also restructuring the route through which these MDAs can be made to deliver services efficiently.

Whichever ingenious mix of the approaches is chosen would be defined by a service delivery improvement standard around which the service charter is measured. This will include the following: (a) Defining all services to be provided, and the identification of the client; (b) setting the standard and norms for each service; (c) developing capability to achieve the set standard and to manage the interface of public private partnership which can be tricky and intricate given current bureaucratic devoid of badly required entrepreneurial orientation and value-chain approaches; (d) performance orientation towards meeting the standard and quality control; (e) monitoring the performance vis-à-vis the set standard and accountability within contractual terms embodied in signed performance agreements; (f) impact evaluation through an independent mechanism; and (g) continuous improvement through the assessment of monitoring and evaluation results.

Nigeria is at the threshold of transformation, a resuscitation of its march towards national greatness. What is required at this juncture is focus that will put the citizen in the spotlight of governance. “People are not willing to be governed by those who do not speak their language,” says Norman Tebbit. In this case, this language the government needs to reform is that of service delivery that would ultimately connect the people to the good intention of the government and produce a new consciousness of what it takes to renew the national project.

•       Olaopa is a federal permanent secretary

Tags: Business, Featured, Nigeria, SERVICOM

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