Public services are resources offered by an organization, typically a government agency, intended to support members of a community. Across different sub nationals, governmental functions have greatly expanded with the emergence of government as an active force in guiding social and economic development. Government exists today as an enabler and not an inhibitor of progress. Citizens who elect their representatives expect proper representation and widespread economic development.

Economic arguments for government interventions are based on the idea that the marketplace cannot provide public goods due to the ‘for profit’ thinking in the private sector. Public health and welfare programmes, education, roads, research and development, national and domestic security, and a clean environment have been labelled public goods. Government is expected to provide these services and create an environment where businesses can thrive.

Government As a Service

When you think of government services in Nigeria, you immediately think of interactions that make you question your sanity in the first place. The processes are largely manual and it could be months or years before you get the feedback you deserve. There is a power-driven thinking around Government that separates those who follow from those who lead, until of course the next election cycle. The resultant effect is a disenfranchised people who are extremely skeptical of all things Government, making genuine engagements, extremely difficult.

However, in recent years, the concept of ‘Government as a Service’ has gained significant attention as a means to amplify effective public service delivery. Edo State, the connecting nerve centre of the South-South states of Nigeria, has been at the forefront of this transformation, through its institutional reforms.

The Governor Obaseki’s led administration’s commitment to providing efficient and effective services to its citizens has resulted in remarkable improvements in various sectors and citizens engagements. His approach is to ensure that the “engine” of Government, which is the Public Service, functions as it should. To achieve this, he set up a focused institution called the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy (JOOPSA), to upskill and retool the Public Service for effective service delivery.

Strengthening Public Service Institutions through Capacity Building

Improving the competency levels of public personnel is imperative for efficient service delivery. One of the key objectives of the Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki’s Government is the rendering of prompt and efficient services to the Edo people.

Underpinning the institutional reforms is an Edo workforce that is able to live up to the demands of fulfilling these objectives. This cannot be achieved without a competent, efficient, effective and result-oriented public service. In the age of digital disruptions, the public service is constantly evolving with increasing service delivery demands from the citizens.

JOOPSA is premised on the fact that, equipping public servants with the right training to satisfy the citizens’ demands, can only be met when the public servants have the required competence to meet these challenges. JOOPSA aims, to strengthen Public Service Institutions through Capacity Building.

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The John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy’s primary function is to provide a one source of truth for all training within the Edo State Civil & Public Service. It provides a clear training methodology as well as plays a Monitoring & Evaluation role in MDAs specialized training, ensuring that the learning outcomes are measurable. This will have a direct impact on service delivery across all agencies of Government in the state.

Leveraging Technology to Deliver Excellent Services

The growing presence of technology, changing public perceptions and how citizens want to interact with government has made it essential for public servants to have digital skills training. The rise of social media as a means of engagements, demands that the public service must rise to the occasion and meet the people where they are, in the same professional manner like they would during in-person interactions. Online etiquette, social media guidelines and rules of engagement are courses that must be taught to ensure professionalism at all times. One of the key aspects of Government as a Service is the emphasis on accessibility and efficiency. With technology, opportunities can be democratized for the benefit of all.

In a world of increased uncertainty and technological disruptions, the Edo State Public Service workforce is surmounting numerous challenges and leveraging significant opportunities. The Edo State government has embraced technology and digital platforms to improve its service delivery processes. At the heart of its institutional reforms is a strong focus on E-Governance which has greatly improved the turnaround time for tasks and improved transparency.

It’s clear that digital transformation is the future for government and public services. Not only does this move to digitisation and improve efficiency, but it also casts the net wider as more citizens are given the opportunity to access public.

The Look Ahead

The Government as a Service approach adopted by the Edo State Government has proven to be a game-changer in enhancing service delivery. By upskilling and retooling its workforce and embracing technology, the government has demonstrated its commitment to the welfare and well-being of its citizens.

However, a focus on service delivery is not without challenges and no one government can claim to be quite there yet, so there is plenty room for improvement and out-of-the-box thinking. What’s clear to all is that Nigerians are demanding more from government, especially the people of Edo. The Public Service as the ‘engine’ of government must remain functional, proactive, innovative, and equipped to take on some of the biggest challenges of our time. Institutions like the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy will remain a nexus between the citizens of Edo and the government who vows to lead them.

By Precious Imuwahen Ajoonu – Pioneer Director General, John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy