A little to the left, a little to the right
The recent federal government decision suspending oversea training for civil servants did not come as surprise as it reflects government’s austerity measures to cope with the falling oil prices globally vis-a-vis the dwindling revenue base of the country.
A circular from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation entitled: “Restrictions on foreign training and international travels by public servants,” to all MDAs indicated that attendance of international conferences, seminars, workshops, study tours, training, among others abroad at government expense, shall no longer be allowed except in situations where they are fully funded by the sponsoring organisations.
We welcome the suspension of foreign training trips for civil servants for a number of reasons. Firstly, the well-intended exercise meant to boost the capacity of public servants seems to have been abused by some who, in the guise of foreign training and armed with cheap estacode, would rather go on shopping spree than attend sessions for the training programme.
Secondly, such foreign training programmes are seen as avenues for medical tourism, holidays and access to estacode by some top government functionaries (including legislators) who prefer to send their wives and cronies to training programmes which should ideally serve to build their capacity to the benefit of the system.
That overseas training has been a drain on government scare resources is obvious from the expected saving of over $158 million spent annually on such training. So given the reality of the federal government’s dwindling resources and the lack of appreciation on the part of some civil servants, Peoples Daily believes that the suspension of the overseas training for public servants was long overdue. However, government needs to device new ways of achieving capacity building and empowerment of public staff to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in the conduct of government business.
Therefore, the suspension should not foreclose the training and retraining of public servants since a well-trained small work force is better than a large one that is incompetent in administrative and technical responsibilities.
A nation that is desirous of development keeps in tune with international best practices in administrative innovations acquired through manpower training and development. Accordingly, we urge the government to streamline the suspension by categorising what level of personnel it would deem necessary to sponsor on foreign training as well as the specific nature of such training programmes.
Regardless of the state of the economy, there are certain areas the nation must train and retrain its personnel to boost capacity and efficiency. This is in consonance with the adage that a nation that ceases to learn ceases to exist.
A blanket suspension on overseas training is like turning one’s back on modernity while still expecting to remain relevant, dynamic and virile in a highly competitive scientifically and technologically driven environment.
We urge the federal government to look inward and consider taking advantage of local training institutions like the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), the Nigerian Institute for Management (NIM), Nigeria Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER), the Centre for Management Development (CMD) and several others in the area of science and technology with the requisite capacity to regenerate knowledge and strengthen capabilities of the work force.
Alternatively, we urge the government to consider the option of bringing in experts at a relatively reduced cost to train selected personnel who would in turn train others especially those in need of specialised training and thus spread capacity and in-depth knowledge in the conduct of government business.