Repositioning NASS management for efficient service delivery
By Umar Muhammad Puma
With a clear focus from the beginning of his appointment as the Clerk of the National Assembly, his leadership vision and institutional mission did not come as a surprise, bearing in mind his rich pedigree. Alhaji Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori’s quest for excellence occasioned the recently concluded retreat for top management staff of the National Assembly at Lokoja, the Kogi State Capital and Kaduna in March, 2017.
The reinvigoration of the NASS workforce couldn’t have come at a better time, when staff morale is at its lowest ebb, with the recession knocking hard on its doors. This followed a recent directive by the Chairman of the National Assembly and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, that a holistic audit of staff in the National Assembly be undertaken with the aim, among others, of verifying the skills, efficiency and motivation of its employees.
“The helicopter doesn’t fly; it beats the air into submission,” is a catchy phrase that opens a National Geographic Channel Documentary on the Helicopter; narrated by Salvatore F. Vecchio. “It is a weapon of war, an agent of mercy, the most versatile machine ever created, a miracle of engineering that can take us anywhere and bring us back alive, but sometimes the air strikes back hard and fast and deadly.”
The air in this context, are the challenges and vicissitudes of running a successful bicameral Parliament of high repute with a multifaceted nature like the Nigerian National Assembly. The helicopter here is the management of the National Assembly. If you look closely at this personification you would see the relationship between the air and the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing the NASS Management. We all know the destructible force of the wind – like the local winds, cyclonic and anti cyclonic winds, hurricane, tornado and the seasonal monsoon. Similar to these variants in our political dispensation are the administration and maintenance of the physical edifice of the NASS Complex, Human Resources, Legislative work, Security and other related matters.
It was evident that all the 313 top management staff from Assistant Directors and above that participated in the two batch retreat in Lokoja and Kaduna were truly refreshed. According to Nancy Cline “A manager’s ability to turn meetings into a thinking environment is probably an organization’s greatest asset.” With a proactive management that knows its strengths and weaknesses, and is poised to take the necessary steps to move ahead, the Lokoja and Kaduna retreat was the much needed elixir for the NASS top bureaucracy.
The retreat ultimately aimed at creating a sense of shared experience and bonding among directorate level personnel for the overall benefit and improvement of the management. Provide a relaxed platform for learning, cooperation and to facilitate the process of strategic thinking in order to sharpen the focus of management. Identifying, discussing and understanding the key components of improved service delivery, look at grey areas and recommend strategies that will engender improved performance in the management of the NASS.
Participants expectedly deliberated extensively on each of the topics on the retreat agenda and ostensibly assimilated them properly to crystalize their skills and put them into operation.
Issues discussed include, but were not limited to, Strategic Planning and Management of the National Assembly, Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, Legislative Practice and Procedure and the Role of Management and Corporate Management of the National Assembly. These topics were expertly delivered to the participants in a way that will enhance learning, dialogue and consensus building.
Lectures were delivered using Power Point, Breakout sessions, Guided group discussions, Case Studies, Interactive activities – like problem solving exercises, experience sharing and team challenges – to help the participants feel open, creative and supportive. Management Games and Role Playing, among other highly enriching, effective involvement of all the participants, were applied in the Retreat proceedings.
The distinguished list of Resource Persons was very impressive.
They went on to urge the leadership of the National Assembly to commit more resources to professionalizing the operations of the NASS among many other observations and recommendations some of which are; Expressing deep concern about the increasing number of security agencies in the NASS, which diminish the specialized function of the Sergeant-at-Arms-SAA and therefore call for the professionalization of the SAA in line with global parliamentary best practices.
Call for greater synergy between Clerks of Committees the political leadership and supporting staff of the Committees. Undertake to formulate a strategic Road Map to create a common vision for the NASS. Call for the strengthening of continuous education and training for all Cadres of staff. Advocate a more robust recruitment, selection and promotion system. Pledge to adopt mentoring and succession planning and to support Result Based Management strategies.
They were also in support of the continuous improvement of ICT facilities, with the full deployment of the internet and e-parliament, and the use of official e-mail address by all staff for official correspondence. Call for the improvement of Health Management facilities and re-equipping of the NASS Clinic to engender a healthier and stronger work force. Strongly advocate for the streamlining of Committees to avoid duplication and overlapping jurisdictions to enhance efficiency.
Also recommend that a department of Public Accounts be established under the office of the CNA to ensure greater financial oversight of MDA’s by the NASS. Urging the NASS to overhaul its own financial processes and procedures, including procurement based on comprehensive needs assessment and publish the information regarding its own budget and actively engage members of the public and Civil Society Organizations in the Legislative Process.
Appeal for the re-equipping, re-stocking, digitizing and automation of the NASS Library and deployment of a fully functional archival system. Strongly encourage the payment of gratuity to retiring staff, especially after putting in fifteen years and above of service.