How BPSR is Driving Reforms in Nigerian Civil Service — Umar Aliyu, Bureau’s Spokesperson
Aliyu Umar Aliyu, the spokesperson of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, BPSR, is a prolific communication strategist.
At the BPSR, he is responsible for developing and implementing communication plans and strategies that are helping the Bureau to effectively communicate its core mandate to several stakeholders.
Aliyu, an award-winning Public Relations guru, recently chatted with Kabir Abdulsalam of Spokesperson’s Digest, where he revealed how their BPSR deploys strategic communication tools in driving critical reform agenda in the Nigerian civil service, among other wide-array of issues.
BPSR and its Civil Service’s Reform Mandate
Thank your very much. Let me first introduce what we do here. We at the Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) coordinate and monitor reforms. We don’t implement.
For example, the formation of IPPIS, TSA and BVN all are creation of the Bureau. After this, we send it to implementing agencies for implementation . We have few staff member here, but we leverage on inter-ministerial tasks team that was inaugurated, some years back.
So, most of our activities are aligned across all the agencies of government. If other organizations are doing a reform, our agency will need to be aware of it. Either we take part in it or they will forward it to us for checking before they communicate it to government.
Sometime ago, I recalled in an event, somebody was introducing me to a person and said that I worked with the Bureau. His response was: “The agency that hired and fired people anytime”. So from there, I knew that there is misconception and negative image about the Bureau.
With this, I realized that my first assignment is to correct the illusion about the agency. To further contextualised this, I submitted this topic: “Changing the communication narrative,” for my fellowship thesis into Nigerian Institute of Public Relation, NIPR.
I embarked on research on correcting misconceptions about the Bureau. My findings were appreciated and also published on Journal of Communication in Nigeria.
On Championing and Implementing Critical Civil Service’s Reforms?
For any of our policy, we developed a strategic communication plan to it. Meanwhile, we realized that no matter how beautiful a government policy is, if it is not backed with strategic communication the program will fail.
For example, the ‘Ruga Policy’ by the Federal Government failed because there is no coordinated strategic communication for it.
You need to identify and understand the audience which you’re selling that policy to for their buy-in. You create avenue for them to make inputs to the program, then you can monitor the objectives to check if the programme succeed.
After this, you can measure the policy if the program is achieving its set objectives or not.
Appraising Employee-Relation and Teamwork Culture for BPSR Productivity?
Most of our program were deployed within the inter-ministerial task team. For example, presently, by ending of this month we are doing a reform on Basic Health Care Provision Fund. So in most cases, some of our staff are member of this committee.
However, before sending our staff, we have our own internal communication plan – to build a relationship with our staff and set standard before we send them out to represent the agency. We also deploy various means of communicating with our staff – Whatsapp, official telephone numbers and the email, which is attached to the website. Nevertheless, our entire communication plan is robust and highly coordinated.
Challenges in Designing Reforms Internally at BPSR
You know, sometimes people resist changes. They restrained themselves from adapting to new policies. For example, the introduction of IPPIS for civil servants might not work because people resisted it early. They don’t want to join. As long as you’re under the Federal government’s payroll, you won’t get paid until you are subjected to the program’, that is when people started subscribing to it.
Meanwhile, most of the challenges we have are usually late communication responses within our staff. As you know, our work are done digitally, either through email or Whatsapp and other means of communication. We also encourage them to work even weekends due to digitally-inclined nature of the work, although some complained about this but we are progressing.
As a civil servant, you work 24-hours daily. I remember when fire guts some part of CBN premises at night. Their PR unit swung into action at that time to dish out information using several communication tools to manage the crisis. That is how communication works. There shouldn’t be problems before you activate your crisis communication plans.
Also, the Bureau has built a chain of communication whereby everyone is on board, from the top leaders to the bottom staff. For example, we have a tool, called self-assessment tool – a reform mechanism that indicates performance and the status of the service delivery of government organizations.
The reform was designed in form of a scorecard for CEOs, DGs, Chairman of MDAs whereby we invite them explained what they have been doing? What are they doing presently? What are their challenges? and what are their way forward? I think the last one we did is with the Register-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission CAC.
Presently, we’re working with the chairman of National Population Commission, NPC to tell us how they’re preparing for the National Census that is coming up. So, we have that relationship with several organizations.
After this, we do an impact assessment analysis to see how impactful the policy will affects the masses before presenting it to the government for modification.
By Kabir Abdulsalam