The Civil Service

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The Civil Service | Definition, Structure, Functions & Effectiveness

Civil Service
Civil Service

In enforcing the will of the state, the executive is assisted by a body of professional administrators. These administrators are called civil servants in some countries and they do not include officials working in the public corporations, local governments, the armed forces and the police.

The civil service is a body of appointed officials who assist in the execution of government policies. In many countries following the British Public Administration model, the civil service refers to government ministries and extra-ministerial departments.

The civil service is the array of administrative and professional staff employed, on permanent and pensionable basis to established posts, by the state, to advise on and execute its policies. Here we refer to the Permanent Secretaries, and the chain of subordinate officers ranging from Directors on Grade Level 17 to the office cleaner on Grade Level 01.

Civil servants should be distinguished from politicians. While civil servants are appointed by the government and have security of tenure, politicians are usually elected (although a few are appointed to political offices) and hold office for a specifled period of time.

Features Of The Civil Service

The characteristics and features of civil service include:

  • Impartiality: Civil servants are expected to be fair and just to any government in power. They must show faith in any government.
  • Permanence: It is an institution that does not change with the government. Workers equally enjoy a permanent tenure of office.
  • Anonymity: A civil servant is not expected to reveal or speak to the Press unless authorised by the minister or Director General. Creditor failure of the government on any issue is not blamed on the civil servants but the minister.
  • Neutrality: Workers in the service are not expected to engage themselves in partisan politics unless they resign their appointment.
  • Expertise: Experts are produced in the field of administration. This is because they put in long years of service.
  • Merit: Employment into the civil service is based on merit. This will enhance efficiency intheirareas ofperformance. .


The following are some of the structures of the civil service:

  • Administrative class: This is the highest class and they are mostly Director Generals, Deputy Director Generals, Principal Officers, etc. They are mostly graduates of different fields with many years of experience in the service. They are involved in policy making, advising the ministers or commissioners, and in other areas of administration.
  • The professional class: They are mainly recruited as professionals of different category For example lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.
  • The executive class: They are senior executives, executive officers, assistant executive officers, etc. They are holders of first degree, H.N.D., etc. They are responsible for the implementation of the policies of government.
  • The clerical class: They are school certificate holders and are mostly clerical officers, clenical assistants, typist, etc. They are involved in routine work like moving of files from one desk to the other.
  • Messengerial class: They are mostly cleaners, messengers, drivers, etc. They are either to tidy up the office, drive official vehicles or deliver official messages.

Functions of the Civil Service

1. Formulation of policies: They formulate policies and these are part of the objectives of the government.

2. Implementation of policies: The civil service ensures that the policies made are executed.

3. Preparation of the budget: It orenares the government’s yearly statement of expected income and expenditure.

4. They draft bills: These bilIs are prepared by some experts in the ministry of justice. The executive presents these bills to the legislature.

5. They make bye-laws: The power to make bye-laws is made possible through delegated legislation. A senior civil servant can make an order or laws.

6. They advise the government: They advise the government on issues facing the country for a better result.

7. They provide stability: The civil service ensures continuity of government and this makes for stability.

3, They prepare answers to parliamentary questions: Ministers in a parliamentary system defend the policies of government through this preparation.

9. They inform the people: The civil service educate the public about actions and policies of the government.

10. Keeping of documents: The civil service keeps official documents that are relevant to the government of the day.

11. Handles Correspondence: Civil service handles correspondence, bulletin and forms relating to govemment.

12. National and International Conferences: lt provides officials to attend national and international conferences and seminars on behalf of government.

13. Quasi-judicial functions: The civil service performs quasi-judicial functions.

14. Rules and Regulations: The civil service makes rules and regulations for its internal working.

15. Revenue Generation: It generates revenue for the government.

How to Restrict / Avoid Partisan In Civil Service

Measures that can be put in place to make civil servants non-partisan.

  • Appointments: Civil servants appointment should be made strictly through examinations and interviews.
  • Tenure of office: The tenure of office for civil servants should be guaranteed.
  • The public / civil service commission: This body should apply rules relating to the transfers, promotions and discipline of civil servants.
  • Adherence to civil service rules: Civil servants should be conversant with the general orders, civil service rules and code of conducts which forbid being partisan.
  • Patronage and sponsorship: Patronage and sponsorship of civil servants by politicians should be made illegal.
  • Resignation: Civil servants who want to engage in partisan politics must resign well in advance.
  • Civic education: Periodic civic education should be conducted, stating the roles of the civil service as a neutral and impartial body servicing any political patty that comes into power.
  • Conditions of service: There should be improved conditions of service for the civil service.
  • Sanctions: Severe punishment or sanctions should be imposed on any civil servant found guilty of partisanship and it will serve as deterrent to others.

Effectiveness Of Civil Service


1. Low incentive: The poor condition of service demoralizes workers, in addition to slow promotion policy.

2. Lukewarm attitudes: Civil servants are often lukewarm. claimin g that government work is not worth giving the best.

Red Tapism (Bureaucracy): The civil service lays too much emphasis on protocol, especially on issues that demand urgent attention. This slows down decision making and implementation.

Political interference: Politicians are always involved in interfering with the planning and implementation of the policies of govemment.

Tribalism, nepotism and favouritism: These can lead to the appointment of unqualifled personnel into the service.

Political instability: Frequent military intervention affects policy making and implementation.

Bribery and corruption: Most civil servants seek undue gratification for any work done. Not only that, kickbacks and corruption are cankerworms that have eaten deep in the service.

Duplication of functions: Functions exercised in the civil service are over duplicated resulting in redundancy and idleness.


One important and unique role of the civil service is that it stands for the continuity of policy in government. If the role is maintained, the civil service can therefore be described as a corrective part of government, irrespective of the political party in power. Its task is to lay the national issues and their point of view before each minister that comes for consideration. In this way, the civil service observes strict political neutrality, while ensuring the continuity of policy based on over all national interest.

How To Ensure The Political Neutrality Of The Civil Service

  • Members of the civil service must abstain from party politics: Civil servants must be neutral and loyalty given to any party in government, must be within the limits of the law.
  • To observe strict official secrecy: Civil servants must observe strict official secrecy and must be obedient to their official duty.
  • The political executive should have limited control over them: The appointment of permanent officials should not be fully handled by the political executive because that might lead to party patronage, favouritism and insecurity of service.
  • Minister is responsible for success and failure of the service: The minister should take the responsibility for the action of his subordinates in the service.
  • Participation in Politics: A civil servant can only play partisan politics after resigning from the service. He should be neutral as long as he remains in service.
  • Merit: Those to be recruited into the civil service through open competition or interview should be on merit, not on political leverage.
  • Neutral body: The civil service commission should be a neutral body. It should be free from the control of the executive and other self-seeking political leaders.
  • Faithfulness and openness: As the civil servant must carry out the decisions and policy laid down by the political boss e.g. Minister, he must resist illegitimate political demands or pressures.

Control of Civil Service

Commission control: Recruitment, promotion and discipline of civil servants by the commission is a form of control.

Finance control: The position of the ministry of finance in budgeting, salaries, etc, gives it strategic leverage as a control agency.

Parliamentary control: This control is in form of supply of money to the civil service and the power it has to accept or reject appointments of top civil servants by the executive.

Executive control: The power to appoint top civil servants is an important means of executive control.

Hierarchical structure and control: The hierachy of power in the service must be obeyed and respected by every civil servant. For example, a Director General exercising control over the workers under him.

Legal and judicial control: It includes the machinery and procedure for dealing with administrative corruption as well as control to ensure impartial and efficient administration. It is also directed at some top officials exceeding the authority that has been given them.

Ombudsman: It examines complaints of mal-administration among civil servants.

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