The civil service been a part of the public service is a body responsible for planning, giving advice, and implementing policies and government ministries and departments. These employees are called civil servants Government ministries are headed by ministers or commissioners and assisted by directors general or permanent secretaries, as well as other departmental heads.
Features of the Civil Service
There are three major characteristics of the civil service. They are permanence,neutrality and anonymity.
1 – Permanence
Permanence implies that the officials working in the civil service have a security of tenure. That is, civil servants are employed until they retire and cannot be removed except for acts of misconduct. The compulsory retirement age in most countries is 60 years. When a civil servant retires he enjoys his gratuity and pension.
What this means is that governments may change but the civil servants remain to maintain continuity and stability in the polity. And they have a responsibility to serve any government in power.
Although a civil servant is prevented from arbitrary discharge but under the spoils system in the United States, some civil servants left the service with the government that appointed them.
2 – Neutrality / Impartiality
Neutrality or impartiality means that a civil servant should show no bias or partiality whatsoever in the discharge of his duties. As a permanent government official, the civil servant would likely work under several governments With different ideologies or complexions but he is not expected to allow his political opinion to interfere in his work.
The civil servant may hold an opinion in his private life or vote for aparty of his choice at election but he must put his politics in his pocket and not allow his political inclinations to affect his official duties. He must show no open Support for a political party.
Thus, under the British model of public administration which Nigeria and some other countries adopt, a civil servant cannot take part in national politics or become a candidate for election unless he first resigns his appointment. That is not the case in French system, the civilservants may take leave to contest an election. If elected, he is merely placed on leave, but if defeated, he simply returns to his post. In the United States civil service where the spoils system operates, the issue of neutrality does not arise especially for the top civil servants appointed by the incumbent government. But even in the United States, there is a gradual movement away from the spoils system.
3 – Anonymity
Anonymity simply means that the civilservant should be seen and not heard. He works for and in the name of the minister. In short, all official duties are performed in the name of the minister.
The minister accepts responsibility for the success or failure of any policy initiated and adopted in his ministry. He goes to the legislature to defend the ministry’s policies and he accepts the blame for any lapses or shortcomings that may be detected in the policies. The minister may later sanction the officer concerned but he cannot go to the public and claim that someone else is responsible for a policy failure.