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 therefore 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.
Major Functions of the Civil Service
The civil service performs the following functions in the political system.
Making of Delegated Legislation
Drafting of Bills
Preparation of Answers to Leislative Questions
Preparation of Budgets
Negotiation with Pressure Groups
Stabilization of the Political System
Source of Patronage
Performance of Quasi-judicial Functions
1. Policy Execution
The government uses the civil service to carry out its policies and programmes. Policy implementation is the primary function of the civil service.
Although policy making is a responsibility of the government or political institutions, the civil service sometimes engages in policy making especially while executing a policy. In the process of implementing a policy, civilservants come face to face with reality and with problems, which the government may not have foreseen. Thus, civil servants are compelled to adjust or change certain parts of the policy in order to make it implementable. By so doing, they indirectly make public policies or contribute to policy making.
3. Making of Delegated Legislation
Under wide powers previously granted by the legislature, the civil service makes rules and regulations, which have the force of law and cover almost every area of human endeavour.
The civil service also enforces the rules, which are known as delegated legislation. Although the legislature supervises the making and implementation of delegated legislation, in practice it gives the executive, and for that matter, the civil service a great freedom of action.
4. Drafting of Bills
The civil service (especially the top echelon) assists ministers in the drafting of public bills in the areas of competence of the civil servants. If a law is to be made on HIV/AIDS, for example, the draft of the bill is prepared by the doctors and scientists in the Federal Ministry of Health.
Higher civil servants assist ministers in their relations with the legislature. They prepare briefs in readiness for the minister’s appearance before the whole legislative house for questions or legislative committees for investigation. .
6. Preparation of Budgets
The civil service drafts the budget then submitted to the minister and ultimately to the legislature for debate and approval. This implies that a government cannot spend money unless approval for such expenditure has been granted by the legislature.
7. Negotiation with Pressure Groups
The civil service assists the government in its consultation, negotiation and bargaining with pressure groups. By virture of its impartiality, the civil service sees itself as the protector of the national interest especially When there are conflicting demands among rival groups in the political system.
Pressure groups such as chambers of commerce, trade-unions, professional associations, and traders’ associations have their interests which may run counter to national interest. The civil service helps to maintain a balance between national interest and the conflicting interests of these groups.
8. Stabilization of the Political System
Given the civil service’s professional competence, pride and self-fespect, it may become an important stabilizing force in the political system especially during periods of rapid political changes. The senior civil servants played this role successfully during the nigeriancivil war. At the Peace conference held at Aburi, Ghana in January 1967, the two warring parties (the Federal Government and the breakaway Eastern Region) agreed to maintain the status quo. Different interpretations were given to this decision but the final agreement was summarized by a British diplomat as follows: “It is simple and that’s its merit: the constitution is to be further amended to give each region almost complete autonomy, and in return the East acknowledged the unity of Nigeria and recognized the FederalMilitary Government with Gowon as its head”.
The implementation of this decision would have accelerated the collapse of the country. The top Nigerian civilservants did not fail to notice this shortcoming and drew the attention of the government to the fact that Nigeria would become a confederation if the agreement was carried out. As a result of this timely intervention by the permanent secretaries, the agreement was repudiated by General Gowon.
9. Source of Patronage
The civil service is an important source of patronage for politicians and political parties. Positions in the civil service provide rewards for political support. For instance, in the United States, a new president is free to appoint top civil servants who will work with him during his tenure. They also go with him. As such, the president could bring into the civil service party loyalists, friends and relatives. This is known as the spoils system.
10. Internal Management
The civil service also manages its own internal affairs. This involves the improvement of the means of communication, administrative coordination within and between departments and the important fields of personnel management, training and recruitment.
11. Performance of Quasi-judicial Functions
The civil service performs certain functions, which are not purely administrative in nature. They include functions like price control, welfare marriage and custom.