Disciplinary Procedures In Nigerian Public Service

The Concepts Of Discipline In Public Service

Discipline is readily interpreted as the conformance with the regulations and procedures of an organization. Discipline is of immense value to an organization, and the stability of an organization depends to a large extent on how complaints, wrong doings and non conformity to standards are handled, and sub-standard performance penalized. It is necessitated by the vagaries of human nature, which makes for certain employees in an organization, to deliberately or for certain reasons, refuse to conform to laid down standards, procedures and regulations.

The civil service as an organization holds a system whereby offences and wrongdoings are penalized by means of earnings, reprimands, suspension, termination or dismissals. The power to exercise disciplinary action rests entirely on the civil service commission. And the civil service handbook stipulates the offences and conducts that attract disciplinary action. The conducts include, insubordination, immoral behaviour or horseplay, lateness, absteeism drunkenness, stealing, willful destruction of government property, falsification of records, corruption, negligence, fighting while on duty and membership to secret societies, financial impropriety, conviction on a criminal charge, disobedience to lawful order, hawking etc. These are regarded as misconducts or improper behaviour. They are usually investigated, alleged against any public officer, and where it is proved, necessary disciplinary action is taken against the erring officer. The disciplinary action must conform to laid down civil service procedure, as contained in the civil service handbook.

The disciplinary measures are punitive measures to deter other staffers from official misconduct.

Disciplinary Procedures In The Civil Service

The civil service as a formal organization with standard rules of conducts, also holds procedures for disciplinary action against any erring officer. This is in connection with cases which are seen and classified as misconduct and serious misconduct. Misconduct is seen as specific act of wrong-doing or improper behaviour. It requires a prudent proof and investigation.

Every officer is expected to report to the superior officer’s notice, if he/she considers that an erring officer should be indicted. The indicted officer may be suspended, and thereafter a course of investigation may be initiated.

The affected officer is entitled to know the whole case against him/her and have adequate opportunity for defence.

A board of inquiry may be appointed depending on the gravity of the offence, to ascertain appropriate punishment or disciplinary action, where the allegation is proved.

The disciplinary procedures in the civil service is unwiedly and protracted in nature. It operate on a complete system of queries, replies and committe meetings etc.

Foremostly, the officer indicted in an offence is notified in writing of the ground on which disciplinary action is proposed. A query is issued and made in a precise language, and to the point, relating the circumstances of the offence. The officer may be called upon to state in writing, within a specified period in the query any grounds upon which he/she relies to exculpate or defend his/her case. Further development with the alleged offence, depends greatly on the gravity of the offence and the exculpable representations of the affected officer, within the fixed time. There is also opportunity for appeals.

However, for minor offences, it could be treated with warnings and ample opportunity given for improvement. Usually, it is within the one year of the alleged offence and warnings. The officer affected may be made to suffer the disciplinary action of reduction in official rank, or the withholding cum deferment of increment or otherwise. The annual performance evaluation report (Aper), also reflects the disciplinary standards of officers in the public service. Other disciplinary measures and concepts would be discussed later in this treatise.

Principles Of Discipline In Public Service

In the discourse of discipline in public service, Hot Stoves identified eleven principles and paradigms of discipline. They include:

1. The principle of forwarding
2. The principle of reasonable expectation
3. The principle of definite policy and procedure
4. The principle of consistency
5. The principle of immediacy
6. The principle of fairness
7. The principle of privacy
8. The principle of forgiveness
9. The principle of examplary conduct
10. The principle of right to appeal
11. The principle of prevention

1. Principle Of Forwarding

This principle connotes that the employee in the public service must be duely informed and acquainted with the rules and regulations of the establishment, before he/she can be held responsible for violating the rules. The civil service commission must adequately inform it employees of the rules so that he/she can act accordingly. The various trainings and orientation courses in the publiv service are made to adequately acquaint all staffers of the standard rules and operative procedures.

2. Principle Of Reasonable Expectation

This principle indicates that the rules and standards in the public service must be reasonable and within what Chester Bernards referred to as ‘Employees Indifference Zone’. With this, Chester Bernards argues that the subordinate will always accept the superiors instructions on the condition that: (a). He/she understands the instructions. (b). He/she believes the instructions to be consistent with his own interest and that of the organization. (c). He/she is mentally and physically able to comply with the instructions. And the instructions must be brought to the clear understanding of the employee.

3. Principle Of Definite Policy And Procedures

The establishment must hold and maintain a definite policy and procedure of discipline. A sound and definite policy must be adopted to averted the danger of the management considering cases from a parochial and narrow point of view, rather than on the terms of the needs and consideration of the employees and the organization as a whole. Disciplinary actions must not be determined by the whims and caprices of the management staffers, rather by a definite and laid-down policy and procedures.

4. Principle Of Consistency

Thr rules and standards of the civil service must apply to all employees in the service, irrespective of their status. The rules must also be consistent over a time. This principle also relates to Max Webber’s Unified Disciplinary action, which indicates that there must not be preferential to offences and individuals involved. There should be uniform treatment to all based on the stipulated rules and regulations.

5. Principle Of Immediacy

This principle tries to create an ideal situation in which the immediate supervisor of the employee, approve disciplinary action on the erring officer. This further indicates that disciplinary action should always start from the immediate boss or superior officer of the employee.

6. Principle Of Fairness

This indicates fairness, equity and justice. It reveals that the Penalty for an offence should be equitable and equated to the offence committed. In this case, a disciplinary notice should state and explain all charges based on the available records and written memoranda.

7. Principle Of Privacy

This principle recommends that every reprimands of an employee in the public service, be made privately. It also suggests that rewards for effective and good services, should be done publicly.

8. Principle Of Forgiveness

This suggest that the state of the bad records of the employee should be wiped off at the end of every two years. Also, that once disciplinary action is taken against an employee in the public service, the management should assume the normal attitude to the employee concerned.

9. Principle Of Examplary Conduct

This principle endows vast responsibility on the superior officers to exhibit examplary conduct and be worthy models before their subordinates. Thus, for an effective discipline, the supervisor or superior officer must set a good examplem for others to emulate.

10. Principle Of The Right To Appeal

This reveals that there must be provision for appeal available to an erring officer. This will help to ensure that the rules are followed and maintained. This enhances the principle of good discipline in the public service.

11. Principle Of Prevention

This principle presupposes that the environmental conditions that induces the employee to err, must be changed. And, where possible, the employee can be tranferred, depending on the circumstances. This will help to reduce the possibility of offences and erratic behaviours in the public service.

Disciplinary Terms And Concepts

There exist major concepts and terms involved in discipline. They include: dismissal and Termination of appointment; suspension; Lay-offs; Compulsory or forced resignation and retirement.

1. Termination

This is discharge or permanent separation of the employee from the work force of the civil service. It may be due to reasons of inadequate performance or gross offence committed by the employee.

Termination is also described as getting the axe or getting hung. It is banishment, rejection and seen as capital punishment. It is a traumatic experience to the affected employee. In effect, public servents cannot be terminated or dismissed from service without the application of the rigorous and strict adherence to the ‘due process’ of discipline as laid down in the public service rules.

Termination is minor than dismissal, for it may lead to a situation where the affected employee receives full retirement benefits, Depending you on the circumstances.

2. Lay-Offs

It is disciplinary measure to checkmate irregularity, punctuality and uncooperative behaviour in the public service. It is the separation of the employee from the establishment’s pay-roll, due primarily to dimished labour requirements in the public service, or due to severally considerable factors. This may be as a result of divindling economy, elimation of certainjobs and technological displacements. The government may also adopt the measure to minimize the financial burden of payment of salaries and emoluments of public servants. With this, the criteria for selection of the affectin staffers would be based on disciplinary records.

Lay-off of employees may be done temporarily and the affected employees can be reabsorbed whenever the economic situation improves. Usually, lay-off staff are paid a kind of lump-sum or severance.

3. Suspension

This is a disciplinary measure aimed at bringing a sense of responsibility on an erring employee. It aims at warning the affected officer of the severity of the offence and likely consequences awaiting subsequent misconduct.

Suspension could be for duration of days, weeks or months. It is normally accompanied with a written explanation of the offence and which is duly filled in the personal file of the affected staff. The suspended staff could be placed on half salary or no salary, depending on the circumstances of the offence and the disposition of the disciplinary committee that recommended the disciplinary measure. The affected staff could be recalled at the expiration of suspension period, and with an understanding that the next disciplinary action for any misconduct may warrant dismissal from the public service.

4. Demotion In Rank And Pay

This is a disciplinary measure meted to employees who committed offence which are considered not serious enough to warrant proceddings under the public service rule for a dismissal. After a proper investigation, it may be considered proper based on the circumstance, to inflict a punishment such as demotion in rank, witholding or deferment of increment or otherwise.

5. Resignation

This connotes separation from the public service which is usually initiated by the employee. However, resignation may be due to several reasons such as, finding more attractive or better jobs elsewhere, moving to other location to meet with the spouse, advancement, personal health problems, family pressures and emigration factors. Voluntary resignations are prevalent with buoyant economy and minimize during economic recession. There are also resignations that are in every practical terms forced upon the employee. This may be a way of forcing out an unwanted employee from the public service.

Consequences Of Resignation

In an event where an employee had not attained the statutory age and period for pension and gratuity, before resignation may force him/her to suffer the following consequences:

1. Forfeiture of claims of vacation leave or passage privileges.

2. Refunding of full loams or debts to the government, except where the government decide to waive the refund due to certain considerations.

3. He/she cannot be considered or accorded pensionable rights.

6. Retirement

Retirement is an involuntary loss of job which is accompanied by much emotional and financial adjustments. It is a normal way of disengaging an employee from the public service. Retirement is usually pegged at a reasonable statutory age. Mandatory or compulsory retirement age varies from country to country, and even within the various public service sectors in the county. In Nigeria, it increased to thirty-five (35) years of service irrespective of age, or the attainment of the age of sixty (60) years. The reduction in the retirement in the public service, is seen as a measure to accomodate the compounding problem of unemployment in Nigeria. Retirement is a standard practice in public service and constitutes the desire and well earned reward for a life service to the state.

7. Compulsory Retirement

This is a forceful, premature and induced retirement prior to the mandatory and statutory age. It is a disciplinary measure against an employee in the public service who may have committed a serious offence or misconduct, which could lead to dismissal. The dismissal could however, be commuted to forced retirement in the interest of the affected employee. The employee under forced retirement is entitled to gratuity and pensionable rights. The affected employee in the civil service may seek redness court, if he/she is not satisfied with such a treatment. Especially, the measure is not in strict adherence to the provisions of the civil service rules and other statutory provisions in Nigeria as it affects the public service and its employees.

8. Dismissal

This is a permanent discharge from the public service. It is the ultimate punishment for more serious and offences of gross misconducts. It is a severe measusre which has the consequence of making the affected office unemployable in any sector of the public service in Nigeria. A dismissed officer looses every entitlements and pensionable rights.

Dismissal could be as a result of: (a) Neglect or refusal or for any cause (other than ill-health) become unable to perform his duties or comply with order, (b). disclosure of any information in respect of the affairs of the government to any unauthorized pensions and (c). Any manner of misconduct.

9. Verbal Warnings

This is an oral reprimand of the employee by a superior officer on the commission of, minor offence in the public service. It is a warning, sufficient to correct lapses, depending on the circumstance and the disposition of the individual officer concerned.

10. Written Warning

This is a disciplinary measure of an offence in the public service. Writtem warnings are culpable evidence against an officer on commission of an offence in the service. The written warning is also filed into the personal and official records of the affected staff for references.

11. Annual Performance Evaluation Report

Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) is an appraisal scheme with a measure of rewarding, criticizing, encouraging and counseling of employees in the civil service. The APER system fosters closeness, creates increased understanding among staff, and through superior-subordinate problem solving discussions assisy in setting good physical working conditions. It is an instrument for meeting the civil service goals, objectives and aspirations, and increased welfare needs of the employees in the civil service. APER focuses directly on appraising the achievement of results and not on personality traits.

APER is an essential and integral part in the development of pay, motivation, career planning and in stimulating a two-way flow of useful information between the superiors and subordinates. It continuously clarifies roles and objectives. It engenders support in the pursuit of mutual goals in the public service.

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