Performance Appraisal In Nigerias Civil Service Commerce Essay

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The Nigerian civil service comprises of all Nigerian government employees other than the military. Most employees are career civil servants, progressing through the ranks on the basis of qualifications and seniority. Section 277 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) defines the Civil Service as the "Service of the Federation in a civil capacity, as staff of the office of the President, the Vice President, a ministry or department of the Government of the Federation assigned with the responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation" (FRN, 1999). In essence, the civil service was set up to carry out Government business and to render loyal service to any administration without prejudice and insulated from partisan politics. On the other hand, Gberevbie (2010) opined that the Civil Service is an institution established for the implementation of Government Policies associated with social service delivery and infrastructure development. This depicts that Nigerians look up to the Civil service in terms of formulating development strategies, policies and programs in such a way that will stimulate social and economic changes.

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The Nigerian civil service is patterned based on the British model. It consists of political class and bureaucrats of varying profession and technical expertise. The civil servants are divided into classes, administrative class, executive class, professional class, clerical and sub-clerical class. Each class is further divided into many groups known as cadres; each cadre has from four to eight grades or promotional levels. It is mainly organized around the federal ministries, which are responsible for various parastatals (government-owned corporations) headed by a minister who is politically appointed by the president. The Nigerian civil service has five basic functions, namely policy [1] implementation; provision of inputs for policy formulation; investigative and regulatory functions; ensuring continuity of public administration; and informative function (Office of Head of Service of the Federation, 2009). It is an important institution of the state which occupies an essential and unique position in the formulation and implementation of National development plans. In essence, the policy formulation function embedded in the civil service requires skilled and well-motivated workforce.

In order to assess the performance and progress of the country it becomes necessary to evaluate the performance of civil servants. The Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management defined performance appraisal as a method of stock taking that presents an opportunity to review individual performance quarterly, half-yearly or in most cases annually. Gilbert (2010) asserts that before 1979, Confidential Reporting System was used in the Civil Service where appraisal was done in secret and appraisees were not informed about the result or outcome of the evaluation. However, following the Udoji report of 19741, the Open Reporting System and Management by Objectives (MBO) techniques were introduced as part of the recommendation for the reform of the Civil Service system. This brought about major change in evaluation system whereby employees reads and agrees to whatever has been written on him and also has the right to challenge the ratings by his superior officer. The Panel also recommended continuous job evaluation and grading, unfortunately all the recommendations regarding performance evaluation criteria were partially or haphazardly implemented.

The Civil Service adopted the Annual Performance Evaluation Report system (APER) based on the Udoji report of 1979. The APER system is an annual evaluation procedure whereby employee's work ethics, skills and capabilities are assessed for the suitability of promotion and training (Mustapha, 2008). However, it is merely in theory rather than practice because most promotions especially to managerial cadre, trainings and job placements are based on political affiliation, nepotism, tribalism, or favoritism. This practice leads to poor performance and ineffectiveness within the civil service. As confirmed by Echu (2010) that job appointment and promotion may not necessarily be based on competency and qualification. Furthermore, the Public Service Review commission main report (2004) asserts that "The present Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) system is unreliable as a means of assessment of an officer's performance". The report further stated that the system is cumbersome and complicated; lacks objectivity and the measures are not always quantifiable.

In November each year, the annual appraisal process (as shown below) starts with the distribution of the appraisal forms to employees by the Human resource departments. The necessary portions of the forms are then subsequently filled and submitted to the reviewing officer. The well defined time period for the distribution and subsequent submission of forms makes it possible for the evaluation process to be conducted on time. It further gives ample time to the employees and reviewing officers to prepare for proper evaluation and interview. The evaluation interview is structured in form of a coaching-style system. It normally takes a form of answers and questions session where both sides have to defend its position and reach an agreement on final grade for the ratee; however the final decision falls on the rater. Finally, the appraisal system is tied to a reward structure in form of performance based bonuses, which is to be paid at the end of each year for good performance. The bonus paid is calculated as a percentage of ratee's annual pay based one's position in the organization. In contrast, civil servants who have not performed to expectation are either issued with a query or given a verbal warning.

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2. Performance evaluation process in the civil service

In addition, Mustapha (2008) affirms that some of the challenges facing the effective implementation of the APER system includes but not limited to inefficient feedback mechanisms, poor objectivity, lack of training and knowledge on the role of the appraisal structure, and fear of reprisals in case of adverse reports. This was further confirmed by Gilbert (2006) when he identified the factors responsible for the ineffective appraisal system including lack of proper understanding; lack of objectivity and courage by the supervisors; desire to give close friends and relations more advantage over others; and ignorance of vision and mission of the organization.

Furthermore, subjective appraisals may arise due to the annual evaluation of employees because the superiors may have forgotten certain aspects of the performance which failed to be recorded. This is confirmed by Dogarawa (2011) when he states that one of the main problems of performance rating is periodic appraisal which is often influenced by recent significant behavior rather than collective past effective and ineffective behaviors. Moreover, Mustapha (2010) suggests that appraisal should be conducted continuously by direct superiors for maximum measurement of outputs rather than just inputs. The issue of favoritism and nepotism was noted by Gilbert (2006) that the APER system is constantly being abused by favoring some employees over others either due to personal relationships, or tribalism thereby making the system lose its credibility.

THE APER FORM

The APER form applies to all categories of service and civil servants; hence there is no difference between technical and administrative staff. Nevertheless, there are some variations between the senior cadre and the junior cadre. The yearly APER is divided into five sections. The first part contains employee's personal record and leave records; part two contains tasks and targets set, job description, key achievements, training/course attended in the year under review and job performance; in this part the employee fills his tasks and targets based on his job description for the year to measure whether he has performed to expectation. The third part evaluates character traits, assessment of performance by superior, work ethics, leadership qualities, training needs and teamwork; the fourth parts specifies next year's tasks and targets, comments by the employee on the assessment, declaration/signature by the employee and the reporting officer; the last part is the counter signing officer's report, who is normally the immediate superior of the reporting officer. The countersigning officer makes the process more transparent and creates room for feedback mechanism and monitoring which can control supervisors and reviewers from being subjective to some extent.

In addition, The APER form is well structured and comprehensive. It captures all the relevant aspects of what is to be measured in appraisal process in terms of job descriptions and character traits; hence it is more of a developmental approach format. Furthermore, the form makes it possible for employees to specify their future training needs which will further boost their careers and make them more efficient thereby also reducing the tasked placed on the human resource department of determining the kind of training an employee needs. Declaration section is also a sign of objectivity because an employee can express his/her opinion about the appraisal process and one is not liable to sign the form if he/she feels the process is subjective. In response to questions on the comprehensiveness of the APER form, interviewees commended the existing format and stated that the problem does not lay with the design of the form but rather on the evaluation process and how the appraisal is conducted. However, Gilbert (2006) observes that by the use of APER forms, marks are so generously awarded to the extent that in a given group of employees to be assessed no one scores less than ninety five percent with some exception scoring up to hundred percent which is impractical and impossible in objective appraisal, yet no evidence of high performance or excellence exist in the Nigeria's public sector.

In conclusion, the Public Service Review commission main report (2004) believes that the present appraisal system should be abandoned due to its inefficiency and the old confidential reporting system re-introduced, subsequently the APER form should be redesigned to conform with the confidential reporting system. On the other hand, Gilbert (2010) affirms that Government should commission consultants walking with in-house committee to redesign a standardized assessment format and develop new performance management system.

ISSUES AND CHALLENGES

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Based on the analysis of available literature on performance appraisal and the appraisal system in Nigeria's civil service, and result of interview conducted with officials of the Civil Service Commission, one cannot say that the system is unsatisfactory however the inefficiency of the process overrides its effectiveness. Some of the challenges currently facing the appraisal system include embedded organizational culture, Lack of participatory leadership, unclear job description, inadequate training, discontinuous appraisal process, lack of commitment to employee development, and subjectivity in assessment.

Organizational culture has a deep impact on employee's performance which can be either positive or negative depending on the norms and values of the organization (Shahzad, 2012). According to interviewees the appraisal process has not been effective because employees tend to follow the organizational culture hence there has been no room for improvement and the system also fails to recognize the importance of the appraisal process. Furthermore, it has been mention in the literature review that one major problem that leads to ineffectiveness of the appraisal process is its lack of inclusion in the organizational culture and practice (Grote, 1996; Kondrasuk, 2012).

Moreover, if there is no participatory workforce attitude in the appraisal whereby the process is implemented from the top to the bottom then it tends to be unsuccessful (Grote, 1996; Kondrasuk, 2012). In the civil service, the process was designed and implemented without taking into consideration employees contributions. Hence the process is mainly geared not participatory which brings about lack of commitment on the part of the employees and blocks chances of innovation and creativity on how to reform the process. It further widens the gap between the supervisors and employees, thereby making it impossible for employees to speak up during the interview process due to fear of negative repercussions.

In addition, lack of clear and defined job description makes the process ineffective because performance measurements standards must be established according to individual job description which should be tied to organizational goals and objectives. Hence if there is no clear job description then the question becomes what is actually measured? Responses from the interview pointed out that no written job description was specified upon their recruitment; rather they are just expected to do what they are being told by the supervisors. The literature review reveals that appraisal errors occur due to misunderstood goals or lack of clarity of goals and objective appraisal can only be achieved if there are realistic goals to compare the result with. (Dressler 2000). Hence, failure to align performance standards with job description leads to misunderstandings, lack of satisfaction, ineffectiveness, and confusion in the appraisal process (Daley, 2002; Condrey 2012).

Similarly, it has been observed that supervisors are not well equipped on the appraisal process. As confirmed by Gilbert (2006) & Mustapha (2008) in the literature review, that the appraisal process is ineffective in Nigeria's civil service due to lack of understanding and inadequate training. It is important for supervisors to acquire skills on how to evaluate present and past performance and also how to coach employees on future improvements. Without clear understanding of the process, the system tends to be used and hence it is used as a means of authority and power rather than for development purposes.

Moreover, if the appraisal process is conducted for employee improvement then there is need for a continuous evaluation process. Quite the opposite, the appraisal in the civil service is done on a yearly basis hence supervisors tend to forget past performance thereby evaluating appraisee based on recent events, performance and character traits. Furthermore, the appraisers fail to consider the process as part of the job responsibility rather they see it as a yearly burden. This arises because the appraisal process is conducted once a year.

Despite this fact, the system also fails to develop employee's career. Even though the APER form has a provision for training needs, it is merely theoretical rather than practical. According to available literature, one of the objectives of appraisal is for development, adding value to employees. Hence is the system fails to recognize and assess employees needs then one wonders why the system was set up in the first place. In several cases, it has been observed that, employees are nominated for training based on personal relationship with supervisors rather than on good performance or need for training. This fails to motivate employees because they believe training is independent of the process, in other words even with the appraisal process their needs are not considered.

In conclusion, all the challenges elaborated leads to subjectivity in appraisal assessment. Banjoko has equally summarized the problems as follows: "In Nigeria, performance appraisal is being used in many organizations today as a political tool for helping to advance the course of favourites or for obstructing and thwarting the career path and progress of 'villains' whose faces the appraiser would not like to see. Thus subjectivity and favoritism by those supervisors who strongly believe in the 'Coker is my cousin syndrome'". If one is not trained well in the process then there are high chances of favoritism. Similarly if organizational culture depends on personal relationships and rapport then it leads to nepotism. Likewise if there is no clear job description and measurement standard, then supervisors can use their discretion to accord ratings based on personal judgments. Furthermore, when the process is not conducted continuously then there are high chances of errors and bias. According to literature reviewed, when there is inadequate training, then performance evaluation can be used as an instrument of threat, harassment, power or authority, thereby stagnating employee's growth and declining the value of the performance evaluation method (Grote, 1998; Roberts, 1998; Kondrasuk 2012). All the challenges facing the Nigeria's civil service performance appraisal are therefore relevant and considered sufficient to negatively affect process.

PROSPECTS FOR NIGERIA'S CIVIL SERVICE PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL SYSTEM

The review and analysis of available literature and result of interview pointed out some challenges affecting the Nigeria's Civil service appraisal system. Even though, the research

Enhance rater's training

Job specific criteria

Self evaluation

Multisource feedback-the 3600

CONCLUSION

The performance appraisal system for civil servants in Nigeria still has a long way to go and much work needs to be done to ensure its success. In this research, we have reviewed scholarly literature on performance appraisal system in general, reviewed the current appraisal system in Nigeria's civil service, and identified and discussed some challenges affecting the success of the system.