The story of a country’s economic development is often told through the lens of new roads, factories, power lines, and ports. However, it can also be told through the voices of everyday heroes, individuals who have taken action to improve their lives, and those around them. In this blog series, the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Ivorian newspaper Fraternité Matin and blogger Edith Brou, tells the stories of those individuals who, with a boost from a Bank project, have set economic development in motion in their communities.
Jacques Dongo, Inspector of Guidance Services in the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training, proudly exhibits his loan certificate, the key to making some of his dreams come true. As we chatted with him in front of a counter in the Ministry of the Civil Service and Modernization of the Administration, he acknowledged the benefits of the new integrated civil service personnel management system (SIGFAE): “Before this system was set up, it was a game of cat and mouse between the ‘margouillats,’ or notorious intermediaries, and government departments to obtain documents. The introduction of the new system has completely changed this. It has taken me just 3 days to obtain this document once I fulfilled all the requirements.”
SIGFAE is a computerized system introduced in 2012 by the Ivorian government with the support of the Governance and Institutional Development Project (GIDP) to simplify personnel management in the civil service. Broadly speaking, it centralizes the information on all civil service employees in a single reference file (FUR). It has been a colossal task, but it will now help decompartmentalize and improve communications between the Ministry of the Civil Service and all other government departments involved in managing the careers of civil servants.
It is true that the SIGFAE was initially intended to ensure better monitoring of public spending, which was escaping the control of the government. For example, it helped Albertine, Tano, and Seka Seka Clément resolve the problem of ghost workers on the government’s payrolls when they were jointly responsible for the administrative management of the government’s civilian personnel. In 2015, about 2,300 false records were identified, saving the Public Treasury almost CFAF 10 billion a year.
But another advantage of the system is that administrative records can now be obtained in under two weeks, when previously it took anywhere from six months to two years. With very few exceptions, Ms. Tano’s staff can today electronically process some 18,000 different items per year, or an average of 30 per day, compared to barely 5 previously.
This streamlining effort could have faced resistance from workers, as it challenged existing practices and even created the risk of the loss of some positions, but it was in fact quite well received by most civil servants as it also facilitates their own administrative procedures. For many years, the manual processing of civil service files in Côte d’Ivoire has been slow and cumbersome, and civil servants had become fed up with constantly hearing the same refrain: “Come back another day.”
Today their salaries are paid almost automatically. Yao Dago Rosine, an official in the Ministry of the Interior, remembers, “Before, many civil servants, especially new staff, could wait two to three years before receiving their first wage payments, and retirees had to wait months before receiving their pensions.”
What the SIGFAE experiences has shown is that happy civil servants are more inclined to work, and this improves the effectiveness of the civil service.
Overall, Côte d’Ivoire seems to be on the right track with the automated management of civil service careers from recruitment through to retirement. It has moved well ahead of most French-speaking countries in the region, and has begun to invest similar efforts in automating other key sectors of the economy, particularly public finances and accounting (the SIGFP and ASTER projects) and public procurement (SIGMAP).
Despite this progress with the administrative management of the government, some questions remain:
- Will the modernization and computerization of public administrative procedures help curb corruption by reducing interactions between civil servants and users?
- Beyond the simplification of administrative procedures, do you think that the Ivorian government should also reform its civil service wage and training policies to transform itself into a government that genuinely listens to its citizens?