The Gambia – Restructuring of the Pay and Grading System of the Gambian Civil Service 2013 to 2020

In by Amanda Anderson


For many years, there had been a general consensus in the Government of The Gambia that its Civil Service had a number of key capacity weaknesses.  Pay was too low to hire, motivate and retain key technical and professional staff.  At the same time, staff had not been managed to achieve results, being neither rewarded for good performance nor sanctioned for poor performance or breaking the rules.

Frequent removals and transfers of Government officials had undermined job security and institutional knowledge.  Many staff were either unqualified for their duties or had not been given relevant or practical training.  The Personnel Management Office (PMO), part of the Office of the President, drafted a reform strategy in August 2007, the ‘Public Sector Reform Sector Strategy Paper 2007-2011’.

This document noted that earlier attempts at reforming the Civil Service were not successful because reform measures were introduced piecemeal and the overall reform momentum was not maintained. ‘…Upon independence in the 1960s, The Gambia had a compact Civil Service with a reasonable level of capacity, although thinly staffed.  Its basic competence was broadly maintained until at least the mid-1970s, but thereafter the trajectory was broadly downward due to over-expansion, patronage hirings, corruption, informality and an exodus of professional and technical skills.  The politicization of the Public Service rather than rational bureaucracy, created problems vastly affecting Government functions….’

Over the years, the Government’s Salaries Commission had regularly proposed upward adjustments of salaries and wages.  These proposals were generally not accepted, because rapidly rising Government expenditures on debt interest repayments meant that expenditure on these upward adjustments was unaffordable.  This meant, in turn, that staff had become demotivated and the Civil Service, overall, suffered from high turnover and low capacity.

As basic wage and salary rates had fallen ever further below the levels necessary to ensure that civil servants could maintain a decent standard of living, a number of specialised allowances and payments had been made to provide a form of compensation.  These allowances and payments had been introduced on a selective basis – thus limiting their overall cost.  The payments were not consolidated into basic pay and did not, therefore, form part of pension calculations at retirement.

Income tax rates had been reduced and most civil servants were required to work a four-day week.  Taken together, all these measures had provided some degree of improvement in the financial position of many civil servants.  However, the measures had not been universally applied – so not all civil servants benefitted equally – and there had been a clear limit as to how many further allowances and special payments could be introduced without completely distorting the current salary and wage structure.

In conclusion, therefore, the Civil Service had faced significant challenges.  Low pay was clearly one.  Motivation and staff performance was another.  If the present situation continued, there seemed little doubt that the Civil Service would continue to decline in significance and ability and this, in turn, would have a fundamentally detrimental effect on the Government service to the people of the country.


The strategic priority of the Government’s pay and incentive policy was to ensure that the Civil Service had a critical mass of appropriately skilled and experienced personnel to ensure efficient and effective management of the economy and for designing and implementing programmes to improve the quality of public services.

Secondly, the Government wanted to ensure that all civil servants received a decent salary or living wage sufficient for the needs of their families and themselves.

Thirdly, the Government wanted to implement the principle of equal pay for equal work across the Civil Service.  All jobs would be assessed according to objective criteria and placed within a new grade structure.  This would ensure that there was a fair and consistent measure of the duties and responsibilities of all jobs.

The Government intended to achieve these three strategic objectives by:

  • Implementing a new job grade structure

A new job grade structure was to be developed on the basis of the outcome of a comprehensive job evaluation and re-grading exercise.  This exercise would consider all jobs within the Civil Service and ensure that all job descriptions were written or revised so that they accurately reflected the duties and responsibilities, as well as the qualifications, skills and experience required, of the job they were describing.

  • Implementing a new salary structure

A new salary structure to be implemented.  This structure would be linked to the new job grade structure and would incorporate the principle of equal pay for equal work.  Where possible, allowances would be incorporated into basic pay and the transparency of the salary structure would be improved so that allowances did not feature as prominently as they had done.

  • Developing an affordable wage bill

The total Government public service wage bill would be maintained at levels determined in a medium-term expenditure framework and consistent with macro-economic stability benchmarks.  A framework for ensuring an equitable share of the wage bill among the various public service institutions would be defined and implemented.

  • Improving staff appraisal and performance systems

The existing staff performance appraisal system would be improved.  It would be open and transparent and it would be used as the only basis for promotions.  Distinctions would be made between excellent, good and poor performers and increments and promotions would be based on merit.


In 2013, PAI was contracted by the Government of The Gambia to undertake a World Bank-funded project – of six months’ duration – to provide a series of proposals aimed at reforming the Civil Service pay and grading structure.  Separate projects conducted by other consultants would consider the Civil Service organisational structure and the pension scheme arrangements.  In the event, the PAI project was extended for a further three months to take account of the work being undertaken by the Civil Service counterparts – particularly in relation to the preparation and evaluation of sample job descriptions.

The project was required to undertake the following activities:

  • Identification and determination of the various Civil Service job categories
  • Identification and determination of the factors against which job duties and responsibilities could be assessed
  • Identification of anomalies in the salary and grade structures and provide appropriate recommendations for change/improvement in these structures
  • Provision of guidelines on job assessment/grading procedures
  • Training of key personnel in the management of a new grading system
  • Formulation of an implementation strategy/framework for the proposed changes.

The project Terms of Reference also noted that, in carrying out the activities listed above, there was a requirement to consider the implications of the conditions of service on the proposed new salary structure.

The PAI team made a total of eight visits to The Gambia over the period of the project.  A counterpart team of civil servants was simultaneously mobilised and this team was required to interview a wide sample of job holders, write the appropriate job descriptions and then conduct a job evaluation process on those documents.  Our consultants were to ensure that the counterpart team developed a good understanding of the issues involved and could be competent to undertake the whole process on their own once the project had concluded.


At the conclusion of the project, our consultants presented a series of proposals for reforming the Pay and Grading system.  In terms of pay, the main proposals were:

  • Definition of a Government pay policy for adoption by the Cabinet
  • Pay scales to be attached to each of the proposed new grades
  • Salary levels to be progressively increased over a period of 3-5 years
  • Progressive consolidation of allowances within pensionable salary – so that the allowances that remained would no longer be a semi-disguised form of salary supplement.

Our proposals were formulated to provide a comprehensive framework for Civil Service pay and incentives.  In particular, these proposals were intended to:

  • Narrow the gap in compensation packages between the public service, private and agency sectors
  • Improve the overall level of salaries – so that all civil servants received a decent living wage
  • Maintain the affordability of the overall Civil Service wage bill
  • Ensure that the principle of equal pay for equal work was applied across the Civil Service
  • Improve the effective, efficient, responsive, accountable and transparent delivery of public goods and services to the people of The Gambia.

In terms of the grading structure, our team proposed that there should be a points-based job evaluation system leading to a 9-grade system, with possibly a separate 6-grade structure for teachers.  The analysis undertaken during the project further indicated that work needed to be done to encourage greater autonomy in jobs in order to justify the academic qualifications required and that there should be a greater spread of responsibility for financial management.

On the basis of team’s recommendations, the Government of The Gambia accepted our proposals and indicated that it would begin discussions with the World Bank to provide funding for a 2-3 year implementation project.

Subsequent progress 

In 2019, PAI was again contracted by The Government of The Gambia to provide consultancy support for Pay and Grading.  The project was intended to last six months and to take counterpart staff from the Personnel Management Office (PMO) to the point where they could properly begin implementation of a new system of Pay and Grading throughout the Civil Service.

Initial assessment 

Many of the problematic Pay and Grading issues we had earlier identified remained outstanding at the start of this project.  That is to say:

  • The annual incremental increases for each pay scale were too low and not expressed in percentage terms, resulting in progressive reductions (in real terms) of the amounts paid for each successive year
  • The allowances regime had developed to a point where there were a large number of allowances, of varying levels, and none of them, (except for the ‘long service’ allowance), was pensionable
  • There was no longer a simple, clear and a direct relationship between the grade of a job and the total remuneration that a job holder actually received
  • There was a widespread perception that the low level of salaries had contributed to a high attrition rate in the Civil Service – though there was no available data to either support or disprove this contention.

On the positive side, however, we noted that there had been a number of welcome developments in the intervening years:

  • A complete change in the country’s political environment
  • A new and significant National Development Plan (NDP) of which Pay and Grading reform was a significant component
  • The development of significant capacity within the Personnel Management Office (PMO) to deal with Pay and Grading issues
  • An increase of 50% applied to all Civil Service salaries with effect from January 2019
  • A reduction in the level of national debt from 120% of GDP in 2018, to approximately 80% of GDP
  • The development by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) of a Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) to guide future Government expenditure planning and budget execution.

Job descriptions and evaluations

The counterpart team in the PMO had already identified approximately 950 jobs to be evaluated and thereby form the basis of the new job evaluation scheme.  This sample covered all of the levels in all of the cadres.  It also covered all the individual job titles in the Civil Service and therefore represented a very comprehensive sample.

By the start of the project, the team had completed job descriptions (JDs) and scored approximately 50% of the sample.  This portion of the sample was examined in detail in conjunction with the local team.

Our joint conclusions were:

  • The process for drawing up the JDs was consistent and incorporated proper quality assurance procedures
  • The methodology for scoring the jobs included effective quality assurance procedures
  • The scoring of the JDs was consistent and thorough.

The rank order produced by the scoring showed clear lines of job quality differential in the upper levels but an unusually smooth gradation for the great majority of jobs, which made it difficult to discern qualitative differences in ranges of jobs.  This was not a surprise.  Earlier work had identified the commonly held belief that in the past some jobs had been created and/or re-designated in order to provide promotion opportunities rather than in response to real qualitative changes in the necessary work.

However, it was also apparent that approximately 50% of the total job sample remained to be assessed.  Clearly, this would have been a substantial amount of work which, being realistic, would have been unlikely to have been completed quickly.  Accordingly, it was jointly agreed that the range of outstanding jobs should be reduced to 60 and that the work would be undertaken within two months.

Pay and allowances

Our pay system recommendations were:

  • An overall pay system developed in accordance with current budget realities and the broad financial boundaries of the current system
  • Pay scales for each grade in a proposed 11 grade structure
  • Percentage-based increments to be applied to the pay scales
  • The same percentage amount to be used for all increments
  • An incremental scale for each pay scale consisting of 7 levels
  • Non-overlapping pay scales.

We provided details of four pay system options based upon the above recommendations.  In summary, these options involved a revised higher starting salary for Grade One, Year One; ten pay scale progressions based upon a proposed ten grade system, (each of these progressions having seven incremental steps), and all increments to be 5%.  In further consultation with the PMO, we developed a final series of four options – each being a slight variation of these figures.

We additionally provided some indicative costs for implementation of these options across the whole Civil Service.  We could not, however, provide a recommendation on which of the pay scales options might be the most appropriate to adopt because we had not been provided with any indication as to the available budget for future Civil Service salary increases.

Separately, we considered the allowances system.  We noted that the pensions-related legislation which was currently being considered would make most, perhaps all, allowances pensionable.  We considered this a positive development which would provide welcome reassurance to staff, especially those nearing retirement.  We remained clear, however, in our view that nearly all allowances payments, current and proposed, would be much more usefully made as part of increases in basic salary, the levels of which would be directly related to the grades of each job.  By this means, the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ would be properly implemented.

In terms of implementing any reform of the current system, we recommended that:

  • There should be a comprehensive review of all Civil Service allowances with the intention of abolishing all except for a very few, eg: those concerned with overtime and working in difficult physical environments
  • A commitment should be made to phase out the current system of allowances, and to increase basic pay and, by extension, pensions over a period of, say, five years.

Grade system proposals 

In co-operation with the counterpart team, we worked on a number of issues:

  • Production of a final Rank Order (RO) to identify qualitative differences in jobs through step changes – known as gaps – in the range of point scores and thus indicate potential grades in a revised system
  • Quality assurance of the RO to confirm that the factors, and the means by which they were scored, was consistently accurate
  • Production of a new grade structure consisting of ten grades
  • Production of an RO for the Teaching cadre
  • Scoring of as many of the jobs in the sample as possible – given the constraints of available time and resources.

As part of these proposals, we considered the current Fixed Grade positions.  These were the most senior positions in the Civil Service – essentially Permanent Secretary and upwards – and there were 214 positions spread across a range of 30 different salary values.  This indicated a clear hierarchy of job responsibility – although how consistent and accurate the salary criteria were remained in doubt.

In the event, we agreed with the PMO that all but a very few of the jobs could be accommodated in one Grade – Grade 11 – and modified our original proposals accordingly.

Implementation proposals 

We developed a plan which involved sharing responsibility for all the work between the PMO and each of the Civil Service Ministries/institutions.  We considered that it would be in the Ministries’ best interests actively and effectively to co-operate with the PMO, to ensure that reform was completed and their staff received their new salaries as quickly as possible; and it would be in the PMO’s best interests to share the responsibility for reform implementation so that the burden of work, and all the responsibility for its successful completion, did not fall on the PMO alone.

This plan involved:

  • Promoting the concept of reform across the Civil Service and persuading the majority of, if not all, civil servants that reform is both in their interest and in the best interests of the Civil Service as a whole
  • Building capacity within Ministry Human Resources Units to enable them to understand and use the new Pay and Grading systems, both now and in the future
  • Creating and/or confirming the contents of a job description for every job
  • Ensuring that every job would take its correct place in the new grade structure
  • Confirming the appropriate salary for every job holder, taking account of their current salary and position on the relevant pay scale
  • Agreeing and recording every proposed change, so that it could not be changed at some later date without appropriate permission
  • Ensuring that all payrolls and relevant budget estimates were correctly modified to reflect all the new pay details
  • Completing all the required work across the whole Civil Service within an agreed period of time and according to plan.

We also noted that there was still a lack of clarity in respect of certain issues:

  • The number and availability of full-time staff to work in a dedicated Pay and Grading Unit located within the PMO
  • The likely start date of implementation, (thereby defining the amount of time available for implementation)
  • The date of completion of all the outstanding sample job evaluations
  • How many jobs in the Civil Service were not covered by the existing job evaluation sample or the outstanding job evaluations yet to be conducted.

In such circumstances, we considered it was difficult to produce a detailed, comprehensive implementation plan of the sort that had been requested. Nevertheless, we provided a Generic Pay and Grading Implementation Plan, a draft set of Objectively Verifiable Indicators (OVIs) and Means of Verification to monitor and evaluate implementation of the plan.

Project conclusion

We had the considerable advantage of being able to use much of the knowledge we gained from the first phase of the project and so could build on our earlier work.  Many of our proposals, although differing in detail, remained in principle the same as those originally produced.

The Covid-19 pandemic struck as the project was in its final stages.  Further travel to The Gambia became impossible and the disruption to our work was such that alternative measures – such as Zoom conferencing – were not adequate.  By mutual agreement, therefore, the project was extended on a no-cost basis for six months.  This allowed sufficient time for detailed discussion and agreement, albeit conducted remotely, of our final proposals.