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) 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 the 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 specialized 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 provided to the people of The Gambia.
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 the following means:
Implementing a new job grade structure
A new job grade structure 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 the medium term expenditure framework and consistent with the macro-economic stability benchmarks. A framework for ensuring 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.
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 organizational 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.
In particular, our 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 can be assessed
- Identification of anomalies in the current salary and grade structures and 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 a new salary structure
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.
Our team of made a total of eight visits to The Gambia over the period of the project. A counterpart team of civil servants was simultaneously mobilized and, as noted above, 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 ended.
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 remain 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 the consultants’ proposals and started discussions with the World Bank to provide funding for a 2-3 year implementation project.