The attention of the Board and Management of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS has been drawn to the publication ‘Senators, ministers hijack 524 jobs in FIRS’ by The Saturday Punch, August 28 2010 on pages 1 and 2. This publication is untrue and a misrepresentation of facts, prompting this response from the Service.
As background, the ongoing actions by the Service, in which 6,244 persons were affected, is a continuation of the implementation of the tax reform programme which started in 2004. This programme has recorded some notable achievements to date including automation of the bank payment collection system, passage of four amendment tax bills, development of the National Tax Policy and the reform of tax administration within the Federal Inland Revenue Service complemented by the signing into law of the Federal Inland Revenue Service Establishment Act (FIRSEA) in April 2007.
In line with FIRSEA 2007 and the need to address staffing gaps long identified in the Service, the FIRS began taking steps to reposition the Service starting with a placement exercise to align staff to positions within the redefined organization structure of the Service and then a massive recruitment exercise which was concluded in July 2010. The placement exercise was originally to include a competency test administered on all staff of the Service.
However, due to staff preference, the test was dropped, albeit with an understanding that all vacancies in the Service would be advertised and be filled by qualified internal staff and external stakeholders or persons. FIRS Management decided that AT NO TIME would an external person be hired if such a person did not meet the minimum qualification of the Service or bring added value over and above that provided by existing staff.
At all times and with due sense of responsibility, the FIRS Board and Management ensured that recruitment was done fully in line with the laws of the land and the policies of the FIRS to achieve the desired level of professionalism to drive quality service delivery. The FIRS employed all known professional approaches in recruiting staff towards ensuring that the right quality of staff was employed by the Service. All applicants were interviewed prior to acceptance in the FIRS.
A total of 1,858 persons were successful out of over 105,000 candidates who applied (over 100,000 online applications and over 5,000 manual applications/curriculum vitae) and partook in a very competitive process which spanned a two year period. FIRS received applications from Nigerians from all walks of life, including Nigerians outside the country. FIRS will not exclude anyone from the recruitment process for being or not being related to particular persons. The most important thing is that those who were employed were qualified for the positions they were considered for and were successful in the interviews conducted, moderated by external consultants.
It is also important to note that references to the word “stakeholder” in FIRS is strictly in line with our vision which is ‘To deliver quality service to taxpayers in partnership with other stakeholders and make taxation the pivot of national development…”. We strive to live our vision every day, in everything we do. We consider staff and all sections of the public as stakeholders – persons who have a stake in the development of the Service. In the case of the recruitment exercise, stakeholder refers to all persons who responded to the advertisement either electronically or through the submission of CV’s to the Service. Any definition contrary to this is mischievous.
There is also no truth in the claim that some staff who had been in the Service were sidelined and preference given to new staff in the recent recruitment exercise and in the recently released 2008 promotion exercise. All vacancies filled by new staff were arrived at after due consideration to staff who had indicated interest. In fact, not all vacancies have been filled, to give room for staff that succeed in the 2009 and 2010 promotion exercises planned for later this year. The 2008 promotion exercise was done in full compliance with the guidelines of the Federal Civil Service Commission.
The claim that some staff are favoured in foreign training is not true. Training and capacity building is a major priority in the FIRS reform agenda. Besides, one wonders why the focus is on foreign training rather than on the skills developed whether this is delivered locally or overseas. Every year, the number of trained staff increases. Staff have benefited from over 8803 training slots delivered between 2004 and 2009. This year alone, 889 staff have been trained to date, with an additional 3,900 staff earmarked for training before the end of the year. That notwithstanding, more still needs to be done to achieve the capacities desired. As a matter of deliberate policy, Management ensures that training, whether local or overseas, is spread to as many staff as possible based on their training needs.
Apparently, information reported in the national daily was obtained from persons who either did not succeed in the promotion exercise or the internal recruitment exercise which all interested staff were free to take part in, or who place “foreign training” over skills development. Those who did not succeed are encouraged to work harder in order to take advantage of future promotion and recruitment exercises. They are also encouraged to avoid using the mass media to air their grievances but to take advantage of the freedom consistently offered by Management to do so. Beyond the communication and dispute resolution channels provided by the Service, staff are also free to take advantage of the Public Complaints Commission.
We should welcome the new staff to the Service and put our hands on the plough to achieve the targets we have set for ourselves and our dear country, Nigeria.
On a final note, as part of the overall transition/recruitment process, 1,552 staff were offered employment at their current levels, 889 staff were offered higher positions having succeeded in the recruitment exercise. 1,945 staff were given concession up to December 31st 2013 to improve their academic qualifications to meet minimum educational qualifications required to transit into the new FIRS. These are all part of the many efforts being made to recognise the hard work of existing staff and to ensure that they are given priority in whatever changes are ongoing in the Service. With 1,858 external applicants recruited thus far, the FIRS staff strength as at December 2010 should be 6,244.
It is not possible to satisfy every applicant or person, but grievance with the process, any part of it or with anyone who was involved in it, should not be a ground for rubbishing a rigorous, competitive and transparent exercise which the Service very painstakingly went through.
VAL. O. AKEREDOLU.
HEAD, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE SERVICE