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      By Abdulwarees Solanke Voice of Nigeria
      Deputy Director/Head. Strategic Planning PuandCorporateDevelopmentDepartment

      One of my lieutenants in office shared a story on our whatsapp group platform that forced me to reflect on how any government, office or public and institutional service provider earns bad reputation from those it is supposed to serve.

      The story : A mad man handed his cheque to a bank teller and said, “I would like to withdraw N5000..” The Male teller told the mad man “For withdrawals less than N10,000, please use the ATM”.

      The mad man then asked, “Why?” The teller irritably told the mad man, “These are rules. Please leave if there is no other matter. There is a queue behind you.” the teller then returned the cheque to the mad man.

      The mad man remained silent. But he returned the cheque to the teller and said, “Please help me withdraw all the money I have.”

      The teller was astonished when he checked the account balance of the mad man through the system. He nodded his head, knelt down and said to the mad man.

      “My apologies Sir, you have N3.5 billion in your account and our bank does not have so much cash currently. Could you make an appointment and come again tomorrow?”

      The mad man then asked, “How much am I able to withdraw now?” The teller told him, “Any amount up to N300,000.”

      The mad man then told the teller that he wanted to withdraw N300,000 from his account. The teller did so quickly and handed it to the mad man respectfully.

      The mad man kept N5000 in his bag and asked the teller to deposit the balance of N295000 back into his account. The teller was dumbfounded.

      Rules are inflexible but we humans can be flexible when the situation requires us to be.
      We should not treat people base on their look or how they are dressed.

      Rather, we should treat everyone with respect. And never be too quick to judge a book by its cover. Everybody Is Important. Stay Low And Don’t Overrate Yourself. Great lesson I learnt from this innocent post!

      In my public policy analysis class at the graduate school in Brunei Darussalam. we were taught that the street level bureaucrats, the officials responsible implementing or enforcing govermme⁷⁷laws, rules, regulations and policies are often the ones that give authorities or government bad names. They are the members of task forces, gangs and teams that go about breaking shops, throwing or kicking people’s properties and goods anyhow. They are usually the public or citizens first contact with the government. They are at the gates and front offices. No entry is no entry. No parking is no parking. No exception to rules. They are often very inflexible. To them, rule is rule, law is law. Just meet up, pay up, comply. No complaint, no excuse. Discretion is not in their dictionary.

      In this mentality, they also exploit people’s desperation to escape justice and use it to line their pockets. They frustrate the public and so citizens get the impression that the government they voted into power is tough, insensitive, corrupt.
      Some of these street level bureaucrats are stinkingly rich, richer than the directors or managers that post them to the markets, roads, checkpoints, front desks and such other points where they are the real and only contact with the public.

      Therefore, their excesses in wrongful confiscation, destruction, wastage, greasing of palms is often at greater cost not only to their victims but to the state too. When citizens who know their rights sue the government, the price is usually heavy.

      Often, these street level bureaucrats are the causes and sources of public disorder, even revolution or military coups in some countries. They are the reason why a government or party can fail woefully at the polls.
      Therefore it is often recommended that there should be another layer of supervising bureaucrats, as ombudsman, who go about in plain clothes to monitor officials who are the first contact with the public.

      The point here is MDAs and Corporate bodies need to give premium to training in Public Relations to the street level bureaucrats and first public contact. In most private sector organizations, roles and offices like Customer Relations, External Relations, Community Relations, Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications, Public Affairs have been created while ombudsman or public complaint mechanism have been instituted.

      This is also the essence SERVICECOM Desk in public agencies and institutions. Every government or public institution should subscribe to service charters that must be understood by all accessing public goods and services and those providing them.
      The tragedy here is that most beneficiaries of government programmes and customers of most service providers do not even know their rights or seek redress when they are abridged by overzealous agents of state or unscrupulous service providers.
      This mentality of ignorance is what is usually exploited by the street level bureaucrats who are law unto themselves, dispensing jungle justice as they lack discretion in their interface with the public. They can be mean. They are often hard on the public and RUTHLESS, kii INSENSISITIVE.They give the government bad names.

      Any government or institution desirous of success in its reform programmes or delivery of public good and services must critically look at the attitude, behaviour, culture and calibre of its street level bureaucrats, its first contact with the public in public policy, rules and regulation implementation. This is extremely important for success of reform policy and public behavioural change programmes.


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