Established with the sole aim of breathing life and efficiency in service to Nigerians, VICTOR OGUNYINKA examines how far Servicom has gone in living up to its billings 12 years on.
I know there are servicom units in hospitals but I don’t have the faintest idea of what they do and I have never taken the time to know.”
This is the response of a regular caller at a federal hospital, when asked what she knows about Servicom.
“Once you are not comfortable with the service you get in a hospital, you are supposed to lodge your complaints with the Servicom office in the hospital,” Mr Seyi Ayoola, Administrative Officer at Servicom office, Ibadan, said.
When servicom (Service Compact) was established on March 21, 2004 by then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, its aim was to improve the service rendered, especially by government agencies when the government noticed, through a report that “Services are not serving people, they are inaccessible, poor in quality and indifferent to customers’ needs.
“Public confidence is poor, inequality high, and institutional arrangement confusing and wasteful. There is need for a far reaching transformation of Nigerian society through a service delivery programme as a step in the process of moving to a government that is more in touch with the people, following this, in March 2004, a special presidential retreat deliberated on the report and ended with a conclusion of entering into a Service Compact With All Nigerians…”
Twelve years after, the undoing of servicom is far-reaching and as a matter of fact, has not served its purpose of existence.
In the health sector, servicom offices are almost less functional and little or no activities are recorded in a calendar year. So much is the fact that an average hospital user doesn’t know the function of servicom or how to access it.
Our lack of exploring new services as a people or the neglect of government to make the services of servicom attractive to the end user is a subjective discussion.
A visit to the servicom office of a teaching hospital in the course of writing this piece revealed how cumbersome and frustrating it is to gather information from a department that is supposed to be an information/complaint centre.
Mr Ayoola opined that it is not likely for one to get information (as a pressman) when one visits the servicom units in hospital because “they might think you want to do a report against them (the hospital). When servicom was initiated, the idea was that every office should have a servicom officer, whereby one could monitor the civil servant and take complaints where necessary.
“Servicom is like a watchdog in hospitals where the members of the public can go and lay complaints. Once a report is generated about a hospital; maybe there was neglect in the line of discharging duty or any other anomaly, servicom is expected to take up such case and it could be very devastating for the hospital. There is a chance that any report that will go to servicom would be negative.
In an opinion poll conducted on the Nigerian Tribune website about how much people know about servicom revealed that servicom is almost moribund and near non-existence in the mind of people.
Seventy-seven per cent of the total respondent revealed that they neither know about servicom nor visit its office when they go to the hospital.
Another 16 per cent explained that they know about servicom and seven per cent were indifferent about the activities and existence of servicom.
While reacting to questions on why majority of hospital users don’t know about servicom, Mr Ayoola said: “People tend to shy away from accessing policy documents that tells us that this is your right and benefit when you know some policies, but a lot of people will not go back to review the document. For example, one of servicom work ethics states that “do not leave a file unattended to for 24 hours.” I’m sure a lot of people don’t know that and that could affect them in the area of performance and also, they will not benefit enough from the scheme.
Mr Akinwande added that people don’t know about servicom activities in the hospital because “In Nigeria, the way we work is a man-know-man thing. It is considered an offence to report a man for negligence in Nigeria. Unfortunately, it is affecting us. Not long ago, there was a case involving a popular hospital in Ibadan where the patient was said to have died because she didn’t get the adequate attention she deserved. If servicom has been effective and the family involved had knowledge on servicom, they could have done something about it before it was too late.”
With series of abuses patients suffer from their caregivers, the efficiency of servicom would probably have saved many lives and reserve many rights.
Once one is not comfortable with the service one gets in a hospital, one is constitutionally expected to lodge a complaint with servicom.
Servicom deals with work ethics; for instance, when you are denied of a drug you are supposed to get, or you are not been attended to properly, you can go to servicom to complain. Servicom is like a police that monitors how work is done in the civil service.
When you go to complain with servicom that you have not been treated properly in the hospital, servicom is expected to take up such case and deal with the hospital accordingly.
Though servicom hasn’t been alive to its responsibilities, stakeholders have argued strongly that it can serve its purpose of creation if government devise a new approach in publicity and service delivery.
Truth is a lot of people have complaints but they don’t know where to go to and these are issues one would have gotten solutions by going to servicom.
Mr Akinwande included that for servicom to live up to its billings, it need to be fired up. “The Federal Government should get people onboard that would make it efficient, they should also bring people that would be able to communicate with the general public in the language they would understand,” he said.
Mr Ayoola also added that government needs to go back to the basics and enlighten people more that there is a place that one could go to complain when one is not being treated properly in the hospital.
“Government should come up with focused enlightenment programme that will go beyond just putting servicom in the hospitals, but will actually orientate people on how to access servicom. Government should also empower the desk officers in servicom, proper training should be giving to them also, to make them perform fearlessly and effectively,” he concluded.