Mr. Toba Otusanya is an accomplished and seasoned technocrat who has experience spanning over two decades. The Director General has distinguished himself of core competence as a great leader and innovative administrator in public service.
In an exclusive interview with Africa Public Sector magazine, the public sector reforms expert bares his mind on the new ways Lagos State Government is connecting with the citizen.
- Tell us about Office of Transformation, Creativity and Innovation (OTCI)?
OTCI was established in 2009 as office of transformation but later in 2015 was re-christened to office of transformation, creativity and innovation. The office has a very strong mandate; the mandate can be broken into two parts- the first part deals with public service reforms, i.e. how do we make public service more effective and efficient through the policy process and people management, the second part of our mandate deals with how do we promote creativity and innovation within the public service. As an office we have introduced several initiatives which include; service Charter, Citizen Gate, Ease of Doing Business, Growth Mindset Initiative and also the establishment of creativity and innovation committees across the public service, all of which is designed to address the two key aspects our mandate.
- In what ways is OTCI addressing bureaucratic bottleneck in civil service?
There are several initiatives put in place to help improve service delivery, for the purpose of this interview I will focus on two. First is the Service Charter, which was launched as far back as 2012, designed as a social contract between MDAs (Ministry, Department & Agency) and the public. Service charter comes with service pledges, service standards and commitment to which citizens are entitled in terms of opening hours of the agency, how long it takes for a particular service to be delivered as well as all the cost associated with the service such that if there is a service failure; citizen have the right to a redress i.e. they can hold the agency accountable. So far, service charter has been put in place in 28 MDAs and 14 general hospitals, we are still looking to scale up this year to see how many additional agencies we can bring under the framework.
The second area I will be speaking on is the ease of doing business reforms which is also about improving service delivery to SMEs. On the EODB reforms, the objective is to improve how long it takes for citizen to obtain their planning/construction permit as well as registering property. On obtaining construction permit we have done a lot.
“We have automated the entire process. The entire process can be done online right from completing the application, uploading all the relevant architectural drawings up to the point of making payment. “
Additionally, we have also removed infrastructure development charge (IDC) for the construction of warehouse. So, all of those reforms are geared towards improving and making it easier for citizens to be able to interact with government, as a matter of fact, the number of days to obtain construction permit as come down from 42days to 28days on average. You can access the Lagos State Electronic Planning Permit Platform at www.epp.lagosstate.gov.ng
On registering property, we have also implemented a number of reforms; all our demand notices for fees have been consolidated into a single demand notice for land transaction, which means you do not have to deal with multiple agencies, all the charges are consolidated in one single demand notice and once that single payment is made that completes the payment element of the transaction.
In addition to that, Mr. Governor quite recently delegated the signing of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) to 6 commissioners in addition to himself to fast track the approval process. Also, to obtain a Certified True Copy , you no longer need a sworn affidavit, this is not required anymore. Furthermore, if you have any issue on land transactions you can use the citizens’ gate portal to file a feedback and get the appropriate redress.
- And how has the citizens’ gate Project fared?
Well, Citizen’s gate is an electronic feedback portal which was designed to bring the government closer to the people, it was launched in 2017 with 22 pilot MDAs but in 2018 it was scaled up to cover all the MDAs. Through the platform, you do not need to come to Alausa Secretariat to interact with the government. In the comfort of your home, offices you can interact with the government whether by accessing the portal through the web www.citizensgate.lagosstate.gov.ng or you download the app either from google play store or apple store. I will encourage Lagos residents to download the app and start interacting with the govt, you will be amazed how simple and easy it is to use the platform. For clarity, when we say feedback it is in 4 categories. When you go on the citizens gate portal, you can make an inquiry, you can make suggestions on how government can improve services, you can lodge a complaint where services rendered are poor and lastly, if you had a fantastic experience interacting with govt, you can commend us and encourage us to do more. Since inception we have received well over 5,000 tickets on the platform and this is expected to go up significantly in the coming months following the kick off of our public awareness campaign which starts in April.
- What are some of the challenges you face as an agency saddled with the responsibility promote creativity within the Public Service
I think the major challenge is the difficulty in changing mindset because the public service is a Bureaucratic Institution and you have significant number of civil servants that are used to doing things in certain way. It is always difficult when you are preaching creativity & innovation; you are telling them to come out of their comfort zone to try new things and new ways of working.
However, through the growth mindset initiative launched about 18months ago by OTCI, the rationale is to change the orientation of the public service from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, coupled with the establishment of the committee of creativity and innovation across the public service, we are beginning to see some level of traction because quite a number of civil servant are starting to come up with multitude of ideas on how to improve the public service.
- Which of your achievement are you most proud of?
I will say it has to be the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) impact award, this is because I consider it a privilege and honour to be part of a team that over a 3 year period was able to move Nigeria up 39 steps on the Ease of Doing Business ranking. I think that is something that will stay with me for a very long time.
- How will you describe your Leadership Style?
I will probably describe it as transformational. The reason being, when I conceive a vision in terms of what needs to be changed or needs to be reformed, I then sit with my team and we work aggressively to achieve that vision. For example, one of the visions I had was to see Lagos State government become a leading institution in terms of professional human resource management and my team and I worked aggressively on that.
Consequently, in 2017 and also 2019, LASG won the CIPM HR best practice award. Interestingly in 2019, apart from winning the HR best practice award for the public sector category, we also won the HR optimisation award. The HR optimization award cut across both the public sector and private sector. So, for Lagos State Government to come out on Top beating leading private sector organisations in the process is testimony to the fact that appropriate leadership style and the right team ethos would always yield maximum result.
- Describe yourself in 3 words?
Calm, determined and resourceful