Concerns Over Recent 250% Hike In DTA For Public Officers  

<strong>Concerns Over Recent 250% Hike In DTA For Public Officers  </strong>

Amid scarce revenue the Federal Government has increased Duty Tour Allowances, DTA for public office holders and civil servants.

Specifically, the government has approved the upward review of DTAs for ministers, permanent secretaries and federal civil servants on level one to 17.

The approval was conveyed in a circular dated August 31 by Chairman of National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta.

According to the circular, the new allowances take effect from September 1.

“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has approved the upward review of Duty Tour Allowances applicable to Permanent Secretary/Equivalent from N20,000 to N70,000, and to minister/SGF/HCSF/Equivalent from N35,000 to N80,000”, the chairman said.

This comes at a time when Nigeria faces severe economic problems, which has seen government revenue plummet while its debt has ballooned.

The government’s 2022 budget has a deficit of over N7 trillion, and debt servicing has surpassed revenue this year.

Personnel costs for civil servants and the overhead costs of thousands of offices are among the areas where the government spends the most on, drawing calls for reduced cost of governance. Capital projects that reach the majority of the population have received less over the years.

An increasing amount of public spending is allocated to DTAs as a core instrument of the incentive structure. These are mainly given to provide financial incentives to employees in order to increase their motivation to attend meetings or travel for work missions. Anecdotal as well as systematic evidence from many countries and projects suggests that abuse of per-diems is becoming the rule rather than the exception; which distorts the impact of development efforts. At a time when the efficiency and effectiveness of public spending features high on the political and development agendas, improving the efficiency of the management of DTAs could have a major impact on public finances and on attainment of development goals. Unfortunately, this topic has been largely unexplored and little has been written on the subject.

AljazirahNigeria is of the stand that the political economy of DTAs be structured in the context of public interest.

The conception of DTAs in our public service requires an alignment with the prevailing realities of the economy. The DTA structure should be constantly checked and the extent to which it is used and abused, there should be a conceptual framework that could help to model the mechanism through which the DTA payment actually influences motivations and behaviours.

Although DTAs are in many cases justified payment, the current practices are moving from being part of the solution to becoming part of the problem. In a way, the earning DTAs negatively influence projects and programmes design, management decisions, and how employees spend their time. All these have a powerful distorting impact on development efforts.

We urge a conceptual framework which demonstrates the limits of per-diems as a motivational factor for travel missions and draws implications for economic theory and policy. The framework shows how intrinsic motivation is partially destroyed when large per-diems are paid.

As the amount of DTA increases, the incentive of intrinsically motivated individuals’ decreases while the incentive of extrinsically motivated ones increases; explaining for example why paying high DTA rates for a meeting will increase the probability of having inappropriate people attending. Where public spirit prevails, that is as an intrinsic motivation, using large DTA incentives to increase motivation to attend meetings and workshops comes at a higher price than suggested by standard economic theory. That is especially the case as such incentives tend to crowd out the most suitable participants.

The generalised use of DTA as a motivational factor should not be a straightjacket; we should explore alternatives for a more efficient system of productivity in public service.

The challenge here is that when no DTA is paid for attending a workshop, there is a risk that the workshop room will be empty. On the other hand, if a large amount of DTA is paid, there is a risk that inappropriate people participate in the workshop, as suitable people will be crowded out, and unsuitable ones will fill the workshop room. This implies that the issue might not be a question of whether or not to pay for DTAs, but to find the optimal DTA rate that will allow for the holding of the workshop and the participation of the appropriate persons.

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