Characteristics of Civil Service

The civil service has a global principle or characteristics guiding it rules and regulation. Some of the principles include:

  • Permanency/security of tenure
  • Political neutrality
  • Anonymity
  • Hierarchy/classism
  • Merit system
  • Strict regulation/procedures
  • Impartiality
  • Expertise
  • Training
  • Remuneration
  • Professionalism


Tenure means the term or period a civil servant has to serve before retirement. This implies that a civil servant is recruited at an early age to serve in the civil service with an implied promise of making his entire carrier in the civil service.

The tenure of civil servant is assumable permanent as long as he/she abides by the rules and regulation governing the day to day administration and management of the government business.

However, civil servant who has reached the age of sixty years or has put in the thirty-five years of service is deemed to be due for compulsory retirement.

An officer with a bad record may be sacked, terminated or even dismissed at any point in time, if proved guilty of an offence beyond reasonable doubt.


Political neutrality means that civil servants should not identify themselves with any political party and that they should be non partisan in the discharge of their duty.

They should therefore be loyal and should serve any government that comes in power with equal dedication.

Explanation of this characteristics hinges on the fact that if a civil servant belongs to a political party or is in sympathy with the party, there is the tendency that such civil servant would be sabotaging the effort of the opposing party and supporting the effort of his own party.


Officer in the civil service are seldom heard of i.e. they are supposed to be seen and not heard of claiming credit or failure for the success or failure of government policy or action at any point in time; instead the political master of the civil servant i.e. minister or commissioner are always in the vintage position of being seen and heard.


Hierarchy is the organization or arrangement of office and officials of various ranks and grades in a systematic order from below to the top in superior-subordinate relationship.

Communication, command and control in the office follow the line in the hierarchy. It makes control and coordination easy, but it causes delay.

Classism means that the service is divided into various classes namely, administrative, executive, clerical and auxiliary classes. Each is determined by the level of education achieved by the civil servant.


Civil servants are recruited and promoted on the basis of merit. Thus recruitment is based on qualification and competence determined through competitive written examination and oral interview conducted usually by the civil service commission.

Promotion is also based on laid down criteria, which ensure that only productive and competent civil servants are promoted. Merit system is applied in the service to check favoritism, sectionalism and tribalism.


One of the most important principles guiding the operation of civil service is that it operations is rigidly laid down procedures are found in the General Order (G.O) financial institution and establishment circulars.

Non flexibility and strict adherence to rules which tends to relate to bureaucratic tendencies or red tapism. It is the attempt of the civil service to maintain these singular characteristics that actions are sometimes delayed and this brings about criticism from various quarters.

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