THE Government, on Wednesday, unveiled amendments in civil service rules with a view to improving performance of its employees and departments. Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood, who also heads Cabinet Committee on Institutional Reforms, unveiled the reforms package that cover promotion, premature retirement, efficiency and discipline, appointment in MP scale, rotation; and strength of Pakistan Administrative Service.
Pakistan’s civil service was once considered one of the best in the world but with the passage of time it became lacklustre due to political interference, induction of personnel on considerations other than pure merit, lack of proper training opportunities, corruption and absence of proper transparency and accountability. The glory of the civil service cannot be ensured until and unless these and some other crucial issues are addressed in entirety. In this backdrop, the reforms introduced by the present Government covering some aspects of working and performance of the civil servants can be regarded as a step in the right direction. Timelines have now been fixed for completion of inquiry against an official and the whole process will have to be completed in 105 days – 14 days for submission of response, 60 days for the inquiry committee and 30 days for the authority to decide the case. Inclusion of plea-bargain and voluntary return in the definition of misconduct might serve as deterrence against corrupt practices and misuse of powers but why not to eliminate the root i.e. existence of plea-bargain provision in the accountability law; otherwise there would be a contradiction. Composition of boards for premature retirement has also been clarified and three average or below average Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) and plea-bargain can form the basis for forced retirement but the arrangement is prone to misuse as PERs are generally written under influence or personal leanings. The marks assigned for promotion of an official – forty percent share of PERs, thirty percent training and thirty percent board evaluation would give greater leverage to the promotion board to approve or disapprove an official for promotion which is not fair as such boards are generally known for their partiality. Rotation policy aimed at discouraging long stay of a bureaucrat only in one province (of his choice) is a welcome move and hopefully it would be enforced across the board with no exceptions in any case.