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Injustices within government structure

Malik Ashraf

PUBLIC Administration is of pivotal importance as far as delivery of necessary goods and services to the citizens are concerned. It is imperative that the public administration carries out its responsibility with utmost efficiency at all levels without any discrimination. Woodrow Wilson in his famous book on administration said “It is the object of administrative study to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and, secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost either of money or of energy.” Efficiency of the administration depends on a number of factors. However the most important element in making the public administration responsive, efficient and corruption free is the justice-based career progression of the staff and the officers. Unfortunately this aspect has never been taken care of by successive governments in Pakistan with the result that the government administrative machinery presents an unbelievable spectacle of glaring anomaly and injustice among the people of the same cadre charged with identical responsibilities.
My motivation for writing this piece stems from a report in the media regarding career prospects of Assistant Private Secretaries working in the ministries and their attached departments. According to the report the Assistant Private Secretaries working in the ministries and their attached departments are in the basic pay scale-16. The ones in the ministries because of the greater number of vacancies get promoted to grade-17 after five years and within the next twelve years get two more promotions to reach grade-19, whereas their counterparts working in the attached departments due to non-availability of the same career prospects remain in the same scale for 15-20 years causing a lot of frustration and heart burning among them. That is a flabbergasting reality which vitiates against the principle of fairness and equal opportunity. Unfortunately journalists and opinion makers who write for the newspapers are so engrossed in contributing on political issues that they really do not care for such matters although they have a significant effect on governance. Such anomaly and injustice within the service structure not only breed frustration among the affected persons but also encourage corruption and inefficiency, a bane for good governance.
In the bureaucratic setup, the role of the subordinate staff particularly the private secretaries is very significant in ensuring coordination with other departments, ministries and even matters requiring liaison with general public. Since posts of private secretaries are non-cadre posts, they can be lumped together and made interchangeable between the ministries and the concerned departments and promotions done on the basis of the combined seniority with a view to ensuring equal opportunities for all of them as well as fulfilling demands of justice and fair play. The PTI Government which boasts of providing good governance to the people first of all needs to set its own house in order by making sure that all such injustices and anomalies within the administrative structure of the government are removed, particularly among the cadres of the subordinate staff.
Apart from the anomalies and discrepancies among the lower cadres there are also glaring injustices even among the officers of the occupational groups of the Central Superior Services. The officers of the former DMG and now Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) have a quota of 65% in the posts of grade-22 of the federal government and rest of 35% are distributed among other occupational groups. The result is that most of the federal secretaries come from PAS. That is a mind-boggling injustice and anomaly. In the interest of justice and fair play the posts of Grade-22 should be equally divided within all the occupational groups. This situation is also a cause of rivalry within the CSS cadres, particularly PAS and other groups. The latter due to their greater number and occupation of important decision making posts are continuously engaged in protecting their vested interests and working against interests of other groups, particularly their career prospects.
The PTI government has formed a task force for bringing service reforms headed by Dr Ishrat Hussain and according to some reports in the media it is being suggested to abolish the CSS cadre and form different clusters and to recruit officers for different cadres having educational background commensurate with the service for which they will be recruited. It means that the present system of common training of officers belonging to different services will be abolished. If that is the case it will be a big mistake. Change for good is welcome but the change for worst is not desirable. There is no need for forming different clusters. Probably those who are suggesting formation of different clusters and specialised training to the officers thus recruited have not studied properly the existing system for recruitment to the occupational groups of CSS. True that people get allocated to the CSS occupational groups for which they do not have compatible educational background but that is not a valid ground to demolish the whole structure.
The officers after their common training at the Civil Services Academy go to their allocated departments where they also undergo a specialized training for the job that they have to perform during the progression of their career. During their career they also undergo capacity building courses to keep themselves abreast with the new trends and demands of their profession. That amply nullifies the argument for the formation of different clusters. The biggest advantage of the common training of officers of different occupational groups of CSS at the Civil Services Academy is that they develop friendship and acquaintance with each other which help in promoting coordination among different departments of the government when they are posted in them. It also helps in nudging efficiency. Therefore, instead of dismantling the entire structure, necessary reforms within the existing system are required, particularly in regards to equal career prospects for the CSS officers and providing state of the art facilities at the institutions of specialized training in line with changes necessitated by the technological advancement.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.