Take down the bureaucracy

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  • The service tenure and the structure must be completely overhauled

The slogan may sound extremely revolutionary but it is something that must be done if Pakistan is to successfully step into the twenty first century. By taking the bureaucracy down, the abolition of the entire institution is not intended, what is meant rather is the complete overhaul of the British raj’s last monument. In order to undertake this massive reform programme, the policy makers must strike at the heart of the problem.

Following recommendations are proposed:

1-       Induction: First things first. If the Central Superior Services examinations truly filter out the best and most competent and intellectual candidates for the bureaucracy, why is the service delivery so poor and why does the efficiency of the bureaucracy reflect a continuous downward trajectory?

The procedure of induction for civil servants must be radically reformed. At present, the CSSexam is primarily a written examination procedure, followed by a psychological exam and interview (the results of which are meshed together) and focuses on the candidate’s ability to write unnecessary lengthy answers, cramming and good expression of the English language.

The CSS exam fails to ascertain critical thinking ability, competency, honesty and the ability to put the nation’s interest before personal interest. These are qualities that are integral to any bureaucrat and which most candidates lack. Therefore, a system that focuses on the critical ability, problem solving and logical reasoning should be adopted. Information (which the written exam focuses on) is not as imperative as wisdom (which the CSS exam does not even get close to ascertaining).

2-      Language: The candidates are expected to attempt the written part of CSS in addition to the psychological assessment and interview by making use of the English language. This reflects the psychological complex inherited by the policy makers from the ‘Firangis’. It is socially believed that anyone who has a certain level of command on the said foreign language is an ‘intellectual’.

Even the British colonial machine, when they introduced civil services in the subcontinent in 1858— known as the Imperial Civil Service, took the examination in the local languages and then later taught English to the selected candidates during their period of training.

The candidates for the civil services in Pakistan must be allowed to attempt the examination in whatever language they may choose, or at least they must be given a choice between Urdu and English. English or whatever other languages that are deemed necessary may be taught to the candidates once they have been selected and are undergoing training.

3-      Civil service training: The training of successful candidates which starts at the civil service academy and the Common Training Programme fails to make the future ‘masters’ realise that they are essentially servants of the people and not their masters. The word servant or mulazim is never or rarely used during the training period.

Perhaps the overarching flaw of the training system that the successful candidates undergo is the fact they are made to realise that they are the “elite corps” of the given generation. They are intentionally subjected to a superiority complex and they genuinely start believing that they are ‘superior’ than those that they are meant to serve. In simple words, they are taught to rule and not to serve. They are taught that the people are ‘commoners to be ruled and not masters to be served’.

This can be rectified by first disavowing the chosen candidates of the superiority complex that society and later the academy makes them believe. The word, mulazim, must categorically be used over and over again during the entire course of their training.

Secondly, they must not only be told how to implement laws, they must also be made to learn that the laws are made to serve the people and must be amended according to need.

4-      Structure of the bureaucracy: The structure of Pakistan’s bureaucracy has been borrowed from the Raj and mimics Max Weber’s model of structural hierarchy.

The focus remains on authority and implementation of orders without amending the procedures if the consequences are undesirable. For example, the provinces propound Police Orders that are or reflect British era police models.

This can only be redeemed by the policy makers that sit in the halls of power by legislations pertaining to police and civil administration that reflects contemporary issues and up-to-date ways to solve them. The New Public Management model can be conceived in this regard and tailored to Pakistan’s indigenous needs.

5-      Service structure and tenure: Civil servants in Pakistan enjoy an undaunted tenure regardless of their performance. They may stay in BPS Grade-17 during their entire service. This not only infringes on the rights of junior officers, but also hampers the civil administration’s performance. Similarly, promotions are made on the bases of ACRs (Annual Confidential Reports) and connections to the ruling government.

While officers with impressive reputations such as Omer Rasool are posted to key positions, their work is hampered by the ground reality that they can only continue to work as long as the chief minister continues to like them. On the other hand, officers mired with corruption allegations such as Fawad Hassan Fawad, the prime minister’s principal secretary, continues to enjoy key positions, detrimental to the country’s future, because he has long been rumoured to be a favourite of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), especially the Sharif brothers.

The service tenure and the structure must be completely overhauled. Term-of-service must be introduced at all levels. Additionally, all heads and chiefs (especially of the FIA, police and the chief secretaries) must be appointed for a fix term, let’s say five years.

This will ensure that the institution functions without political interference as the head will no longer be forced to bow before the whims of the chief ministers and prime ministers.

Similarly, the present system does not cater to performance. A performance report should be generated instead of an ACR and promotions must be made on the bases of an officer’s performance in his preceding posting. This can be done in an honest way if the system is made online so that the performance can be judged on the basis of goals achieved can be ascertained.

6-      Politics-administration dichotomy: This dichotomy can only be achieved if the federal and provincial public service commissions are emancipated from the politicians. This can be done by offering a secure term to the chairmen or chairwomen of the commissions.

7-      Salary and perks: The salary and perks of all services, including military cadres, must be uniform. Otherwise, a rift between various services will always continue to impede Pakistan’s progress.

In addition to this, while perks may be decreased, salaries must be increased and especially from grade 17 to grade 20. This is because these grades reflect the initial half of a civil servant’s service. Additionally, less perks and more salary essentially means that the officers would have to pay for different amenities themselves and this would bring them closer to problems faced by the middle and underprivileged classes.

The bureaucracy conundrum can be solved easily and the process of initiating the solution can be undertaken quickly. After all, the bureaucrats themselves come mostly from the middle class and once they enter service, they must be saved from the political leviathan.