–Manifestos of PML-N and MMA keep mum over restructuring bureaucratic set-up
–PPP aims to establish task force for reforms comprising stakeholders, experts
Pakistan Today examined the manifestos of major political parties ahead of the 2018 polls regarding the civil service reforms and it was observed that the issue was not prioritised.
While the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) did not have any policy, the PPP and PTI failed to chart out a clear-cut plan on how to review the bureaucratic structure and depoliticise its practices.
PPP FOR TASK FORCE:
The PPP, in its manifesto, stated that Pakistan’s bureaucratic structure needs to be restructured and re-oriented with the aim of improving governance and serving citizens substantively.
The PPP manifesto aims to establish a task force with equal representation from all political parties represented in the Parliament as well as other stakeholders and experts, which will include retired civil servants, academics and members of civil society. This task force will be mandated to recommend reforms on creating a balance between security of tenure and accountability of civil servants. Lack of security of tenure and frequent transfers and postings are a disincentive to honestly and efficiently carry out tasks.
The existing accountability mechanism based on the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) does not measure performance in a transparent manner and the creation of credible performance mechanisms will also be part of the mandate of the task force.
Moreover, the task force will also be mandated to put in place reliable sanctioning mechanisms for bureaucratic misconduct. As of now, the sanctioning of civil servants takes place on subjective criteria and whims of politicians. Efforts will be taken to discontinue this arbitrary practice. Also, the culture of Officers on Special Duty (OSD) will be discontinued.
Furthermore, the task force will also be mandated to recommend reforms on the mid-career training of civil servants so that they can enhance their capacity and skills while keeping abreast with fast-changing developments in the economy and with the best global practices in the world of information technology, management and diplomacy. Based on the recommendations of the Task Force, the PPP will initiate necessary legislation and constitutional amendments (if need be) to formally reform the civil services.
The party in its previous tenure had inducted a jurist known for his integrity and honesty to head the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) which ensured merit-based induction in the bureaucracy at the entry level.
In addition, the PPP government had also increased salaries across all tiers of the civil service over and above the prevailing inflation rate to ensure that the gap between private and public-sector salaries is reduced.
This reduced the disincentive to join the civil service, an aspect which had marred civil service employment over the past three decades, and had also encouraged corruption in the bureaucracy.
It is pertinent to mention here that the outgoing government PMLN had also ambition to bring reforms in civil services but it failed to bring reform as the party high-ups lacked the will. Moreover, the division between the bureaucracy was widened in the last five years due to the government policy to promote one powerful group, the PAS.
The government had in 2014 introduced a notorious SRO which gave 65 per cent seats to the PAS and rest 35 per cent to officers of 11 groups.
Moreover, the high-ups of the PAS passed a similar law at Punjab-level and they deprived the officers of the PMS of serving on important positions.
PTI, in its manifesto, mentioned that it will transform the civil service into a merit-based, depoliticised cadre of professionals.
The civil service in Pakistan has seen 38 major reforms in the last 70 years. These reforms have not been able to depoliticise the service, or attracted bright young talent on merit, and technical expertise.
The implementation of civil service reforms is our priority and we will assign the right officer to the right job without any political consideration, tenure protection of officers, internal accountability, along with a performance audit and a review of the compensation package moreover allow lateral entry into the service of competent professionals and ensure compulsory retirement after 2 supersessions through a transparent mechanism.
One officer of the planning commission, while talking to Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity, stated that not a single government in past brought reforms in bureaucracy whenever it will give free hand to officers.
He said: “We prepared 58 points regarding how to bring reform in bureaucracy but no one was serious as former PM instructed in December 2017 to carry out the in-depth analysis of CSS result.”
“We sent some reminders to PM Office for minutes but no one has given any response on this matter so far more over the next government should make amendment in the 2014 establishment division SRO,” the officer added.
He suggested that the next government should discourage the tradition of appointment of retired officers on important seats, adding that there was a dire need to introduce specialised groups in bureaucracy. “If the government sends the officers to institutes like IBA, LUMS and NUST for training, it will surely enhance the capability of officers,” he argued.
With additional reporting from Shah Nawaz Mohal