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September 16, 2018

Bureaucracy must deliver transparently or face consequences


September 16, 2018


LAHORE: It seems that the bureaucracy is testing the will and competence of the new government, as it has not generally moved in the last four weeks to correct the lucrative postings given out of merit.

Deliverance of government policies is in the hands of top bureaucrats. The federal ministers are unlikely to interfere in the matters of postings and transfers and as it needs to be. Under these circumstances, the bureaucracy should be more cautious in following the rules and regulations at least even if it wants to assign a certain post to their favourite.

The rule of merit, seniority, and professionalism should be strictly observed. Bypassing these norms should result in strict action against the senior bureaucrats.

It goes to the credit of the present government that it has refrained from uprooting the bureaucracy and even in postings and transfers has retained some of the favourites of the previous government; perhaps on merit.

The prime minister in his address to senior bureaucrats had requested the ‘baboos’ to deliver transparently, irrespective of their past affiliations with the previous governments. Prior to this meeting, it was observed that the top bureaucrats have generally not moved to correct their past mistakes. They think that this mantra of merit and transparency would be forgotten after some time.

If that happened, it would be tragic for the country. We need to give priority to our exports. The previous government appointed a private sector businessmen leader as the head of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) – the prime organisation that is expected to boost the country’s exports and keep imports in check.

Unfortunately, the opposite happened. After this debacle, the government, and particularly the top bureaucracy, should have appointed a competent and senior bureaucrat to head this organisation.

The non-performing commercial counsellors and those appointed on political grounds should have either been called back or at least a warning letter should have been written to them to perform or leave the job. The TDAP chief is duty bound to keep a vigilant eye on them.

However, the top bureaucrat in the Ministry of Commerce has appointed a grade 20 officer as head of TDAP. The rules demand that the post should go to grade 21 or above.

There are numerous commerce officers of 21 and 22 grades in the Ministry of Commerce, but they have been bypassed. The current TDAP chief is a grade 20 officer, who is heading both TDAP and NICL for the last nine months.

Both institutions are not delivering. The senior bureaucrats of the ministry are feeling demoralised as they have been passed over without any explanation. The TDAP head is said to be the nephew of Syed Khursheed Shah.

This is just one example. There are many others in each ministry. Time has come to take bureaucracy to task.

The minister may give the bureaucrats free hand in postings and transfers, but they should be asked to explain in writing the reasons for these deeds.

Moreover, in case a junior is posted on a post meant for a higher grade, it should be justified or the post be given to the senior.

Non-interference in posting and transfers by the ruling party does not mean that bureaucracy be given a free hand. They should be fully accountable for their deeds.

One hopes that the recommendations of Dr Ishrat Hussain on bureaucracy reforms would be implemented in letter and spirit.

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