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April 6, 2019

Federal ministers being empowered like never before

Top Story

April 6, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet members in the Imran Khan government are being empowered like never before. Although yet to be implemented, decisions have already been taken by the federal cabinet to give an important role to the federal ministers in the appointment of key bureaucrats in their respective domains.

Interestingly, two major reforms concerning the civilian bureaucracy approved by the PTI government so far actually empower the federal ministers. Apparently, these reforms are introduced to improve the civilian bureaucracy but many in the bureaucracy believe that these initiatives will further weaken and politicise the bureaucracy.

Not only that the decision has been taken to have federal ministers’ consent in the appointment of federal secretaries for their respective ministries and divisions but these ministers are also being given an important role in the appointment of heads of key attached departments, corporations, authorities etc.

Previously, the federal ministers had no role in the appointment of federal secretaries. Similarly, in the appointment of heads of corporations, attached departments, authorities, the respective ministers had no role. But now as per the present cabinet decisions, the federal ministers will become far more powerful than before.

This empowerment of the federal ministers will actually legally facilitate the cabinet members to have grip on the civilian bureaucracy under them. Interestingly, initially when the relevant civil service reforms proposal were presented before the cabinet, the aim was to ensure merit-based appointment and security of tenure for key bureaucrats- federal secretaries as well as heads of corporations, attached departments, authorities, regulatory bodies etc. However, it ended up giving the ministers key role in these appointments as an influential groups of ministers in the federal cabinet succeeded to persuade the prime minister and the top decision makers that the ministers need to have their say in such appointments when they are held responsible for the performance of their ministries.

For the appointment of a federal secretary, the minister concerned has also been made part of the selection committee. Once appointed, the secretary will remain on probation for first six months and his continuation will be subject to the performance review by the PM and the minister in charge. The tenure, which was previously three years but hardly respected in any case, has been reduced to two years. It will, however, be extendable for a year but after yet another performance review for which again the minister concerned would have an important say.

In another cabinet decision, the federal minister concerned will also be heading the selection committee which will recommend the appointment of chief executive officer/head of 65 different corporations, attached departments, regulatory bodies, authorities etc. Interestingly, the selection committee would also include secretary of the same ministry/division whose appointment and continuation is greatly subject to the pleasure of his minister.

Additionally, it will be the Division concerned, under the same minister and the same secretary, which will furnish the job description, the eligibility criteria and the skills required for the appointment of CEO of corporation etc. The Selection Committee will decide the evaluation parameters for the job.

The Division concerned will place a public advertisement in the leading newspapers and post on the relevant websites of the government. The Division will then submit the list of eligible candidates to the Selection Committee for initial review. After the shortlisting is done, the Division will arrange the interviews. The Selection Committee will forward a list of 3 to 5 candidates to the appointing authority i.e. the prime minister.

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