Saturday October 16, 2021

Civil service reforms: PTI sees uneven success in implementation

August 26, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan’s government is in the process of introducing civil services reforms, some of which are already in place, whereas some are under consideration including those related to pay and pensions of civilian and armed forces.

The final draft of progress report on civil service reforms presented by former advisor to prime minister on institutional reforms Dr. Ishrat Hussain, a copy of which is available with The News reveals that the pay and pension policy for civilians and armed forces will be introduced soon. For this purpose, a ‘Pay and Pension Commission’ was reconstituted under the chairmanship of Ms. Nargis Sethi in October 2020 and is currently finalizing its recommendations which will be implemented soon.

The institutional reforms committee has recommended for competency based CSS examination reforms according to which a CSS aspirant willing to join the foreign service of Pakistan or audit and accounts services will have to pass the relevant subject in the exam. To reduce the workload for Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) the committee has suggested a screening test for all the CSS candidates. Every year around 30,000 to 35,000 candidates appear for the exams which can be reduced by introducing a GRE, GAT or SAT like screening test before the actual CSS exams. Only those passing the screening test should appear for the CSS exams, the report said.

Similarly, the report also recommended induction of technical experts in the federal secretariat who can hold positions up to deputy and joint secretary in a ministry. The ministries where these experts will be inducted have been identified. Furthermore, the federal government has brought some changes in the light of 18th Amendment surrendering 650 posts of Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS) to the provincial civil service officers. Earlier there were 1700 postings under the PAS quota which now have been reduced up to 1150, the report says.

In November 2018 the government approved 17 posts of Technical Advisors in various divisions in MP Scales, but despite a lapse of two years only two ministries have hired technical advisors. The Establishment Division is reviewing the progress. The Civil Servants Promotion (BPS-18 to BPS-21) Rules, 2019 have also been notified whereas Central Selection Board (CSB) would promote officers to Grade 20 and 21. The Islamabad High Court has upheld the new rules. Earlier the promotions of the civil servants were carried out on seniority basis but now the performance (40 points), training results (30 points) and selection board’s evaluation of the officers’ personality and service record (30 points) will decide whether to promote him/her or not. Similarly, Civil Establishment Code (ESTACODE) and Manual which deals with matters of posting, transfer and tenure of Civil Servants is being updated and first draft was to be completed by June 2021.

According to the report, HR policies for the Federal Government employees would be uniformly laid down by the Establishment Division but their execution would be the responsibility of the respective divisions. Digitization of the service records is currently underway. The Prime Minister has approved some important amendments in the Civil Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 2020 to complete inquiries within stipulated time frame to stop lingering process. Accordingly, plea bargain and voluntary return have been included as a misconduct and now for first time such civil servants can be proceeded against. In addition to this, officers who have completed 20 years’ service but their performance has not been consistently satisfactory over a considerable period of time or are found guilty of corruption or superseded by the Promotion Boards or Committee or have an unbecoming conduct, will be retired. The first meeting of the high powered board was recently held, the report reveals.

The Planning and Development Division has delegated powers of approval of development scheme worth upto Rs.2 billion’ to the provincial governments and federal ministries. Similarly a committee is looking at various laws, processes, rules and regulations to eliminate unnecessary and outdated regulations to facilitate ease of doing business. They regulations will be streamlined to facilitate the business community.

Furthermore, four streams of ministries of Economic, Social Sector, Technical and General Management have been identified in the Federal Secretariat. The officers will be placed in a stream and cross- stream transfers would not be allowed. Similarly, a three tier system is being introduced in Federal Secretariat to reduce the hierarchy and expedite decision making. The federal cabinet has approved this scheme on January 4, 2021, the report said.