On the move

September 20, 2020

Officers are often emotionally disturbed, as their family life is severely affected by frequent transfers

Senior bureaucrats observe that short tenure postings and rapid transfers not only affect an officer’s professional performance, but also disturb their family life, which is a major factor behind poor governance.

They also say that these postings adversely affect the service delivery of an institution, as three to four initial months are required for an officer’s institutional orientation. Just as they are able to grasp the reins of departmental affairs, make long-term plans for delivery – they are transferred. As sufficient time is needed to develop a working relationship with the institution and their subordinates to ensure efficiency.

Moreover, since priorities and focus of officers differ, changes in transfers result in reversals and hampering of prior policy – which may result in ineffective delivery by the institution.

In some cases, particularly in transfer cases of administrative secretaries, a team of subordinates including a personal assistant and private secretary also move with them. This creates uncertainty and confusion within the lower ranks, who serve as the backbone of the service. An amenable working atmosphere and mental satisfaction of employees are the basic criteria for any institution to flourish, neither of them can be facilitated when so many personnel and their families are constantly on the move.

Look at the current state of consistent and rapid transfers, the likes of which have never been witnessed before. In the past two years four chief secretaries of the Punjab and five police IGs have been transferred. The education sector has seen nine administrative secretaries of the School Education Department and eight administrative secretaries of Higher Education Department. A similar scene plays out in the Health, Livestock, C&W, Agriculture, Forests, Food, Information, Home, Law, Finance, P&D, BoR and Local Government. This results in major governance failures like unwarranted price hikes and poor performance of the development sector.

An officer who was transferred twice, before completing his tenure explains that in order for their performance evaluation; the annual confidential report (ARC) to be written, the officer must serve a minimum period of three months in a position. This in turn effects his professional standing and career direction.

He says a three year tenure is necessary for an officer to settle in an institution and ensure good governance.

Another officer, on the condition of anonymity, says that officers are often emotionally disturbed, as their family life is severely affected. It also has financial implications for the government to bear transportation expenses of household shifting – alongside the mental anguish that damage and loss of personal belonging caused to the family from time to time.

The uncertainty directly contributes to psychological burdens on officers and their family lives, opined an officer who was transferred thrice. When an officer is transferred from one district to another, especially in metropolitan cities their application for official residence may take months. This creates large transition periods for families – where children’s education, constantly changing schools and adjusting to new social environments suffers the most.

In order to provide a semblance of stability for their families, some officers opt to settle them in bigger cities for better education. This means that they have to bear extra expenses. Some are forced to keep their families in their native towns or villages, which creates distance and instability in their private lives.

A BS-20 officer, serving in the provincial secretariat, is of the view that when a new chief secretary or IG assumes charge of his office, he establishes his own team to implement his priorities and agenda. For this purpose, he shuffles key positions across the province – which ends up destabilizing entire departments on end.

The current situation of tenure postings remains a major factor in the poor performance across government sectors. Contributing to this, are officer fraught with both professional and personal uncertainty – unable to discharge their duties with peace of mind. If the government is serious about improving governance, it will have to create favourable conditions for officers and their families.

The author is a The News staffer and can be reached at jayeekhan@gmail.com

On the move