un­civil ser­vants

In­sti­tu­tional re­forms are must if we want to stop the rot in civil ser­vices

Governance Now - - CONTENTS - BP Mathur

In­sti­tu­tional re­forms are must if we want to stop the rot in civil ser­vices

an IPS of­fi­cer of Tamil Nadu cadre hold­ing the post of as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice was caught cheat­ing, us­ing high-tech gad­gets, while ap­pear­ing in the IAS ex­am­i­na­tion in oc­to­ber, as was widely re­ported in the me­dia. The case has shaken the con­science of the en­light­ened cit­i­zenry and shows the rot that has set in the civil ser­vices of the coun­try.

The young of­fi­cer who had just en­tered the pre­mier ser­vice had been run­ning coach­ing in­sti­tutes for young aspi­rants to the civil ser­vices and had is­sued ad­ver­tise­ments to that ef­fect, in gross vi­o­la­tion of ser­vice con­duct rules, but the authorities ap­par­ently looked the other way. This case has been viewed gen­er­ally as an iso­lated in­stance of mis­con­duct on the part of an in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cer, rather than one of sys­tem­atic de­fault and a lack of ethics and moral con­duct on the part of mem­bers of the elite civil ser­vices.

a ques­tion arises as to why a per­son who has joined IPS or for that mat­ter any group a cen­tral Ser­vice af­ter clear­ing a very tough, highly com­pet­i­tive ex­am­i­na­tion, should be al­lowed to ap­pear in that ex­am­i­na­tion again to ‘im­prove his rank’, so that he can switch to IAS or some other cen­tral ser­vice of his choice. If such an op­tion is given, will not the can­di­date ne­glect his train­ing and bunk classes, as clear­ing the civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion re­quires full­time at­ten­tion and gru­elling hard work? Will not the salary paid to the pro­ba­tioner and the huge ex­pen­di­ture and en­ergy spent by var­i­ous train­ing acad­e­mies such as that of po­lice, rail­way or in­come-tax go waste if he is al­lowed to switch to an­other ser­vice?

I had the mor­ti­fi­ca­tion to face this prob­lem while I worked as direc­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, re­spon­si­ble for train­ing can­di­dates al­lo­cated to cen­tral fi­nance & ac­counts ser­vices (In­dian civil ac­counts Ser­vice, rail­way ac­counts, De­fence ac­counts, Postal ac­counts and In­dian au­dit & ac­counts Ser­vice). a large num­ber of pro­ba­tion­ers ap­pear in the civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion re­peat­edly ‘to im­prove the rank’ with a view to switch to IAS and other cen­tral ser­vices. This leads to pro­ba­tion­ers ne­glect­ing train­ing and undis­ci­plined con­duct. The di­rec­tors of train­ing in­sti­tutes or the cadre authorities to which the can­di­date be­longs (rail­way Board, In­come-tax/cus­toms & ex­cise Board, comptroller & au­di­tor gen­eral) find

them­selves in help­less sit­u­a­tion, as once a par­tic­u­lar rank and se­nior­ity is as­signed on the ba­sis of the civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion, it can­not be dis­turbed for the rest of the ca­reer (un­less there is a dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against the in­di­vid­ual). The civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion re­view com­mit­tee headed by vet­eran ed­u­ca­tion­al­ist and for­mer union min­ster YK alagh had rec­om­mended that at the con­clu­sion of two-year train­ing, the pro­ba­tion­ers’ per­for­mance and suit­abil­ity be re­viewed by upsc, jointly with the direc­tor of the train­ing in­sti­tute and the cadre author­ity, be­fore he is con­firmed in ser­vice. This would help in weed­ing out un­de­serv­ing can­di­dates, whose per­for­mance was not up to the de­sired stan­dard.

The sit­u­a­tion on the ground to­day is that a new re­cruit to civil ser­vice knows from day one that he can act ‘smart’ and pro­mote his per­sonal in­ter­est and agenda, least both­ered whether it is at the cost of larger public in­ter­est. This sit­u­a­tion has de­vel­oped largely due to the cav­a­lier at­ti­tude of the gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­larly the depart­ment of per­son­nel, to­wards dis­ci­pline and eth­i­cal con­duct on the part of young re­cruits to the civil ser­vices. The depart­ment of per­son­nel en­joys a stran­gu­lat­ing hold on all per­son­nel mat­ters of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees and gives no lever­age or au­ton­omy to the de­part­ments where the em­ployee works to reg­u­late their con­duct, be­hav­iour and ser­vice con­di­tions.

The ex­ist­ing con­duct rules, a legacy of our colo­nial past, are to­tally in­ad­e­quate to deal with sit­u­a­tions of trans­gress­ing eth­i­cal and moral norms by civil ser­vants. They are a set of dos and don’ts and do not lay down val­ues which a civil ser­vant should fol­low. This is in stark con­trast to coun­tries that have an ef­fi­cient and cor­rup­tion-free civil ser­vice and have been con­stantly bring­ing changes in rules and stan­dards in ac­cor­dance with chang­ing times.

In the uk, a com­mit­tee on Stan­dards of Public life headed by lord Nolan had rec­om­mended in 1995 seven prin­ci­ples for all holders of public of­fice. Fol­low­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions a code of val­ues was pre­scribed for civil ser­vants in 1996, which was fur­ther re­vised and elab­o­rated in 2006. The pre­scribed core val­ues are: in­tegrity, hon­esty, ob­jec­tiv­ity and im­par­tial­ity. In 2010 the civil ser­vice val­ues were put on statu­tory foot­ing through the con­sti­tu­tional re­form and gov­er­nance act and made part of con­trac­tual ar­range­ment be­tween the civil ser­vant and his em­ployer depart­ment. ethics codes on sim­i­lar lines have been en­acted by other com­mon­wealth coun­tries such as aus­tralia, canada, New Zealand and Sin­ga­pore. The usa pro­mul­gated the ethics in gov­ern­ment act in 1978, which en­joins set­ting up of an of­fice of gov­ern­ment ethics, with a view to pro­mote ethics and fi­nan­cial in­tegrity in gov­ern­ment. The oge has an elab­o­rate ethics in­fra­struc­ture which in­cludes four el­e­ments: en­force­able stan­dards; fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure sys­tem; pro­gramme of train­ing and coun­selling and an en­force­ment mech­a­nism.

In In­dia the Sec­ond ad­min­is­tra­tive re­forms com­mis­sion in its re­port on ‘ethics in gov­er­nance’ (2007) and ‘re­fur­bish­ing of Per­son­nel ad­min­is­tra­tion’ (2008) had rec­om­mended that civil ser­vice val­ues which all public ser­vants should as­pire be de­fined and made ap­pli­ca­ble to all tiers of gov­ern­ment and paras­tatal or­gan­i­sa­tion. The code of ethics should in­clude: in­tegrity, im­par­tial­ity, com­mit­ment to public ser­vice, open ac­count­abil­ity, de­vo­tion to duty and ex­em­plary be­hav­iour. any trans­gres­sion of th­ese val­ues should be treated as mis­con­duct, invit­ing pun­ish­ment. The gov­ern­ment has not acted on its rec­om­men­da­tions and as on date we do not have an ethics code to guide the be­hav­iour of civil ser­vants nor an ef­fec­tive ethics in­fra­struc­ture to pun­ish a public ser­vant for malfea­sance. as a mat­ter of fact, dur­ing the last fifty years, since the time the first ad­min­is­tra­tive re­forms com­mis­sion was set up (1966-70), a num­ber of high-level com­mit­tees and com­mis­sions with em­i­nent ex­perts as mem­bers have made valu­able rec­om­men­da­tions to re­form the civil ser­vices and public ad­min­is­tra­tion, but their key rec­om­men­da­tions have been ig­nored. This has re­sulted in an in­ef­fi­cient and self-serv­ing bu­reau­cracy which is least both­ered to serve the peo­ple.

The modi gov­ern­ment has come to power on the agenda of de­vel­op­ment. It, how­ever, needs to re­alise that it can ful­fil its prom­ise and meet peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions only if public ser­vices are ef­fi­cient and gen­uinely in­ter­ested in serv­ing the public. David os­borne and Ted gae­bler point out in their in­flu­en­tial book, ‘rein­vent­ing gov­ern­ment’, that if lead­ers tell their em­ploy­ees to fo­cus on their mis­sion but the sys­tems tell them to fol­low rules, the em­ploy­ees will lis­ten to the sys­tems and the lead­ers’ mis­sion will van­ish like a mi­rage. There­fore, what is needed is struc­tural re­form in public ser­vices, en­act­ing an en­force­able ethics code and mak­ing civil ser­vices ac­count­able. The mis­con­duct on the part of the IPS pro­ba­tioner once again high­lights this is­sue.

Dr Mathur is for­mer direc­tor, Na­tional In­sti­tute of Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment, and has held the post of deputy comptroller & au­di­tor gen­eral and ad­di­tional sec­re­tary, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia. His books in­clude ‘Gov­er­nance Re­form for Vi­sion In­dia’ and ‘Ethics for Gov­er­nance’.

The ex­ist­ing con­duct rules, a legacy of our colo­nial past, are to­tally in­ad­e­quate to deal with sit­u­a­tions of trans­gress­ing eth­i­cal and moral norms by civil ser­vants. This is in stark con­trast to coun­tries that have an ef­fi­cient and cor­rup­tion-free civil ser­vice and have been con­stantly bring­ing changes in rules and stan­dards in ac­cor­dance with chang­ing times.

safeer karim / Face­book

Safeer Karim, the IPS of­fi­cer who was caught cheat­ing in the civils ex­ams

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