Civil ser­vice re­forms pack­age

Enterprise - - National news -

The Pak­istan govern­ment has fi­nalised a civil ser­vice re­forms pack­age that, on the face of it, lacks ma­te­rial changes in the present ob­so­lete struc­ture. The Govern­ment has also shelved the pro­posal of es­tab­lish­ing the new Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Ser­vice. How­ever, it has in­cluded the sug­ges­tion of at least 16 years of education for qual­i­fy­ing for the Civil Su­pe­rior Ser­vices. A new An­nual Con­fi­den­tial Re­port sys­tem is also be­ing in­tro­duced for eval­u­at­ing civil ser­vants on the ba­sis of at­tributes of lead­er­ship and soft skills. In ad­di­tion, there is a pro­posal to form three new civil ser­vice groups on en­ergy, le­gal affairs, and trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

In a wel­come change, the pro­posed re­form seeks to cre­ate a se­lec­tion struc­ture that would al­low the govern­ment to hire spe­cialised cadres, who would be re­cruited by sit­ting for sep­a­rate, clus­ter-based ex­am­i­na­tions for each ser­vice group. And to al­low the govern­ment to re­cruit top tal­ent, as well as crack down on cor­rup­tion, it is very rightly be­ing pro­posed to of­fer higher salaries for civil ser­vice po­si­tions. More than the low salaries, how­ever, it is the dis­cre­tionary pow­ers in the hands of th­ese bu­reau­crats that tempt them to in­dulge in cor­rup­tion. In the ab­sence of an au­to­matic in­sti­tu­tional ac­count­abil­ity process, this temp­ta­tion be­comes even more per­sua­sive. So, we agree that per­for­mance rather than se­nior­ity should be made the over­rid­ing cri­te­rion for pro­mo­tion.

While wel­come, th­ese re­forms seem like a mere re­touch­ing of a dis­torted pic­ture. To start with, we need to im­prove our education stan­dards to en­sure that those who sit for the com­pet­i­tive ex­am­i­na­tions have the re­quired aca­demic back­ground. Be­ing the ba­sic in­stru­ment of gov­er­nance, most fail­ures of the state of Pak­istan since its in­cep­tion, as well as that of our suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments, can be traced di­rectly to our out­dated civil ser­vice struc­ture. In­stead of serv­ing as the steel frame­work of a mod­ern in­de­pen­dent state, our civil ser­vice has re­mained glued to an ar­chaic le­gal sys­tem. The con­sti­tu­tional job se­cu­rity cover that the civil ser­vice had en­joyed un­til the early 1970s had ren­dered the of­fi­cer cadre with im­mense dis­cre­tionary pow­ers, im­mune to ac­count­abil­ity, and af­ter they were de­prived of this cover, they be­came even more un­ac­count­able as they sought and got pro­tec­tion un­der a crass political pa­tron­age sys­tem. This is what any re­form to the civil ser­vice needs to ad­dress.

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