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A civil service nightmare

Appointments of junior officers to senior grade positions and out of turn promotions have created widespread discouragement

A civil service nightmare

The government’s recent decision to promote ‘selected’ bureaucrats has spurred serious resentment among civil servants. Many senior bureaucrats divulged that more than 45 civil servants have left their jobs, 237 received superannuation before their due promotion, 233 were superseded and more than 177 have taken their cases to court in the past five years. Some went so far as to say that Pakistan’s bureaucracy is perhaps “the worst in South Asia”.

“It’s a disaster for us. It has completely marred the performance of civil bureaucracy,” says a sitting Secretary (BPS 22) requesting anonymity.

The latest figures obtained by The News on Sunday reveal that over 670 of the 810 civil servants were recently promoted from BPS-19 to BPS-20 and BPS-20 to BPS-21 and then to BPS-22 in the past six meetings of the Central Selection Board (CSB) and Special Selection Board. Around 167 officers are said to have been superseded with juniors taking the lead.

An official privy to the minutes of CSB and high-powered board meetings says, “There were reports of intelligence agencies about people who were not promoted, the reports said that they were said to be involved in corruption, misuse of authority, moral corruption, or were incompetent.”

All meetings were headed by the chairman of Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) who heads the CSB which recommends promotion from BPS 19 to BPS 21. The prime minister only headed high-powered meeting of the selection board where the promotion of BPS21 officers to BPS22 were considered.

The Prime Minister approved promotions of some 494 officials on Feb 25, 2016, deferring the promotions of 97 officials who were otherwise cleared by the CSB in its meeting held in December 2016, according to the minutes of the meeting.

The CSB had also deferred cases of 233 officers on technical grounds and 92 for integrity and performance on Dec 16, 2016. Some 65 officials were superseded for integrity and performance, the minutes say.

The Prime Minister approved promotions of some 494 officials on Feb 25, 2016, deferring the promotions of 97 officials who were otherwise cleared by the CSB in its meeting held in December 2016, according to the minutes of the meeting.

However, the apex court and other superior courts have given orders in favour of approximately 100 senior civil servants who were otherwise ignored by the CSB or the prime minister. Many term these decisions crucial and say that they will have “far-reaching consequences”.

With the dismal state of competitive examinations in recent years and a very low pass percentage in the past two years, the government has also sent some 358 officers of various occupational groups/ex-cadres to ineffective positions in the past four years; ineffective position are those in which officers have no authority to run official matters.

Sharing an inside story from the Establishment Division and the Cabinet Division (CD), an officer who was denied promotion says that a disputed promotion policy, which has been declared null and void by the Islamabad High Court first and the Supreme Court later, exposed many flaws in the rules of civil bureaucracy.

“An officer assuming 70 out of 70 score in Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs), 15 out of 15 training score, and a 10 out of 10 score in general traits given by CSB was at risk of supersession if the Board did not give them a 3 out of 5 integrity and general reputation score to him,” he says while explaining the new rules. “This means that the officers obtaining 97 out of 100 score were bound to be superseded.”

As junior officers are promoted, the postings of a bulk of their seniors has become a challenge for the Establishment Division because the un-promoted officers feel disgruntled, and hence focus on their career issues rather than their work and this hampers governance.

“More than 45 senior officers (BPS 19 to BPS 21) are going on long leaves when they realise they will not be given the positions they believe they deserve,” another official of Secretariat Group reveals. He also recommends that the merit objective and performance contracting system will need to be put in place where key performance indicators to be set up for officers and performance targets will pave the way for merit-based promotions.

“A controversial Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) 88(I), dated February 10, 2014, was issued in utter violation of Article 240 of the Constitution of Pakistan that provides for determination of terms and conditions of the civil servants by or under Act of Parliament,” says another civil servant.

Raza Rumi, a senior analyst and a former civil servant, says: “the incentive structure of the bureaucracy has been distorted beyond belief over time. Appointments of junior officers to senior grade positions and out of turn promotions have created widespread discouragement.”

“The terms and conditions of service of many civil servants have been altered to their disadvantage in violation of Section 3 (ii) of the Civil Servants Act, 1973 by usurping a major portion of the posts of the Secretariat Group and fixing a quota of up to 65 per cent on BS-21 and BS-22, for officers of Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) formerly District Management Group (DMG) for promotion against the posts of Secretariat Group, in violation of Section 9 of the Civil Servants Act, 1973,” he explains.

“More than 275 officers have lost not only their right to be considered for promotion in their own occupational group/cadre but have also been downgraded in terms of seniority, as officers of other groups were promoted against the posts of Office Management and Secretariat Groups out of sheer personal malice, bias and prejudice developed against them,” he adds.

Since the issuance of the notification in February 2014, the Secretariat Group officers have been reduced to a minority in their own service, giving them only six vacancies each in BPS-21 and BPS-22. Now they are in litigation in various courts around the country.

A retired officer of the Federal Board of Revenue who was denied promotion to BPS-22 by the all-powerful board along with dozens of other officers from separate groups won a promotion case in a superior court. He hopes that the Supreme Court’s intervention will make the promotion process smoother and more transparent.

“Forty officers, who had served at the BS-21 level in various occupational groups in past four years were not promoted as we were all victims of the new rules for unlawful distribution of vacancies,” he tells TNS. “Section 9 of the Civil Servant Act (CSA) 1973 clearly states that the promotion of a civil servant can only be made against their own cadre posts — but it seems these laws have been blatantly violated since 2014,” he explains.

“Senior civil servants, who otherwise were pushed into a blind alley, recieved justice from the apex court,” he says.

Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal has some productive suggestions to introduce reforms in civil services. But perhaps he has limited ‘say’ in the whole process. Many civil servants say that prime minister Nawaz Sharid did not listen to Iqbal on this issue. Iqbal presented first generation reforms package to Sharif last year but this idea has yet to take root. “We are fully committed to ensure modernisation of public sector and the new proposed reforms would be translated into their Key Performance Indicators,” Iqbal tells TNS.

A former member of FPSC, Fazila Aliani was of the view that the federal government should adopt modern civil service structure to save the bureaucracy. “It is high time to offer attractive packages to civil servants. Otherwise, the corporate sector will appear far more attractive than the civil services sector to everybody . All groups should be given equal share in apportionments of BPS-21 and BPS-22 posts of the federal government.”

“We have prepared some recommendations for regaining the glory of civil service. Let us wait for prime minister’s response,” says Secretary Establishment Department Syed Tahir Shahbaz who has been struggling to bring reform in civil bureaucracy since 2015. “Three new civil service groups on energy, legal affairs and transport & communication perhaps would be a part of new reforms, if they are approved,” he says.

Apparently, these three new groups were floated by the prime minister’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad, Chief Secretary Punjab Zahid Saeed and Planning Minister Iqbal.

With approximately four dozen bureaucrats sent into the pool of Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) — a position often thought of as ‘punishment’ — the government has also dumped some three dozen officers. Those serving in BPS-19, 20, 21 and 22 are waiting for their postings despite the passage of much time. More than 211 posts specified for senior officers in 70 departments are lying vacant and it appears that the government has not made much effort to utilise the expertise of these top officers.

Another issue which has added to senior civil servants’ anxieties is the induction of officers from the army, air force, and navy in bureaucracy. Around 220 officers from armed forces are currently on civilian assignments. “There is a strange desire among junior armed forces’ officers to serve in civilian departments. Despite the fact that it is difficult for these officers to serve in the civilian setup as they are trained in armed forces academies,” says a sitting secretary.

Raza Rumi, a senior analyst and a former civil servant, says: “the incentive structure of the bureaucracy has been distorted beyond belief over time. Appointments of junior officers to senior grade positions and out of turn promotions have created widespread discouragement. In the absence of a civil service reform, these measures are counterproductive. No wonder Pakistan’s governance is in an abysmal state.”

Zahid Gishkori

4 comments

  • The wonderful thing about discretion is that it vests the person exercising it with near-divinity like stature. Irrespective of the results, the world comes to admire the authority exercising it. That’s the moment in history… one shouldn’t loose it. Come what may!

    • Current Civil Sevice structure is highly discriminatory and unjust. It gives one group highest number of seats and others benifits while it keeps other occupational groups deprived. This should stop.
      Many Civil Servants feel decieved when they enter CSS. Many quit it, a few go to litigation, others languish for rest of their life.
      Stystem has become too archaic and demands reforms.

  • Superseding the officers may prove a stimulus for hard work and service delivery by the officers. This tool will only prove good when used objectively and in impartial way. Secondly, annual Performance Evaluation Reports are good for nothing. Most of times these are written by the reporting and counter signing officer without any objectice criteria.
    Simply, the condition of civil bureaucracy is same as of the energy sector in Pakistan.

  • Abdul Malik Brohi

    The problems are facing by the Establishment Division on the part of promotions of officers working in the Ministries / Divisions is due to division of officers in different groups. The officers are hired from different ways i.e after qualifying FPSC’s examination in CSS and Section Officers Promotional Examination (SOPE) and hired through deputation basis.
    The officers working in the Ministries / Divisions are deprived from liking and disliking promotions, resulting to that they are availing long leave availing retirement before the date of their superannuation. Some of the officers are knocking the doors of Courts for seeking justice.

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