Home Opinion Op-Ed Time to resuscitate the civil services in Pakistan

Time to resuscitate the civil services in Pakistan

civil services
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Bushra Zafar |

Civil services, once the Faberge egg of the society, cease to be the choice of talented and creative young people. During the last seven decades, the institution of civil services has seen various fluctuations under different democratic and military regimes. Every government tried to clip the wings of civil servants on the pretext of purging the institution from corruption and aligning it with changing times. Every attempt to reform the vital sector spawned more inefficiency and moral infirmity. As per the Corruption Perception Index, Pakistan is ranked 117th in the comity of the world.

The situation, with regards to the Human Development Index, is also not enviable because Pakistan is plodding at bottom of the list capturing 147th position in the world. Today, our civil servants are caught up in confusion, chaos, and culpability. The prospective government of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) during its recent election campaign has lashed out at different government institutions including the Police, Federal Board of Revenue, FIA and District Magistracy etc. for being sluggish, insensitive and politically biased.

It is an opportune time for the policy makers to remove disparities among different service groups, announce at least a living pay structure in accordance with social requirements and simplify laws to resuscitate the panting civil services.

Imran Khan too, signals the restructuring of civil services by developing human resources. It would not be out of place to say that civil service remains the strength of any state throughout the world. It is a complex structure that affects every sector of society and state. The reconfiguration of our well-rooted civil service requires a practical understanding of the system’s flaws and the workers’ problems. Any exercise to stitch and carve a modified system without holistic treatment would remain futile.

The write up is just an effort to bring out some of the areas which require the attention of policymakers for administrative reforms. Civil service at the federal level is divided into twelve different occupational groups. The groups are allocated on the basis of merit determined by the federal public service commission. Similarly, at the provincial level, people join the second stream of civil service. The third channel is the technical cadre that allows technically qualified people to enter government service.

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A tug of war starts with their entry into service and continues till one walks out from it. The inter groups and cadre rivalry often leads to protracted litigation which disturbs the actual focus of government servants. It is also a settled fact that once one joins any group on the basis of CSS, PCS or technical cadre, it becomes one permanent fate. The administrative structure has been designed to benefit some selected service groups without taking into account the value addition or professional advancement in subsequent years.

Government may devise a policy allowing people from different sectors to move horizontally in civil services on the basis of a credible selection criteria at the middle or senior levels. Pakistan still follows the obsolete process of recruitment that allows hiring of managers at middle management level. People join highly specialized fields like accounts, taxation, police, land revenue, railway without relevant academic qualification. Ironically, the subordinate staff in the organization is often technically more qualified than their supervisory officers. This anomaly leads to organizational imbalance.

Every attempt to reform the vital sector spawned more inefficiency and moral infirmity. As per the Corruption Perception Index, Pakistan is ranked 117th in the comity of the world.

The direct entry of non-technical people at middle management level blocks the prospects of vertical growth of the subordinate staff that opts for corrupt practices in the absence of a clearly defined career path. Training and learning are imperative for organizational development in the corporate and public sectors. Funds are allocated for research and development in order to enhance institutional efficiency and utility. In the public sector, training and professional grooming remains low on the priority list for an operational staff.

For middle and senior managers, the government has devised programs in the form of middle, senior and national management courses. The promotion to the next level is linked with these mandatory courses. National School of Public Policy (NSPP) arranges these training programs at different stations without any actual assessment. All the participants coming from different backgrounds undergo the same training for several months without any substantial impact on public service delivery and decision making.

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On the contrary, the management institutes are huge structures with equally huge administrative costs and without much professional skills. The training can be outsourced to reputable institutes like LUMS or IBA on less than half of the expense with specifically designed quality modules. The training patterns of military armed forces are the best examples for taking a leaf where, unlike civil services, it is not the right of every officer to avail training at the expense of the state. The Training and Evaluation branch selects the participant for training on the basis of professional performance and profiling.

The rules and regulations, which govern the affairs of a large number of government departments, are not only outdated but also complex. It is difficult for both the public and civil servants to understand and implement the legal dispensations in its totality. The procurement and accounting procedures in the government department are cumbersome and lengthy. Likewise, tax laws are made for the easy understanding of tax payers but the language of Pakistan tax law is kept opaque and complicated, which then leads to multiple interpretations.

Government may devise a policy allowing people from different sectors to move horizontally in civil services on the basis of a credible selection criteria at the middle or senior levels.

The land revenue law and provincial excise law are also no exceptions in this regard. The latest reports issued by FPSC have exposed the academic reality of future civil servants. The civil services fail to offer appointments to top-of-the-line students. The unrealistic wage and low public perception have diverted their focus to other available avenues. Media, financial sector, marketing field, research and private teaching have offered them better prospects in terms of financial packages and ease of mind.

It has also been seen that the in-service civil servants are desperate to venture out of their existing profession and look for slots in international consultancy firms or NGOs. Hitherto, the financial aspect has been the major discouraging factor for inertia in civil services. The recent wave of anti-corruption sentiments and the indiscriminate catch game of NAB have also led to the half-hearted behavior of civil servants.

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Lastly, members of the civil service are not born as devil’s disciples. They are wheelers of government policies all across the country and abroad. It takes ages to create and consolidate an institution, but cremating pyre can burn traditions into ashes without delay. Civil servants may have been wrongdoers in certain cases but the majority finds it hard to keep body and soul together. It is not their fate to born and die as paupers in the streets.

The financial compulsions make them become political pawns and compromising figures. It is an opportune time for the policy makers to remove disparities among different service groups, announce at least a living pay structure in accordance with social requirements and simplify laws to resuscitate the panting civil services. In the absence of immediate corrective measure, the nation will soon perform the last rites of Pakistan Civil Services.

Bushara Zafar is a Lahore based teacher and a social activist. She can be reached at zbushi@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.  


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