Sunday, April 27, 2008

Civil Services facing unprecedented downfall

Civil Services facing unprecedented downfall
The News, April 25, 2008
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The country's Civil Services structure is facing an unprecedented downfall with educated youth losing interest in civil bureaucracy as the latest Central Superior Services (CSS) competition could not even produce the number of successful candidates against the available posts.

Against the total 290 available posts, the number of successful candidates in the 2007 CSS competition was merely 190, leaving almost 100 vacancies unoccupied till fresh induction is made through the next CSS competition. The government is now in the process of allocating services to successful candidates of the 2007 CSS competition.

"This is an extremely serious trend," a senior government servant told this correspondent, adding that because of the government's apathy, the civil bureaucracy had lost its charm for the country's talented and educated youth, who were now more interested in joining private jobs than what were once considered the prime Civil Services of Pakistan.

According to sources, last year too the government could not get enough number of successful CSS candidates to fill in the available posts. The last year's deficiency was 47. A source in the Federal Public Service Commission said that the CSS competitors were mostly average and below average these days because of which even those who just met the minimum threshold were inducted into the Civil Services.

Although, President Musharraf's devolution plan that had abolished the office of deputy commissioner was considered a serious blow to the attractions of the Civil Service structure, it was actually the military regime's indifference towards the reformation of civil bureaucracy that led to the present sorry state of affairs.

Different reform proposals were made but the military regime never had the time to approve any of them. Interestingly, different organisations were made for the purpose, a large amount of taxpayers' money was spent but the status quo never changed.

To further the deterioration of the Civil Services, the country's civilian bureaucracy was militarised in a unique fashion with retired generals becoming virtual masters of their fate. For the first time in the history of the country's Civil Services, almost every key aspect of the bureaucracy's service matter was given into the hands of retired generals. This situation in most cases continues even as of today.

From the civil servants initial appointment to early, mid career and senior level training, promotions and even the Civil Services reform agenda is today decided by ex-servicemen. Initial induction into the elite Civil Services groups and services is made through the Central Superior Services competition by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC), whose chairman is a retired general, Lt Gen Shahid Hamid. Hamid is though not the first-ever chairman FPSC, this is for the first time that the FPSC today has three ex-servicemen as its members.

Those declared successful by the FPSC and later inducted into different services/groups of the Civil Services on the basis of merit and provincial/regional quota are sent to the Civil Services Academy, Lahore, for one year joint training.

The Civil Services Academy (CSA), Lahore, is today headed by retired Major General Sikandar Shami, who is the first-ever director general of the CSA coming from the Army. The CSA provides civil servants the basics of civilian bureaucracy.

Sikandar Shami was previously director general of the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA), Lahore. NIPA is a civil service training institution that offers mandatory course for promotion to BS-19 officers. Without doing NIPA, an officer cannot be promoted to BS-20. Shami handled the NIPA quite strictly, on military lines, which was the reason that a number of officers had declined to join NIPA, Lahore, and preferred to go to Peshawar, Quetta or Karachi.

All the provincial headquarters have one NIPA each. The Peshawar NIPA is also headed by a retired general i.e. Major General Akbar Saeed Awan. The NIPA Karachi too was led by retired Major General Khalid Naeem while NIPA Quetta was led by a retired air force officer.

Not only, that ex-servicemen are the master trainers in NIPAs for mid-career officers, it is also a retired general Javed Hasan, who is the principal of Pakistan Administrative Staff College (PASC), Lahore.

To become eligible for promotion to BS-21, it is mandatory for government servants to attend either the civilian PASC or the military training institution called the National Defence College (NDC). The NDC always remained under the military though this is for the first time that the PASC is being led by a retired general.

Lt Gen (retd) Javed Hasan is not only the principal of the PASC but he is also the Rector of the National School of Public Policy (NSPP), which was set-up a few years back to train and equip civil servants with the right skills to enable them to effectively do their jobs. The authors of the NSPP had never thought that a retired general would run the institution.

Under General Hasan, quite a few retired brigadiers and colonels are serving as master trainers in the top civilian training entity. For senior-level promotions to BS-20 and BS-21, it is the high-powered Central Selection Board (CSB) that recommends promotions. The CSB, interestingly, is headed by a retired general as well. The FPSC chairman Lt Gen (retd) Javed Hamid is also the chairman of the CSB.

There is yet another retired general, Maj General Asif Ali Bukhari, who heads the Civil Services Reforms Unit (CSRU), which is responsible for the Civil Service reforms in the country. The CSRU is responsible for formulating and presenting technical recommendations in order to support Civil Service reforms through outsourcing technical studies and organising seminars/workshops by involving all the stakeholders at the provincial and national level to develop consensus on various aspects of the Civil Service reforms. Bukhari has almost completed three years as head of the CSRU but no one knows what has been his contribution towards the reformation of the Civil Services so far.

1 comment:

Ahmad Tariq said...

True and disappointing too.