Govt announces major civil service reforms aimed at improving governance

Published January 20, 2021
Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood addresses a press conference on civil service reforms. — DawnNewsTV
Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood addresses a press conference on civil service reforms. — DawnNewsTV

Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood on Wednesday announced major reforms to the Civil Service of Pakistan in a bid to improve the system of governance and create ease for the nation.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad in his capacity as the head of the Cabinet Committee on Institutional Reforms, the minister said there were many factors to improving the system of governance but "one very important part is reform of civil services". He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had a "personal interest" in the reforms and contributed to them along with the help of his office.

He said there were six parts to the civil service reforms which were decided upon yesterday. He outlined reforms in the following major areas:

  • Civil Servants Promotion (BS-18 to BS-21) Rules, 2019
  • Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020
  • Efficiency and Discipline Rules, 2020
  • Revised MP Scale Policy, 2020
  • Rotation Policy, 2020
  • Rationalisation of cadre strength — induction in PAS

Civil Servants Promotion Rules

Mahmood said a major problem in promotions in the civil service was confusion about who held the authority to promote and that "on many aspects, there wasn't clarity on who was the appointing authority."

"For the first time, the appointing authorities have been categorically defined," the minister said, so there would no longer be confusion and ambiguity about who could promote employees.

Secondly, he said officers who had any pending investigations for references in the Federal Investigation Agency or the National Accountability Bureau would not be promoted and their promotion would instead be deferred until the inquiry against them was concluded.

However, he said, promotion boards will be allowed to consider the promotions of those officers who hadn't been promoted due to pending cases against them for three or more years.

One issue the minister highlighted in promoting government officers was that of a "tradition that everyone gets a good [evaluation] report. So it becomes difficult to evaluate [employees]."

To rectify this problem, Mahmood stated that the weightage for different aspects of a promotion appraisal would be changed.

  • Annual performance reports to have 40 per cent weightage
  • Training reports of officers to have 30pc weightage
  • Interview of the evaluation board to have 30pc weightage

Mahmood said the evaluation boards were given more power and authority to aid in the evaluation of officers and respond to the problem of inaccurate reports. Furthermore, to ensure transparency, the reasons for deferral will also be conveyed to the concerned officers, he added.

Civil Servants Rules, 2020

Mahmood also addressed the issue of directed retirement and the mechanism to retire a civil servant before their tenure ends. He said it had been defined now who held the authority to retire civil servants.

According to the federal minister, the chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission would have the authority to direct retirements for grades BS-20 and above, the secretary for grades BS-17 to BS-19 and the senior joint secretary for grades BS-16 and below.

Mahmood said it was observed in the civil services that once people got hired in government jobs, they spent their whole lives in them whether they worked or not and "there are many people who don't work."

The policy he outlined for such individuals is that grounds for their retirement will be possible in the following cases:

  • Three annual reports of average or below-average performance
  • Officers who reach grade BS-21 but are passed over for promotion three times by the promotion board and not found worthwhile for promotion
  • Officers who claim plea bargain and voluntarily return money in corruption references against them
  • Deficiency and weakness of character

He said the individuals who didn't work or exhibited other faults would be "sifted" through scrutinising records and looking at their performance.

Efficiency and Discipline Rules

Mahmood stated that a number of changes were introduced in the efficiency and discipline rules which define a government job to employees.

He said previously there used to be substantial delays in inquiries against officers due to a convoluted system where an authorised officer received the case but it was later sent to another authority to decide the penalty. To expedite this process, the tier of the authorised officer has now been eliminated, the minister announced.

"Side-by-side, a time was decided and a timeline was provided," Mahmood said. "In 105 days, everything will be wrapped up from the start of inquiry to the final decision."

  • Response to submission of charges against an individual in 14 days
  • Decision of the inquiry committee to come within 60 days
  • Authority or presiding officer to give verdict on punishment in 30 days

He also said disciplinary action will be initiated against individuals who enter plea bargains or voluntarily return money. "If a person is accepting they've done corruption and is returning money [...] there will be an inquiry against them and action may be taken against them after the inquiry," he added.

The minister also announced other reforms to make the disciplinary process just and to expedite the process such as provision of a personal hearing for officers to explain themselves to the deciding authority and clubbing of multiple inquiries against an individual under one inquiry officer.

Revised MP Scale Policy 2020

Detailing reforms related to employees of management professions (MP) in the civil services, he said the main overhaul was made in the mechanism of recruitment. Advertisements have now been allowed to recruit individuals for MP scales and they can be recruited from elsewhere or particularly searched for.

"The time period in MP scale been increased from two to three years and a committee has been made which can extend it beyond three years," said the minister about the tenure of MP scale officers.

Rotation Policy

Mahmood said another major problem was that officers of the two services which are allowed to work in both the Centre and the provinces, the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) and Pakistan Police Service, opted to work 10 or 15 years in the provinces and few worked in the Centre.

He said a new policy was designed in which rotation had now been linked with promotion. "If an officer doesn't rotate and remains in one province, then they can't be promoted into grade BS-21 and this policy has been brought into effect from Jan 1, 2021," he announced.

Under the terms of the new policy, he said a duration had been set for anyone who went to a province beyond which they would not be able to work in it. "Any officer cannot stay beyond 10 years in any province; once 10 years are complete they'll be transferred," Mahmood said, adding that it will be a mandatory requirement to work in the Centre.

Rationalisation of cadre strength

Lastly, the minister said a decision was taken to reduce the strength of the PAS so other services might also get a chance of increasing jobs and enhancing their strength.

Reforming the civil services has long been on the agenda of the PTI government.

The prime minister had approved the Civil Servants (E&D) Rules, 2020, last year under the government’s policy of institutional reforms to improve the performance of bureaucracy and state institutions. The aim of these rules was to ensure transparent and effective internal accountability of bureaucrats and bring efficiency and discipline in their service.

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