Decision to induct private sector experts into civil service stirs debate

Published May 10, 2021
The government’s move to allow bureaucrats to compete for lucrative management positions and enabling private sector experts to join the civil service has generated a debate in the capital. — Creative Commons/File
The government’s move to allow bureaucrats to compete for lucrative management positions and enabling private sector experts to join the civil service has generated a debate in the capital. — Creative Commons/File

ISLAMABAD: The government’s move to allow bureaucrats to compete for lucrative management positions and enabling private sector experts to join the civil service has generated a debate in the capital.

A few bureaucrats, commenting on the government’s decision, said the opening of MP scales would benefit well-connected officers.

“Those who are in the good books of the government, ministers or federal secretaries will be able to get the MP scale,” a senior official said.

Another bureaucrat said hiring from the private sector would harm the government’s efforts to reform the bureaucracy.

He said the government had decided to induct highly qualified professionals from different fields into federal ministries on the pattern of undersecretaries in the United States to improve efficiency.

They would be officially called “technical advisers” and paid according to market conditions in the private sector for a fixed term. They would be placed above the federal secretaries and below the ministers in terms of policy advice and expert opinion.

The bureaucrat, however, said the federal secretaries in different ministries were opposing vast powers for technical experts and did not relish the prospect of working under the direct supervision of the minister concerned.

The federal secretaries insist that experts route their input through federal secretaries to the ministers.

Mohammad Shehzad Arbab, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Establishment, said this would allow serving civil servants to compete with outsiders for MP scales.

He said at present highly qualified people with doctorates and master’s degrees from top universities could work for donor agencies, but the government never bothered to use their expertise for upgrading its own capacity.

According to statistics, the federal government (secretariat and attached departments) had a total strength of 565,000 in 2019-20. Of them, 13,000 are working in the secretariat, 8,000 in constitutional bodies, 544,000 in attached departments and 390,000 in autonomous, semi-autonomous bodies and corporations.

The grand total of civilian employees stands at 955,000. Ninety-five per cent of federal government employees belong to grades 1-16 and they are being paid 80-85pc of the total wage bill of the federal government.

Transition

Recently, Establishment Secretary Dr Ijaz Munir was appointed as Rector of the National School of Public Policy on a salary of Rs1.5 million per month.

Earlier, Maroof Afzal secured the post of Director General of Civil Service Academy, where he will get a salary of Rs1.7 million per month. He was serving as Secretary to the Establishment Division.

Earlier this year, Naveed Kamran Baloch, a well-connected officer, was posted as executive director of the World Bank.

Civil servants can work in international agencies on deputation, but are not eligible for MP scale positions until they resign from the service. Sometimes civil servants opt for deputation to international agencies, for instance the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund on lucrative package.

The government has now decided to allow civil servants to work on MP scales for a maximum of five years during their entire service without resigning from government service.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government had approved MP scales in 15 ministries two years ago. These ministries and divisions are: Science and Technology, Finance, Power, Petroleum, Water Resources, Commerce, Aviation, National Food Security, Industries and Production, Information Technology and Telecommunication, Climate Change, Maritime Affairs, Textile Industry and National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination.

According to schedule II of the MP scales policy, the MP-I scale is equivalent to BS-22, MP-II corresponds to BS-21 and MP-III to BS-20.

For MP-I post the requirement is PhD with 14 years experience or master’s degree with 18 years; for MP-II post the requirement is PhD with 10 years or Masters with 14 years, and for MP-III it is PhD with six years or Masters with 10 years experience.

The policy introduced by the government has removed the upper limit of salary. The remuneration of those selected in MP scales will be determined by the finance ministry with the approval of the prime minister as against previously fixed emoluments.

Before the policy was notified on June 22, the upper monthly emoluments limit for MP-I was Rs700,000, for MP-II Rs413,000 and for MP-III Rs232,000.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2021

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