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Irregular inductions

April 05, 2013


RECENTLY, the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC), that is responsible for conducting the Central Superior Services (CSS) exam which candidates have to clear to qualify for the civil services of Pakistan, found itself caught in a scandal.

Some CSS aspirants from Faisalabad had bribed the postal staff to make changes to the answer sheets of the exam as they were being couriered to the FPSC head office.

The aspirants involved could not be identified but thankfully the scheme was foiled. But even if their plan had worked they would have achieved at best a government job in BPS 17, which pays so little that I am sure the amount they paid in the bribe would not be covered for the next five years at least.

All in all, these individuals need to learn from the flawless plan of the lot mentioned in the following paragraphs.

Among his last official activities, the former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf approved a summary pertaining to the induction of 284 people from corporations, autonomous bodies and provincial departments to the Office Management Group (OMG) of the Federal Civil Service, a group meant to be filled primarily by candidates who are selected by the FPSC via the CSS exam.

This direct induction means that the appointees will bypass all exams and recruitment procedures, land permanent jobs in the federal government and make a mockery out of merit.

The summary for their induction was moved on March 16, 2013 and approved on March 18, 2013. What prompted such quick action was the fact that the beneficiaries were apparently handpicked for being close to the political class which seems to have taken Otto von Bismarck’s words, “politics is the art of the possible”, a bit too literally.

Out of these 284 people, 130 would be inducted in BPS 18, a level which someone selected on merit after passing the CSS exam with flying colours achieves after at least five years of service. This means that these 130 persons would always stay ahead of those inducted on merit — seniority is the most important criterion for promotion to the next grade.

The move was attributed to the shortage of 200 odd section officers in the Federal Secretariat owing to two periods of decade-long gaps in recruitment to the OMG via the CSS exam. This shortage would have been plugged to some extent when 41 officers selected on merit by the FPSC and currently under training joined the ranks.

The remaining 160 positions could easily have been filled in two years at the most by selecting candidates on merit through the CSS exam. The heavens would not have fallen if regular recruitments were made in this time period for the sake of upholding merit.

However, if the shortage of officers demands that positions be filled with immediate effect, the rules allow officers from other service groups of CSS cadre like the railways, commerce and trade, postal services, etc to be posted on deputation thus ensuring meritocracy.

Compromising on merit for plugging shortages is a mindless move. But we suppose that for the politicians, compromising on merit for the sake of securing votes or favouring cronies is very wise.

So much so that the tale of the tortoise and the hare is currently playing itself out between two class fellows. One of them passed the CSS exam, the other failed it thrice — the maximum number of times a candidate can take the exam. The one who passed is still serving in BPS 17 and the one who failed is now waiting to be inducted in BPS 18 in the same group.

Moral of the story: one should never lose hope in politicians.

Now that the political government has completed its term will all these wrongs be undone? I believe the answer is in the negative. We have seen enough of such anomalies being brushed under the carpet.

One can drive around flouting the law in non-custom-paid luxury vehicles for years while those with respect for the law spend their hard-earned money on cars that are not even safe, let alone luxurious. Then one fine morning an amnesty scheme is announced endorsing the actions of those who broke the law.

Accountability laws appear to come with a cutoff date and those who embezzle public money before that date are allowed to walk away unquestioned — so the earlier you start the better.

This example applies to these irregular inductions to the civil service; even if the next government expels the usurpers from service by which time they have already accrued considerable advances. The government after that restores them with all the perks and wages paid in arrears.

Evidence suggests the man behind this move was a former minister for religious affairs.

The bottom line is that the rule of law and respect for the law are a distant dream in a system where the unlawful becomes lawful in a matter of minutes.

The writer is a civil servant.

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