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Secretariat Mirror: Buzdar era – A tale of no reforms, but transfers aplenty

PTI had promised to recruit some 10 million people in the government sector, but realized the country was not able to pay the government servants.

A 2017 Politico analysis says that the US government is getting old. There is a large number of aged employees there and a myriad of challenges for the young talented class in the public sector.

Around 17 percent of the federal employees are under 35 years of age, while there are nearly 40 percent in the private sector. More than one-fourth of them are above the age of 55, the analysis adds.

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As public policy expert Donald F Kettl explains, “It’s not so much a matter that old people are stupid and young people are smart – it’s that smart agencies develop a plan for a [talent] pipeline.”

The situation in Pakistan’s context is no different. There is very little effort made to redress such issues, though, the Punjab government has devised a recruitment policy and stressed that it would ensure recruitments on merit.

The departments have been directed to make selections for any public office on the basis of ability rather than on the basis of class, creed, color, patrimony, patronage, ideology, or wealth.

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Moreover, according to the new policy, departments will meet the prerequisites for merit by ensuring a competitive process, protection from extraneous influence, equal opportunity to compete for appointment, and fairness and equity in the treatment of candidates. The policy mentions article 18 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that confers on every citizen the right to enter into any profession or occupation subject to such qualifications.

Article 27 of the constitution provides that no candidate otherwise qualified for departments in the federal or provincial service shall be discriminated against based on race, religion, caste, sex, residence etc. The policy further reiterated that under section 13 (1) of the Punjab Civil Servants Act 1974, retired government servants are not eligible for appointment and others on a regular or on contract basis except under the provisions of the Re-employment Policy 2003.

The new policy further clarifies on the age calculation that where recruitment is to be made after written examination, it shall be reckoned as on January 1 of the year in which the examination is proposed to be held and in other cases on the last date fixed for submission of applications for apartment appointment.

Moreover, it also stressed on strengthening the capacity and enhancing the role of the PPSC to conduct the recruitment process for the maximum number of posts.

The policy also makes it clear that initial recruitment on regular basis to all posts in 16 and above is made on the recommendations of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).

However, initial recruitment to all posts in basic pay scale 11 to 15 shall be made on the recommendations of the Punjab Public Service Commission. The departments include General Administration, Revenue, Finance, Police and Energy.

Moreover, initial recruitments to some other posts of different departments or bodies will be made through the PPSC that includes assistant superintendent jail, food controller, food grain inspector, grain supervisor, excise and taxation inspector, sub engineer, ziladar, sub engineer cooperative, sub inspectors for cooperatives, transport, motor vehicle examiner, and stenographer.

The policy clarifies that persons appointed on a contract basis are not civil servants hence their service matters shall be governed under the terms and conditions of their contract appointment policy.

The policy further highlights that ad hoc appointments cannot be converted into regular appointments without advertising the posts.

Moreover, it also details that if the expected number of candidates is huge and sorting of such a large number of applicants is not possible for departments, they may engage the services of testing agencies pre-qualified by the Planning and Development Department.

The policy, while discussing quotas in recruitment details that in order to address the under-representation of some classes, some quotas prescribed shall continue like 3 percent quota for disabled persons, 15 percent for women, 20 percent for junior clerks or class 4 serving or retired government employees. Moreover, 5 percent quota is reserved for minorities.

It also mentions that the authorities should ensure that the candidates produce a computerized national identity card (CNIC) and certificates or degrees in original form at the time of the interview.

Like public sector universities, health institutions while making appointments may obtain approval of the chief minister.

Moreover, it says that recruitments against all project posts shall invariably be made on contract basis.

Objectively speaking, the recruitment policy is comprehensive and discusses all the aspects of hiring talented people in the government sector. However, there are loopholes as recruitments generally are not made on merit. The poor service delivery of different departments speaks volumes of this inefficiency of the public sector. There is a long list of government employees who don’t like to deliver at all – they take their jobs for granted.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in its political manifesto had promised to recruit some 10 million people in the government sector. But when this government came into power both in Islamabad and Lahore it realized that the country was not even able to pay the salaries and pension bills of the government servants. During three years in power, the PTI government could not recruit even a small part of the promised claim. Perhaps it realized that the public sector was counter-effective and already overstuffed and over-staffed by the constructive political governments.

There was no room for further appointments. But as the general election of 2023 approaches, the big wigs of the political party have stressed on recruiting some people and ensuring their representation in the government sectors. Different departments have started the process of making recruitments.

Moreover, the government has also clipped the wings of the PPSC regarding the regularisation of services of different employees including teachers. After the new legislation, the regularisation of a large number of employees is underway excluding the role of the commission.

On one hand, there is a step to make appointments on merit and in a transparent manner but on the other, there are rumours that recruitments are being made by compromising the laid criteria. In the education sector, reportedly, the government has banned recruitments on a lower level when news surfaced that some of the candidates bribed to get government jobs.

Former president of the Provincial Management Service Association, while talking on the subject, said that political governments have stuffed the public sector with their workers without any merit. The only solution, he stressed, is to make further recruitments on a contractual basis. He was of the view that the regular employees don’t bother to deliver and there was no mechanism to monitor or enhance their service delivery.

He said that all the measures taken from time to time like evaluation reports, the Punjab Employees’ Efficiency Discipline & Accountability (PEEDA) Act 2006, post-induction and in-service training courses and directory retirement etc. have badly failed to hold them accountable. He also criticized the rehiring of retired government officers. There should be no provision of reappointment of any government officer as there was fresh blood in the market and it was unemployed as well. Re-employment means you discourage the educated talented class to enter the public sector, he added.

Advocate Shahnawaz, who also deals with service matters, said that the current government wanted to enhance service delivery through incentives that proved counter-effective. He was of the view that the only factor that enhances service delivery was temporary jobs, not regular ones. He said that on the pattern of the Pakistan Army, there should be frequent layoffs and forced retirements of those who are inefficient or corrupt in the services.

He said that 90 percent of the Civil Services and Police Service of Pakistan reached grades 20 to 22 easily. He said that the directory retirement was a good step but it was put on the back burner by the bureaucracy. The need, he stressed, is to implement this policy in letter and spirit. There is no need of general cadre stenographers and clerk-type officials.

Instead, technical experts should be inducted on project-based contracts. The government should not be an employment bank rather a regulatory agency, he added.

Moreover, former Punjab secretary finance said that the pension and salary budget of the province has become unbearable for the exchequer. He said that the government should introduce a very target-oriented strict working environment and discourage political appointments on a regular basis in the public sector. Otherwise, in the coming years, the exchequer will only be able to pay salaries, perks and pensions. There would be no money for development, education and health sectors, he warned.

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