PPSC could do better at members’ selection

If you are retired or are about to retire from government service as a bureaucrat and have strong ties, or political affiliations, you could become a member of this prestigious organization. If you look at the composition of the organization, the chairman is usually a retired Lieutenant General while the members are retired PAS, PMS, and PMS officers of grade 21 or above

Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) is the highest statutory body to recruit suitable candidates through a merit-based competitive examination, but surprisingly, there is no merit in the appointment of its members. If you are retired or are about to retire from government service as a bureaucrat and have strong ties, or political affiliations, you could become a member of this prestigious organization.

When this newspaper investigated the issue, it was gleaned that the mission of the commission is to select and recommend suitable candidates for the provincial government through a fair, transparent, merit-based and expeditious process. It also renders advice to the government where necessary. However, it surfaced there is neither competition to become a member of this organization nor the most suitable candidates are appointed. There is no debate in this regard. It is the sitting government’s prerogative to appoint any of the persons it thought fit to the most prestigious positions to decide about the future government officers.

At present, all the members of the Public Service Commission are men and there is not a single woman member. Earlier, Parveen Agha and Rubina Tayyab were female members of the commission who retired after completing their tenures. A large number of women appear as candidates for government jobs, so women must be represented in interviewing panels so that women candidates could feel at ease.

If you look at the composition of the organization, the chairman who heads it is usually a retired Lieutenant General of the Pakistan Army while the members are retired PAS, PMS, and PMS officers of grade 21 or above. Most of the officers are from Pakistan Administrative Service followed by Provincial Civil Service and Police Service, and officers of other services also manage to appoint them here.

A university professor who joins the PPSC for interviews said that just as the commission puts its candidates through a rigorous furnace to select the most suitable ones, the members appointed here must also have the same strict selection criterion. They should also be put through a competitive test as they are making decisions about the cream of society and their future. He said that the service delivery of the public sector speaks volumes of the ability of the candidates recommended by the commission.

At present, two retired Inspector Generals of the Punjab Police, Amjad Javed Salimi and Arif Nawaz are members. Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik, Mirza Sohail Aamir, Abdul Jabbar Shaheen and Khalid Masood Chaudhary belong to the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS). Dr Mohammad Ajmal Khan, Dr Parvez Ali Khan, and Dr Rashid Mansoor are also PAS retirees. In this way, Dr Muhammad Saleh Tahir, Dr Nayyar Iqbal, Zahid Hussain, and Zulfikar Ali Ghumman are members of the Provincial Civil Service. Nazir Ahmed Gajana is a retired Sessions Judge, he has also been the Law Secretary of Punjab. Surprisingly, he has been appointed to the seat of the higher judiciary.

No one has been appointed to the technical posts i.e. health, IT, AI, agriculture, management sciences, engineering or educationist seats. It is the requirement of the commission to have such members as well. One member, Dr Rashid Mansoor has been the Principal Secretary of the Governor of Punjab. When the relations between the Punjab government and the federal government became strained, he had written to the then Governor Umar Sarfraz Cheema that he couldn’t deny oath under constitution while Cheema had decided not to administer the oath of CM Hamza Shahbaz. Cheema had written to Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal to remove his PS Dr Mansoor.

As a reward, an officer said, Mansoor was promoted to grade twenty-two. Later, he was appointed as a member of the Public Service Commission allegedly on political connections. It is said that he was one of the officers who never fulfilled the condition of serving in the federal government to become eligible for promotion to grade 22.

If we look at the period of former Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Public Service Commission was about to be abolished. A general relaxation of two years to all candidates was given under the general impression that it was intended to be awarded to oblige some close people. During Buzdar’s tenure, the number of members never reached its potential.

If we analyse the members of the commission, barring a few, most of them are not even remotely connected with education or human resource dealing. It should be noted that the members of the Public Service Commission have a salary of around four lakh rupees per month, and government vehicles, petrol and other perks and facilities are in addition. The Public Service Commission has also written to the Punjab government to increase the salary of the members and give them wages as per MP1 scales.

The government, after thoroughly analysing the background of candidates for commission membership, should appoint HR experts from the public or private sector as members. Moreover, there should be a mechanism to analyse the performance of members based on the study of officers recruited by them. The CM, governor and CS should, as a former PPSC member suggested, should have a consultation with the commission management to improve its flawed role to inject better human resources into the public sector.

Javed Iqbal is a special correspondent covering the Punjab government with a particular focus on bureaucracy. He has unearthed a number of mega scams while working with leading media houses. He tweets @javedjahangiri and can be reached at javediqbal344@gmail.com.

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