The establishment of the South Punjab Civil Secretariat and now its subsequent functioning after the formulation of the rules of business would indubitably add to its efficacy. The move is regarded as the first step towards a full-fledged south Punjab province.
Now, the people of the remote areas of south Punjab would, of course, access the facility at their doorsteps i.e. Bahawalpur and Multan. But, in some cases, where the competent authority lies with the Punjab chief minister or the chief secretary, the files would be moved to Lahore for a final say. Thus, such matters may face more delays.
In cases, like transfers, postings and initiating inquiries of officers of grade 19 and above rest with the CM and the CS. The South Punjab Secretariat, for sure, has to send the files of these cases to Lahore for dispensation. Moreover, in the development sector, the secretariat in question can identify schemes to an extent.
“Since there is no automation in even the newly established setup, we dispatch files to Lahore by post,” said an administrative secretary, adding that it consumed a lot of time to dispose off such matters.
“The travel time of files, if the e-filing was not introduced in the system, would add to the worries of people,” said a secretary posted in the Multan Secretariat. The need was to introduce paperless and information technology-based functioning in south Punjab, especially for matters relating to cases where authority lies with the Punjab CS or CM.
“If the Punjab CM establishes his camp office in South Punjab with a permanent principal secretary posted there, it would pace up the dissolution of matters.” he added.
Likewise, the CS Punjab may also set up his office in the region with his staff officer posted there. Moreover, both the CM and CS on rotation may sit in these offices on rotation.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had bagged a majority in the national and provincial legislatures from south Punjab in the 2018 general elections on its promise of creating a new province. Although it earmarked a fair share in the development budget in accordance with the population, it could not even initiate complicated legislation towards the creation of a separate administrative unit.
All other political parties including Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz do claim to safeguard the rights of the southern people. The tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is almost ending in a year or so but many tall claims are still awaiting a nod.
It has transpired that many people including politicians still visit and force the officers sitting in the Civil Secretariat Lahore to issue certain orders like transfers and postings in the new establishment southern headquarter.
“Since Punjab Assembly Secretariat and ministers’ block and cabinet offices are all situated in the provincial metropolis, it is easy for politicians to approach the officers in Lahore,” said an officer.
An officer of south Punjab, while lauding the PTI government’s initiative to notify rules, said that there are still genuine issues that needed rapid redressal. All documentary and other record archives are still in Lahore, so it is very hard for officers and officials to resolve issues of the southern part of the province.
It seems a failure of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) that it couldn’t materialise its dream of automation. The world at large after experimenting upon paperless official business is moving towards artificial intelligence but we are still carrying files wrapped in ‘red ribbons’ from office to office. It is, therefore, another way to toughen ‘red-tapism’. The PITB, which was established to ease and automate official business, is still to walk a long way to tackle this bottleneck. Although officers have been posted in the South Punjab Secretariat with more incentives, poor infrastructure still hampers them to deliver fast.
It is to be noted that the Punjab government on the recommendation of the cabinet had approved amendments to the rules of business 2011 to make the newly established secretariat more independent.
After the amendment in the rules, it was being stated that service delivery would be improved as all the powers were given to the additional chief secretary (ACS) of south Punjab and concerned administrative secretaries to dispose off matters relating to their areas.
Under the new rules, the secretaries were empowered to issue transfer, posting and suspension orders of government servants from BS-1 to BS 18.
The additional chief secretary and 12 secretaries of various departments are empowered to give transfer and posting orders of the employees from BPS-1 to BPS-18, while the secretaries can also recruit employees from BPS-1 to 16. The power to suspend any employee up to BPS-18 also lies with the departmental secretaries. In this regard, ACS Capt (retd) Saqib Zafar was not available for comment.
Punjab CM Usman Buzdar had stated that the additional chief secretary (ACS) south Punjab had the power to utilize funds and recruit new employees, adding that for the first time in the history of the country, 33pc of the total budget – Rs190bn – were sanctioned for south Punjab. However, sources in the southern part disclose that the ACS was denied certain powers earlier announced to rest with him.
The departments in south Punjab include agriculture, board of revenue, communication and works, forestry, wildlife and fisheries, higher education, housing, urban development and public health engineering, irrigation, livestock and dairy development, local government and community development, primary and secondary healthcare, school education and specialised healthcare and medical education.
An official of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) also said that the South Punjab Agriculture Department is selected for a pilot project of e-filing.