The Punjab government could not implement its much-trumpeted Punjab Right to Public Services Act (PRPSA) it adopted in January 2019.
Public services and regressing grievances were a vital part of the law. It was to provide much-needed services to citizens on time and play an important role in boosting the economy.
Why the law was not implemented raised the eyebrows of many. When this scribe talked to the legislators they felt that the executive branch was responsible for implementing the laws and not them. However, a treasury remembers on anonymity was of the view that the legislators were more interested in transfers and postings of officers, and recruitment quotas besides grabbing development schemes than the implementation of laws. He demanded a house committee should probe into the reasons why such an ideal law that ensures public facilitation could not be implemented after many years. He said that it was the responsibility of the S&GAD to constitute a commission and formulate rules and regulations. Both CM and CS head this wing of the government.
When the KP government duly implemented the law and improved service delivery, why Punjab didn’t it? The registration of FIRs, issuance of land documents, domiciles, licenses etc have been streamlined and made duly time-bound.
But in Punjab the bureaucratic opposition, as it seems is a reason to oppose its implementation. Officials resist implementing this law because it holds them accountable, makes them time bound and imposes new responsibilities besides fines on them. They may simply be reluctant to change their colonial procedures or give up their powers. Moreover, lack of political will, a lack of funds, or vested interests may be other factors.
Some key potential impacts of a right to public services law in KP include increased government accountability and transparency, improved service delivery, and increased citizen engagement in the governance process, which is democracy.
Under the new law, commission was to be constituted with the powers of the civil courts. It could impose a heavy fine on delinquent officials of which up to 70pc may be given to complainant. However, a frivolous complainant may also face fine up to Rs50,000.
In recent years, there has been a revolution in the way public services are delivered around the world. UK, Australia and even India implemented it. The law has had a profound impact on advanced societies as well. Governments have also been forced to become more efficient in delivering public services. As a result, governments have had to find new ways to raise money and deliver public services. This has led to innovations in the way public services are delivered and has helped to improve their quality and affordability.
The right to public services law in Punjab by the Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf government was passed in response to the widespread corruption, inefficiency, red-tapism and lack of accountability in the government. There were countless complaints against the officials. The commission if established was to be tasked with investigating these complaints and holding corrupt and inefficient officials accountable. The commission has the power to impose a fine and initiate disciplinary actions against any delinquent government official.
In the early 21st century, the right to public services law also outnumbered the private sector as more people began to see the value in having services provided by the government. This led to increased equality and social mobility as well as creating a more prosperous and just society. The law soon became popular throughout the world, and private-sector companies began to struggle to keep up with the quality of services offered by the government.
The Pakistani bureaucracy is still largely shaped by the colonial-era structures that were put in place by the British. The bureaucracy is still hierarchically organized, and there is a strong focus on rules and regulations not on redressal. The top-down structure means that decisions are made by those at the top, and those at the bottom are expected to carry out orders. This can lead to a lot of red tape and a lack of flexibility.
Third, it is important to have effective enforcement mechanisms in place so that people who are denied their right to public services can seek redress. This can involve setting up a district ombudsman office or other type of complaint mechanism, and ensuring that there are adequate penalties for violators of the law.
Instead of across the board incentives like executive and other heavy allowances to bureaucrats they can be linked to service delivery by making sure that they have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in terms of service delivery. There is no impact of such heavy financial benefits to officers since approved as there was no improved service delivery.