The Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) has admitted to lack of professionalism, political interference, obsolete rules and systematic inconsistencies as factors besetting the performance of Pakistan’s civil service.
The FPSC made this confession in its annual report for 2014 presented before the National Assembly last week. The report laments the ailments afflicting the civil service, saying workload is piling while the proposal for overhaul of the service has been pending with the Cabinet Division since 2013.
The report suggests lack of professionalism, poor capacity-building and inefficient incentive systems that “do not appreciate upright and outstanding civil servants but reward the corrupt and the incompetent” are among factors affecting the civil service.
“[There are] outmoded rules and procedures that restrict civil servants from performing effectively with systematic inconsistencies in promotion and postings… there is a [also] lack of adequate transparency and accountability procedures with no safety measures for whistleblowers,” it says.
The report has laid everything bare stating that arbitrary and whimsical transfers and insecurity in tenures is impeding institutialisation. It has also accepted another fact that has been denied over the years, ie, political interference and administrative acquiescence.
Interestingly, the Planning Ministry started formulating civil service reforms but several proposals – including the one for formation of new cadres – were turned down due to pressure from the powerful bureaucracy. Despite the passage of more than a year the changes have yet to be finalised.
The FPSC has also suggested that the government enhance the minimum qualification to take up the competitive exams from 14 to 16 years of education. According to the FPSC data, over 86% of the candidates applying for the exams from 2008-2012 had either 16 years degree or above.
“The proposal has been with the Establishment Division for over two years which has stalled qualitative improvement,” the report states
Besides, the commission has suggested screening tests of applicants whose number has witnessed an upsurge of 172% from 9,056 applicants in 2009 to 24,640 in 2014. The process of examination takes 18 months and the new test system would reduce the number to serious candidates.
According to statistics, around 24,640 candidates applied for the competitive examinations of 2014 against 315 vacancies. Of this, 233 cleared all the tests while 82 posts remained vacant. The number of vacant posts is increasing as 71 seats remained unfilled in 2013 as compared to 30 seats in 2012 and 45 in 2011.
Besides, 72% candidates who appeared in the 2013 competitive examinations, were unemployed. Of them, 42% qualified in the examination and 39% were allocated various groups.
The report also depicts a poor picture of the competence of the candidates. “The standard of performance reflected that majority did not know the strategies of making precise and reproduced the original language of the passage,” it says in connection with the candidates’ proficiency in English.
The report says the overall competence of candidates in general knowledge is low and majority of candidates lack basic writing skills while their scripts show crammed knowledge.
“Very few had a conceptual approach [About Pakistan Affairs] and “only five per cent candidates attempted the paper seriously, 30% vaguely and 65% were non-serious”.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2016.
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