Decline in the civil service

A new report admits what has been self-evident for years — a lack of professionalism, political interference, etc

Editorial April 18, 2016

The civil service of every country everywhere in the world ought to be staffed and run by the best and brightest that the country has to offer. They must be above politics, incorruptible and offer the highest standards of advice and support to the government of the day. ‘Dream on’ might be the best that can be said of the civil service in Pakistan, which appear to be in a steady decline. A new report by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) admits what has been self-evident for years — a lack of professionalism, political interference, obsolescent rules and assorted internal inconsistencies all aggregating to something less than a vision of excellence.

The FPSC report for 2014 was submitted to the National Assembly last week. It makes for depressing reading and there is no quick fix on the horizon. Although the report does not say so, the current malaise in the civil service is closely linked to the decline in education standards nationally and the failure to invest in quality education — which reduces the raw quality of candidates for the civil service entrance examinations. Brutally put — if you educate people to mediocrity, then mediocrity is what they deliver. Institutions that employ poorly educated men and women over time become as mediocre as their candidates for entry — and that is before nepotism, political appointment and corrupt preferment have done their malign work.

That the civil service was in trouble has been recognised and there have been attempts to reform it by the Planning Ministry, but these have been blocked by a bureaucracy that has no desire whatsoever to change the way it goes about its business, plus there is a strata of politicians that are opposed to reform as well, as it would interfere with the placement of their scions and cronies in what, given the opportunities for corruption, are often lucrative posts. Root and branch reform is essential if the civil service is ever to restore its credibility as of yore. A mere five per cent of civil service applicants are said to have approached the entrance exam ‘seriously’ and, unfortunately, a yet dumber future beckons.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th,  2016.

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