The incoming government, assuming it is true to its electoral promises, is going to be running the biggest cohort of cleaners the country has ever seen. And they are going to be busy from Day One. The latest addition to the ‘To-do’ list is not the insignificant matter of the over 300 civil servants who are on deputation in various federal and provincial departments. They have arrived at their positions, some of them senior and requiring technical expertise, not because they are suited to the post but because they wish to be working in a specific area, perhaps close to other family members or they were wanting a government residence. The organisation that is supposed to oversee all of the movements and postings of senior civil servants is the Establishment Division (ED) and they have just had a well-deserved thrashing from the Senate Standing Committee (SSC).
The SSC was considerably irritated that the secretary Establishment Division was not present to answer their questions and the senior joint secretaries that were present faced the endless embarrassment of being unable to answer SSC questions. They had none of the required data with them that such a session would require despite having notice of the hearing. The chairperson of the SSC acidly observed that there were doctors on deputation serving as police officials in the Federal Investigation Agency, and engineers working in positions that ought to be occupied by doctors in hospitals — hopefully without any requirement that they perform surgery. One of the joint secretaries present said he was unable to share information with the SSC, presumably because it would expose malpractice.
This is an entirely unacceptable position on the part of the ED and points to corrupt practice that dates back years if not decades. It is not possible to abolish the ED as it still performs necessary functions, but it is possible to take the cleaning brigade to clean up the Augean stable of the deputisation process of senior-grade civil servants.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2018.