Irregularities in testing for fresh recruits at the Right to Information (RTI) Commission are likely to undermine transparency and accountability, thus leaving the entire process in question, insiders told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
The commission advertised seven jobs vacancies in March. “There were vacancies for candidates between BPS-11 to BPS-17,” an official privy to the matter said. “The deadline for receiving all applications was March 16.”
The commission received countless applications. Over the next few months, it scrutinised the applications and shortlisted candidates who were eligible for the posts.
The official said the commission then provided a list of shortlisted candidates to the Education Testing and Evaluation Agency (ETEA)—a provincial government body which conducts prequalification examination for students of medical colleges and engineering universities in the province.
“ETEA was given the mandate to conduct a written test from applicants for the slots,” he said. “The exam was scheduled for June 14. However, ETEA only sent a text message about the exam to the shortlisted candidates on June 12.”
According to another official, only 45% candidates were able to take the test.
“Most candidates said they had been informed about the exam at the eleventh hour,” he said. “Many of them could not attend on such short notice as they had to travel to Peshawar from other parts of the province. Only a single candidate was able to take the test for the legal adviser’s slot, leaving the commission with no other option.”
The official pressed the RTI Commission to go back to square one and restart the hiring process.
“The commission should advertise the posts once again,” he said. “The exams should be conducted once again.”
Cycle of injustice
Some of the candidates who had been shortlisted did not hear back from the commission.
Najam Hussain Khan, a resident of Gulbahar, said he had applied for the position of a junior clerk and had also been shortlisted.
“However, I did not receive the SMS from ETEA,” he said. “This is rather strange since the commission had told me I had been shortlisted. I should have been informed about the test.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune, a government official said the interview process is only 8% of the exam which is worth 100 marks.
“The remaining 92 marks are at the behest of ETEA,” he said “Such exams are mostly conducted through the public service commission which sends call letters to candidates for exams at least two weeks before the exam. This gives sufficient time for candidates to prepare for the test.”
According to the government official, ETEA’s SMS notifications are not always an effective means of informing people about the exams.
“Candidates in remote areas without cellular services are not able to obtain updates,” he said.
The other view
The official said action must be taken against the relevant authorities.
“Some of the candidates have approached Transparency International and asked it to intervene,” he added.
When contacted, ETEA Technical Manager Asim Ali Shah said they had sent the text messages through a private company.
“The SMS notification was successfully delivered to 97 % of the candidates and the delivery report has been provided to the commission,” he said. “We also called those who did receive the message.”
Shah said a two to three days’ notice is usually given to candidates to reach the examination venue.
“However, we were short of time and had to reduce the duration,” he added.
According to Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI)’s annual report, the RTI law may come under threat in the province owing to the K-P Assembly’s decision to exempt itself from the legislation’s purview.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.