The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa administration may have been quick enough to hold local government (LG) elections, but putting the system in place is another matter altogether.
The process of appointing secretaries for village and neighbourhood councils lingers on after the recruitment was cancelled by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak. The process was cancelled on October 2 after reports emerged of favouritism in the selection of secretaries in six districts. While the government is struggling to formalise the Rules of Business for LG representatives, it is also struggling to provide complete staff at the lower tiers.
Earlier, Khattak ordered a provincial inspection team to conduct an enquiry into illegal appointments based on favouritism and asked it to submit a report within a week. However, officials of the Local Government and Rural Development department (LG&RD) claimed they had not received any such report. Similarly, the press secretary to CM also had no further information on its status.
Sharing details about the recruitment procedure for secretaries, who will be Grade-7 employees, an official of the LG&RD said the LG system needed a secretary at each village and neighbourhood council.
The department already had 854 secretaries from the previous administrative setup, while the remaining 2,647 officials were to be recruited. “Some 11,000 candidates across the province applied for the slots and we coordinated with the National Testing Service (NTS) who conducted the test.” He added about 5,000 passed.
He said the K-P Estacode (establishment rules of business for the bureaucracy) has no provision for the status of the NTS, but the department used it to screen the candidates. The candidates were shortlisted on the basis of the test’s result in addition to their credentials. The names of shortlisted candidates were given to the selection and recruitment committee of each district.
The official denied the provincial government’s involvement in appointments at the district level; they have been accused by nazims of interfering in local government matters. The nazims claimed they had the powers to appoint officials of Grade-16 and below in their respective districts.
“We are not intruding in districts,” the official added. “We only coordinated with the NTS to conduct the test for screening.” He added the selection committees included the DC and a representative each of the district and tehsil municipal administration (TMA). It also had a local government assistant director who was the appointing authority.
The official said the committee interviewed the shortlisted candidates and awarded them discretionary (extra) marks based on interviews. However, the chief minister objected and cancelled the recruitment process.
“Some districts had even issued appointment letters when the CM ordered the provincial enquiry team to look into the matter. The process of recruitment is awaiting further orders.”
On Thursday, a few of the shortlisted candidates protested outside Peshawar Press Club. “We passed the test and we can’t give it again. It would be unjust to expect us to pay the NTS fee and take the test again,” said Sabihullah, one of the protesters from Peshawar.
Kamran Khan, another candidate, demanded the CM recruit secretaries on the current results.
“The enquiry team will give its suggestions and further action will be taken based on them,” said Chief Minister’s Press Secretary Mubashir Rahim Malik.
He added a four-member selection committee had eight discretionary marks among all of them and gave two marks to their favourite candidate. However, the chief minister disagreed with this, saying 50% marks should be for the NTS and as many for credentials.
None of the officials could confirm whether the NTS was to be taken again or not.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.
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