Competitive Civil Services

In a radical move, the government is set to wipe out half of Pakistan’s senior civil service grades, boost the number of provincial officials at the centre and open its top jobs to private sector experts. A draft reforms strategy funded by the United Nations Development Programme and prepared by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms-aims to ‘modernize’ the government. This brief outline of reforms being contemplated to bring the Civil Service of Pakistan more in line with modern times is impressive, appears ambitious and no doubt, is likely to have far-reaching consequences.

It seems that a more professional approach to recruitment will be promoted. This new strategy will make sure that the criteria for appointment of chairman and members of public service commissions must ensure that the selection of professionals with ‘unblemished service records and members of the commission will be approved’. There will be six main groups each with 20 cadres and each cadre will have its own relevant degree requirements. Cadre candidates will be given a 20 per cent weighting if they have the right qualifications.

This reform should be applauded, where under the existing system; graduates take a single entrance examination and depending on their grades, provincial quotas and personal preferences, are appointed to one of 12 service tracks. This new process will be more transparent and competence-based.

The government also wants to end the ban on lateral entry into the civil service, allowing people in the private sector to join through senior government positions. One of the most important recommendations is the establishment of a national executive service (NES) to attract private sector high-fliers, specialists and civil service stars for selected slots in BS-20 and above. The recruitment would be done through a competitive process pointed through meaningful consultation with the chairman. Other recommendations include an aptitude-based screening test to be conducted before the CSS exam and the curriculum of CSS to be rationalized according to contemporary learning needs.

Under the current system of recruitment, training, posting and promotion, the emphasis is on accommodating and propping up generalists. The proposed reform seeks to create a selection structure that would allow the government to hire specialized cadres, who would be recruited by sitting for separate, cluster-based examinations for each service group. It is high time that specialists rather than generalists run the business of the government

After the approval by the prime minister, these recommendations can be implemented from next month. The proposed recruitment plan will be implemented as early as February 2017. Given that most of the failures of the state of Pakistan since its inception, as well as that of our successive governments, can be traced directly to this outdated service structure, it is essential that these recommendations are taken seriously, and implemented as soon as possible.


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