ISLAMABAD: The fervour to reform bureaucracy and governance structure within civil services appears to be faltering as political wrangling and red tapism supersedes, relegating the matter to cold storage.
The civil service reforms were initiated in 2014 and enthusiastically finalised last year. But the reforms process eventually lost steam after interest at the top level faded.
According to officials in the Ministry of Planning and Development who were spearheading the reforms, the country’s civil services witnessed as many as 38 major reform initiatives between 1947 and last year. But most of them have not been as successful as they should have been.
“Most reform moves mainly focussed on short-term priorities and ultimately failed to address critical issues such as accountability, meritocracy, capacity and competency,” said another official of the ministry.
The incumbent government aimed to initiate about 43 reforms in accordance with the document prepared by the ministry over the last three years.
Major reforms included two-stage entry examinations for CSS to screen applicants for written test; cluster-based entry examinations; increasing the age for CSS from 28 to 30; changes in civil service training, restructuring several divisions and cadres; and performance management and evaluation.
It was also agreed that high performance fund of Rs1 billion would be awarded as incentive and followed through Key Performance Indicators tracking unit.
“Seriousness can be gauged by the fact that after consultation with 11 ministries for performance agreement, names were forwarded to the Prime Minister for formal approval for the second time in February this year, but he has not yet signed those contracts,” said an official privy to the development.
“The existing unified grade system, designed in 1972, has become redundant and requires a review in the light of new challenges,” stated the progress paper. A cross-stakeholder group of experts was also added for guidance in this regard.
Besides, the establishment of a federally-chartered National University of Public Policy and Administration (NUPPA) was also recommended and Rs10 million were allocated for it in the budget 2016-17.
A citizen perception survey will be established on the delivery of selected public services and information will be shared with district and provincial governments.
According to sources, the reforms programme has come to a standstill because of “not so encouraging response from the PM secretariat.”
The Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) was also part of the plan, a senior member of the commission, who requested anonymity, said. He agreed that nothing substantial could be done in this regard.
Economist Qaiser Bengali told The Express Tribune that it was all about the government’s will. “The bureaucracy will only implement reforms which it finds beneficial to itself,” he maintained.
A senior official in the planning ministry said, “We actually missed the chance for reforms.”