Sindh Civil Servants (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 – The death of governance

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Sindh Civil Servants (Amendment) Ordinance 2012  – The death of governance
Written By: Tasneem Noorani former secretary commerce

Tasneem M. Noorani

Karachi (September 18, 2012) – THEY say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Sindh government for giving out-of-turn and shoulder promotions. But the provincial government bounced back with an ordinance empowering the granting of out-of-turn promotions. While they were at it, they thought it might be a good idea to fix a few other niggling issues.

The new Sindh Civil Servants (Amendment) Ordinance 2012 now empowers the government to take anyone on deputation or absorb anybody in the mainstream government, regularise the appointment of those taken on deputation and confirm absorptions done prior to the promulgation of the ordinance.

It also gives added powers to hire as many retired civil servants as the government wants. The person who is taken on deputation or absorbed can be anyone “who is a civil servant as defined in this [Sindh Civil Servants] Act or the Federal Civil Servant Act 1973 … or [is working in] any organisation set up established, owned, controlled or managed by the government, against any post, in any cadre, in the civil service of the province”.

This carte blanche means that the Sindh government can now circumvent the Provincial Public Service Commission by hiring persons with political clout directly for mainstream jobs, by first inducting them in government companies, or a local body, or any other entity controlled by the government.

For instance, a person given a job in a government company, where the system of recruitment is ad hoc, could move within a week of his appointment and be made assistant commissioner or deputy secretary, posts for which a non-political merit-based recruitment system through the Public Service Commission has been laid down in order to hire competent civil servants without political baggage.

The political bosses must be very pleased with this ‘improvement’ in the system. If only it would benefit the system or even them in the long run, there would be no issue. But what will happen is that when this system of complete powers to the political bosses (they already had de facto powers) becomes de jure, the few self-respecting civil servants who want to perform rule-based duties will also disappear from the scene. Politically appointed civil servants understandably spend most of their time repaying their debt to political masters and the public becomes inconsequential for them.

The two incidents of fire in factories in Karachi and Lahore were a manifestation of how corrupt and inefficient civil servants survive political interference, and are more inclined to follow the priorities fixed by their political masters, rather than follow the rules of their service. This results in situations where factories can operate without following basic safety standards for the workers.

Surely Karachi and other cities are in for times worse than before. A neutral administration without political interference was a specialty of the British Raj. However, this main tool of good governance is the first casualty of political expediency.

When officials who have not had the required training are given serious assignments, they are clueless about the rules. A rule-based society, which is the other name for good governance, becomes ever more distant, because even if the political appointee wants to go by the book, he would not know what it says.

Initiatives like the new ordinance will in time be regretted by the current bosses, especially when they are on the other side of the fence. But by then governance would have slid a few more notches, and it would be too late for anyone to control the situation. As it is, Sindh requires superb civil servants, who know the art of keeping two bosses happy and still have time for their job.

Meanwhile, poor governance can also be witnessed in Balochistan where the chief justice, when he holds court in Quetta, seems to be standing in for the Balochistan chief minister, who reportedly spends most of his time away from his charge. It seems senior officers of the Balochistan government are not half as alert as when the chief justice lands in Quetta. An officer under ‘threat’ of being posted to Quetta told me that if he can’t wriggle out of his assignment, he will enter the secretariat as the chief minister is rarely there, and the officer in question would be able to get out of Quetta more often.

The Sindh government ‘initiatives’ and the abdication of all responsibilities by the Balochistan government are not the only areas of concern. The federal government is not to be left behind. The interior minister recently said that he planned to swoop down on Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Interestingly, even weeks after such a statement there has been no follow-up. Even the press forgets such statements which are soon overtaken by new events.

Regular press conferences by the interior minister are the order of the day. While the proceedings of the meetings are publicised and ‘strict’ orders and issuance of reports within a stipulated period make headlines, nothing happens on the ground. This is a Pakistani specialty: governance through the media.

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