Even as it delayed the implementation of the first step of its civil service reform efforts, the government has decided to set up two commissions to suggest further reforms: the first will focus on improving government efficiency and the second will suggest ways to rationalise pay structures across the federal bureaucracy.
An official at the Finance Ministry said that the decision to create the two commissions was taken during a recent cabinet meeting that also approved the federal budget for 2012. A formal announcement is expected after Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh returns from a private visit to the United States.
The first commission is expected to review the functions of senior government officials and identify possible redundancies to the government. It will be given six months to complete its task.
In addition, the government will introduce a quarterly monitoring mechanism that will require senior bureaucrats to justify their budgets every three months. While the monitoring mechanism was also introduced last year, it was not conducted on a quarterly basis. A source said that senior civil servants complained bitterly about the new system.
The second commission, meanwhile, will seek reforms in the pay structure of civil servants. It is not the first time the government has examined the issue. During the Musharraf administration, the government created the National Commission for Government Reforms, headed by former State Bank Governor Ishrat Hussain, which also worked on civil service pay.
However, the current government appears to be seeking more than what its predecessors recommended.
“The work done by previous commissions cannot be ignored but at the same time the past reports cannot be implemented,” said Nadeemul Haq, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and the most vocal advocate of civil service reform. Haq said that governance reforms need three to five years to implement.
The move comes despite the fact that the government delayed the implementation of the first step of its civil service reforms agenda: removing the car privileges of senior bureaucrats and replacing it with a cash allowance. The delay is seen as a sign of bureaucratic resistance to reform.
The measure had been scheduled to be implemented by July 1, but has now been delayed. It had been designed to monetise all benefits for senior civil servants in order to save the government billions of rupees on administering those privileges in addition to making civil service jobs more attractive for qualified private sector professionals.
The government had decided to withdraw cars for officers in the three highest grades of the Civil Service of Pakistan and offer them allowances of Rs40,000 to Rs70,000 instead. The move was expected to save the government Rs1.6 billion.
“The Cabinet Committee could not meet due to other pressing engagements and the government would now move a summary to the Cabinet for some more time to implement the decision,” said Finance Ministry spokesman Rana Assad Ameen.
The delay in implementation of the decision does not come as a surprise. It was widely expected that the bureaucracy would offer resistance to any such move, as many federal secretaries entitled to use only one car are using as many as five, according to government auditors.
The Federal Director General Audit in a recent meeting of the parliamentary public accounts committee said that 14,000 of the 18,000 cars in 296 government departments are being misused.
The government spends an average of Rs530,000 per month on every grade 22 officer, an amount that does not include cost of privileges such as land and membership to elite social clubs. The Planning Commission has proposed that the monetisation of perks and privileges would significantly reduce the government’s costs.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.