The government, following in the footsteps of its predecessors, has started working on civil service reforms to improve governance and service delivery, starting with cash payments to senior government officers in lieu of free housing, transport and utility entitlement. A senior government official told Dawn on Monday that the Planning Commission has hired services of a former bureaucrat, Javed Hasan Aly, as an adviser on governance and public policy under a newly-designed “Promoting Professional Excellence Project”. According to an official assessment of the Planning Commission, perks and privileges of officers in Grade 20 and above cost Rs6 billion a year which could be brought down to Rs3.1 billion in case they were given 100 per cent compensation against their existing perks. Mr Aly, according to sources, has submitted his initial concept paper on governance reforms to the Planning Commission and has hinted at building a base of civil service reforms on work done by Dr Ishrat Hussain as chairman of the National Commission on Government Reforms (NCGR) during Gen Musharraf’s tenure. The NCGR had proposed a 50 per cent increase in salaries in three years in lieu of simultaneous withdrawal of perks and privileges. But current government at the time of budget announcement last year, had increased salaries by 50 per cent in a one go but did not touch proposals relating to withdrawal of perks. This year again, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Dr Nadeemul Haque wants to push the reform process forward that was shelved last year. According to Javed Hasan Aly, “governance deficit in Pakistan has degenerated into a malaise whose cure cannot, but be, of the most urgent concern to the government”. The alternative is an irredeemable loss of choices for survival and sustainability at an acceptable level. “The ploy of brinkmanship shall soon be a non-option as we are now precariously poised on the brink of an abyss, glaring into the deep cervices of an oblivion of a performing state,” says his concept paper. The issues identified include a breakdown of discipline and order in governance practices, lack of continuity in forms of dispensation of government, weakened and eroded state institutions by default of ineptitude, weak and unproductive civil service, languishing and primitive criminal justice system, uncertain politics and politicians and lack of enforcement and compliance of laws, regulations, rules and accountability processes. Both the Planning commission chairman and Mr Aly have agreed on urgency of the situation, saying this should be done immediately but without recourse to revolutionary, unsustainable answers. According to Mr Aly, politicians now need to recognise that they had now come to stay and had to preserve the state, and not merely perpetuate, in turns. “The alternative is the existence of the state in the past tense” and, therefore, the political leadership will need to pursue transparent and acceptable governance practices. In the first instance, the federal government should undertake pragmatic and practicable set of reforms in a predictable timeframe and then cascade these reforms into the sub-national and local governments’ structures. Therefore, the first step would involve reforming civil services that becomes responsible for assisting public policy formulation and the entire gamut of its implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This would be done by reorganising government structures to optimise responsiveness and productivity, starting with federal government organisations and then moving to the ministries. The government would be required to create windows of opportunities for lateral entries into the civil services, albeit transparently through a public service commission, to attract expertise from the private, corporate and development world. After restructuring federal organisations, a comprehensive compensation policy would be developed – delinked from a merely need based compensation — moving to compensation related to responsibility and performance. Mr Aly also wants doing away with the extant colonial benefits’ system for civil servants to improve efficiency and accountability and instead adopt monetisation of perks in a well-designed roadmap in a planned manner and also to identify and establish dying cadres of superfluous support personnel. The implementation process will be through legislation.
By: Dawn News