Govt changes the promotion criteria for senior bureaucrats

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ISLAMABAD: In a dramatic move, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led federal government has drastically increased discretionary powers of the Central Selection Board (CSB) for the promotion of senior civil servants to higher grades, it emerged on Tuesday.

The move that comes ahead of a CSB meeting allows 30 discretionary marks to CSB members to lift the position of what a senior bureaucrat described as favorite candidates by superseding candidates with impeccable service record but no political or bureaucratic connections.

However, a top government official said that the move was not politically motivated.

The CSB meeting was scheduled for November, but it was postponed due to the anti-government march organized by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and subsequent developments.

The CSB is headed by the chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission and comprises two parliamentarians, secretaries of the cabinet and establishment divisions, provincial chief secretaries, representatives of the federal governments in provinces and secretaries of the ministries concerned.

On Dec 3, the establishment division with the approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan notified in the official gazette the Civil Servants Promotion (BPS-18 to BPS-21) Rules, 2019.

According to the new rules, the CSB, which earlier had 15 out of total 100 marks, has now got 30 marks on its discretion. In addition to the CSB’s 30 marks, 40 are reserved for the annual confidential reports (ACRs) and the remaining 30 for professional courses.

Earlier, the courts had struck down the discretionary power of the CSB that was being exercised on the pretext of the integrity of civil servants.

The new rules suggest the CSB members would also be free to consider marks on the basis of intelligence reports as it specifically mentions that for promotion to top posts, the CSB can take into account the information received against the officer concerned.

Before the introduction of the new rules, the passing marks for a candidate belonging to the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) were 75, while the passing marks for the rest of the cadres were 72. These could be obtained through outstanding performance and successful completion of professional courses at the National Defence University (NDU) and administrative college.

Previously, there were 50 marks for ACRs, 35 for professional courses and 15 for CSB. If a candidate secured 80pc marks there were chances of his promotion even if CSB would not give him any mark.

However, under the recently notified rules, an officer despite getting 90pc marks in the heads of ACR and professional courses could not get a promotion without obtaining 70-80pc marks from the CSB.

The rules set the minimum threshold of 60 marks for promotion in BS-18, 65 for BS-19, 70 for BS-20 and 75 for BS-21.

As per the rules, “For promotion to senior management posts, a civil servant must fulfill qualifying service, eligibility threshold, qualifications, the relevance of experience, training, and top management potential. Since officers promoted to this level may be called upon to hold independent charge of a ministry/division or to head a major corporation, the Board should satisfy itself about the officer’s maturity, balance, and ability to assume such top management position even at a short notice.”

When contacted, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Establishment Shahzad Arbab defending the new rules said: “As per my personal experience the CSB generally makes an objective assessment as it examines each and every officer for promotion.”

He said that the ACRs were not a yardstick to gauge the officers as in the cases of civil servants almost every officer got an outstanding ACR.

He said that the proposal to enhance the powers of the CSB was forwarded by the secretaries committee headed by the cabinet secretary and comprising all federal secretaries.

Mr. Arbab said that the CSB was the right forum to ascertain the competence of an officer and their eligibility for promotion.

He said that the new rules were not politically motivated and the same had been notified keeping in view all professional requirements.

It may be mentioned that in 2014 the Establishment Division introduced the criteria that empowered the CSB to reject the promotion of a civil servant if he/she failed to secure at least three out of five marks for “integrity/general reputation/ perception”.

The CSB denied promotions to scores of senior bureaucrats on the basis of this criterion by invoking the integrity-related clause.

These officers initially challenged the discretionary marks of the CSB before the superior courts and ultimately the ‘unfettered’ powers of CSB were set aside.

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