Bureaucracy structure change likely
ISLAMABAD: The government is considering to drastically change the service structure by replacing 22 pay scales and various cadres of civil bureaucracy into a contract-based National Executive Service (NES) for senior-level policy formulation and reform implementation as part of a broader governance, macroeconomic and civil service reforms.
The process being fined-tuned by the Planning Commission will ultimately lead to a gradual and natural reduction in the government size – minimising lower-level government jobs and eliminating some middle career tiers of bureaucracy – instead of adopting a politically difficult retrenchment plan.
A voluntary separation scheme, insiders said, would be prepared and offered to incumbent top officers. At the same time, special compensation packages would be provided to specialised jobs like health, education, law-enforcement, law and revenue because of their high-risk contribution and low-return nature. Such specialised groups would be treated separately than NES or current national pay scales.
In the new budget, the federal cabinet has already approved the setting up of an independent commission to identify unnecessary expenditures to reduce non-development current spending. The entire restructuring process also involving autonomous and semi-autonomous corporations is envisaged to be completed in about 7 to 10 years.
Background discussions with policymakers suggest that all previous attempts to reduce the government size and structure could not succeed because of resistance by civil bureaucracy.
“If existing bureaucracy is given a guarantee that they would complete their natural career and only fresh inductions would be based on new mechanism, the resistance would substantially die down,” a source said.
“Therefore, the process would not be revolutionary, but evolutionary and incremental,” he said.
The reform process is spearheaded by deputy chairman of planning commission Dr Nadeemul Haque and a newly inducted adviser on public policy and productivity enhancement, Javed Hasan Aly, with expert advice of Dr Ishrat Hussain who had prepared a comprehensive roadmap as head of the National Commission on Government Reforms (NCGR).
The main objective is to enhance government productivity through institutional strengthening, transparency and accountability. The first phase would be limited to the federal government and then followed up with provincial and local governments, keeping in mind the requirement and implications of the 18th Amendment.
Under the plan, the prevalent service groups like district management, secretariat, foreign service, police, postal service, customs, customs and trade etc would be merged into a National Executive Service (NES), evolving incrementally matching with natural attrition in similar levels of government officers.
In this process, the secretariat group would disappear, the posts of senior joint secretaries would seize to exist almost immediately and posts falling vacant in Grade 1-16 due to retirement or any other reason would stand abolished. This means the fresh recruitments and postings would not be made against these lower level jobs to reduce officer-supporting staff ratio.
This process is planned to be completed in about seven years.
In federal staff strength of about 468,000, officers in grade 17-22 stand at about 24,150. This means 95 per cent staff of up to grade 16, with only 5 per cent officers – a ratio of 19 staff to one officer. Even in officer group, there are only 118 officers of grade 22, followed by 440 in BPS-21, about 1115 in grade 20, another 3075 in grade 19, followed by 6750 in grade 18 and 12,670 in grade 17.
The policymakers are planning on creation of NES in place of ‘All Pakistan and Federal Services’ through long-term contracts (7-10 years) with greater flexibility for entry and exit to and from private and public sector. Linked to responsibility and output targets, their job and emolument contracts would involve contributory pension fund retirement benefits instead of current practice that eats away over Rs80 billion of the federal budget every year and keeps growing.The contracts for officers equivalent of grade 17 and 18 would be given a longer contract of about 15 years, with an inbuilt option of induction into NES-based on satisfactory and outstanding performance. In all the above cases, perks and privileges would be
monetised and paid as part of the salary, instead of its continuous burden on budget.