New guidelines to prove excellent for good governance

The latest guidelines approved by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif apparently rule out ‘political appointments’ in foreign missions and international, multilateral and regional organisations and bodies, writes Tariq Butt.

The guidelines made public through a letter issued by Secretary to the Prime Minister Fawad Hassan Fawad essentially curb discretion, which is always misused at different official levels to accommodate the buddies.

The guidelines, if strictly followed “in letter and spirit” as the order declares, will undoubtedly prove excellent for good governance, justice, transparency, merit and fair play, and trash cronyism and favouritism that have been plaguing the system and thriving incompetency and political patronage.

The order clearly stated that no relaxation or exception to these guidelines should be granted without the prior approval of the prime minister for which the concerned ministry shall provide detailed justifications in a summary.

Successive governments with the present administration being no exception have followed a standard practice to give ambassadorial and other key positions to well-connected individuals including retired armed forced personnel. Such nominations are obviously made to keep these figures in good humour for the ‘good job’ they have done for the appointing authority in different spheres at different times. Unfortunately, such prestigious offices were always profusely given away during dictatorial rules.

On the face of it, the guidelines target the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Labour and Manpower, Economic Affairs Division and intelligence agencies whose personnel are posted in Pakistan’s foreign missions on different assignments.

By the looks of it, the order also shuns out posting of persons, retired and not in the government service any more, in foreign missions, international, multilateral and regional organisations. This means that only the civil servants are eligible for these berths. This became evident when the letter said that the officers would be taken from  “identified services, cadres and occupational groups” for foreign posts.

As per the guidelines, qualifying written test has been made mandatory for every such aspirant with the minimum qualifying score of 60pc. Most importantly, the weightage of this test will be 80pc whereas the interview will carry only 20pc effect.

The catch has always been in the interview wherein the genuine candidates are thrown out and the preferred ones, having connections in the right quarters, are selected despite the fact that they had performed poorly.

The committee that will conduct the interview will beconstituted with the approval of the prime minister, which discards the discretion of the federal secretaries to have such forums of their choice to make their choice selections.

To tighten the policy further, it has been provided that no minimum passing marks shall be fixed for the interview and no candidates would be deemed to have failed in the selection process merely on the basis of performance in the interview.

No ministry or other organisation will prepare the written test, but it will organise it through the reputed Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) or the Institute of Business Administration Karachi. Of course, this is another superb condition.

There are a number of instances when officials posted abroad had been managing extensions till the time they retire to get a job in some foreign organisation there. But now the tenure fixed for each foreign post would be strictly followed and would not be extendable.

Moreover, an official will get only two tenures of foreign posting in his entire service provided that there shall be an intervening period of at least three years between these terms.The concerned ministry or division in each case would not only ensure that selection process is completely transparent and absolutely merit-based but these features shall be clearly visible from the adopted processes, procedures and practices.

It has happened many times that summaries are moved to the prime minister in a rush to get certain officials appointed when their predecessors have retired or have just a few days or weeks to go. But this practice has been taken care of in the guidelines, which provide that all foreign posts that are vacant and available or are likely to become vacant and available within one year of the date of circulation of such vacancy, will be circulated amongst the officers of the identified services, cadres and occupational groups, clearly specifying eligibility criteria in terms of educational qualifications, experience, age etc.

And failure to initiate and complete the process of selection of new officers, prior to completion of tenures of incumbents, shall be a personal responsibility of the concerned secretary. The services, cadres and occupational groups, eligible for selection against each foreign post, against which foreign posting is made, will be clearly defined and identified by the concerned ministry or division, keeping in view the job description and responsibility of each foreign post.

Source: The News. Date: February 15, 2016

New guidelines to prove excellent for good governance