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Restructuring of govt. organizations

 

The committee has recommended a cut of 12% of the total federal civil bureaucracy's posts

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Islamabad
Apr 23 - 29, 2001

The government committee on restructuring and right-sizing formally presented to Chief Executive recommendations for slashing the civilian bureaucratic apparatus of the federal government by almost 40,000 (12% of total posts) and reduction of federal divisions from 34 to 26. The Chief Executive has asked the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, who is heading the committee, to put these proposals, after consulting federal ministries/divisions, before the cabinet for final approval. He directed the deputy chairman, in a high level meeting, to immediately circulate committee's recommendations to all the Federal Ministers and Secretaries to get their views on these recommendations.

The Ministers and Secretaries will be given two weeks time to formulate and then submit to the planning commission their views on the proposed cut. On the basis of their views, General Musharraf said, the planning commission would revise these recommendations and would forward the same to the cabinet for final approval.

The final proposals, the General said, must be submitted before the cabinet by the end of May 2001 so that these recommendations could be implemented from the next financial year 2001-2002.

According to sources, the committee has recommended a cut of 12% of the total federal civil bureaucracy's posts. It has also proposed reduction of federal divisions in two phases from 34 to 20. In first phase-2001-02 the number of divisions would be reduced to 22 while this number would further go down to 20 in phase two-2002-2003.

This reduction in number of divisions would be the consequence of their merger. However, in order to protect what the committee believes high calibre required for quality decision-making, a division merging into another though to be called a wing would be headed by a special secretary (BS22).

A number of attached departments are recommended to be closed down, transferred to provinces or privatized because the committee is of the view that they have outlived their utility.

This right-sizing exercise of the present government will mainly hit the lower staff (grade 1-6). The posts that are proposed to be cut include almost 90% in lower grades. Seniors posts (grade 17 and above) to be slashed are almost 4000).

The committee recommended that the redundant staff in the federal ministries/divisions and attached departments should not be terminated. Instead, under the rule of "last in and first out" staff declared redundant should be placed in a "division surplus pool" by the division/departments. But these staff, it is proposed, will continue to work in their present jobs and receive special training particularly in computer skills until absorbed against regular vacancies or until retirement.

Surplus staff, the committee recommended, however, could be offered voluntary retirement with immediate effect but with additional full pay for a period ranging from six to 36 months depending on length of service.

The officer-staff current ratio is said to be determined by a mixture of outdated entitlement-assessment made by the Establishment Division in the 1960s. The new norms of officer staff ratio, set by the committee are 1:3.2 for 2001-2002 and 1:2.5 for 2002-2003 onwards.

Restructuring and right-sizing of government ministries/divisions and agencies, it is recommended, should be a continued process rather than a one-time event. "This will ensure that government agencies are always appropriately focused and staffed to achieve their objectives, "the committee said, recommending that the restructuring exercise should be made a part of the annual budgetary process.

The committee said that the federal secretaries are empowered under the rules of business to re-organise their divisions/departments according to their work requirement. However, the committee laments that secretaries rarely use these powers to re-organise their establishments as changes in grades and creation of position is controlled by the Finance and Establishment Division and 80% posts in each Ministry/Division are reserved for occupational groups controlled by the establishment division.

The government's anxiety to implement the IMF conditionalities is understandable in view of its desperate bid to qualify for soft loans being sought for the implementation of its reform agenda including revival of the national economy. It is true that the Ministries, Divisions, Corporations etc. are overstaffed due to unscrupulous inductions by the political governments, who had created posts to reward their workers, favourites and cronies. It is also a fact that the state machinery was oversized as compared to the country's legitimate administrative needs. The committee's recommendations to reduce the size of the administrative machinery is, therefore, quite appropriate. The Chief Executive's categorical announcement that no surplus civil servant will be rendered jobless is, however, welcome, because there are already hundreds of thousands unemployed educated youth struggling for employment to earn their subsistence. It would be neither advisable nor judicious to create unemployment for more educated people. What is, however, necessary is that the process of reorganization or restructuring of the state machinery should be carried out expeditiously, in order to avoid uncertainty in the minds of the civil servants. It could not be ignored that a government's credibility remains at stake during the pendency of its decisions implementation. Since the present government is confronted with multifarious problems at home and abroad, it cannot afford any further erosion of its credibility. It is, therefore, desirable that finalization of the plan should be completed swiftly and the restructuring is completed expeditiously to avoid state of uncertainty. It will, however, be pertinent that restructuring should contribute towards improvement of the efficiency. We must avoid pitfalls, because we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to put in place an efficient, vibrant, responsive and responsible state machinery.