‘For forms of Government let fools contest; whatever is best administered is the best,” said Alexandar Pope. Service delivery at Government Departments has always remained a sorry figure. Name a department and you will find miserable tale of inefficiency, lack of good governance, weariness towards work, averseness to punctuality and a psychology of corruption ruling the roost. The mega scandal in Local Government budgets hung the heads of entire Balochistan in shame but that was one unfortunate case tracked and unmasked. There are, unquestionably, thousand other rather uglier cases which go unexposed at the expanse of the common man’s life.
Whereas the world has transformed to a paper-free environment and is enjoying the fruits of modern technology to communicate through electronic devices, most of the public offices in Balochistan are immersed in the old and outdated system of dispatching letters, maintaining dispatch books, using postal services and employing dispatch riders, let aside the time consumed in the process. A letter which may be communicated in a department, in otherwise a matter of seconds, takes months to travel in Balochistan’s public offices.
Regrettably utter inefficiency is a common story of all the public offices in this crises ridden province. Many officers in Balochistan’s public service are even unable to write a paragraph in English or Urdu but are running reputed organizations that are deciding the future of the many young and bright graduates of the province. Balochistan Public Service Commission (BPSC) is a case in point which is replete which clerk-type officers. But Balochistan Civil Secretariat and all the line departments in Balochistan are bastion of such officers who hamper the process of service delivery instead of facilitating it.
Such sorry affair of state has created enormous problems for the entire society and has brought the working of entire governmental machinery to a standstill. There was a time, when the bureaucracy was called the ‘steel frame’ of British Raj; the sub-ordinate staff would try to learn something from the superordinates then. But, 70 years on, now the case is the other way round. Many officers are dependent on their subordinate staff. This happens especially in the matters of maintaining of accounts of a particular office. Moreover, many deem corruption as a birth right and shroud it with a rather ‘civilised’ terminology i.e ‘percentage.’ This percentage is a birth right of all the employees of Balochistan where finance and budgeting has to do something. All understand but all keep a mum about it. Those who are averse to it do not have a political ladder to enjoy the ‘prestige’. But they are corrupt in their own way. They may sometimes sit and recite some religious scripture in an office during the time they are paid for and at other times escape from offices or unnecessarily slap a self-created rule to hamper service delivery.
For this and many other chronic issues in all the public offices of Balochistan, only a single phrase stands responsible i.e ‘Fit for Promotion’. While filling the Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) of their sub-ordinate staff, the reporting officers magnanimously use this phrase without any regard for its consequences. It is feared that most of the reporting officers may deem it as a remark for physical fitness. But as a matter of rule, this phrase refers to, and should refer to, the fitness of a candidate for promotion to the next grade in terms of qualification, management skills, performance record, integrity of personality and so on. Disappointingly the practice is otherwise. Secondly, the clerk unions within public offices also have a very negative role in promoting inefficiency, psychology of corruption, and reluctance to change. Unions are always seen to increase their promotion quota and have achieved in some departments 50% while in others 75% promotion quota. This means out of 100, as many as 75 employees, only physically fit but not fit for promotion, occupy the higher ranks in public offices while 25 young and fresh blood are allowed to be recruited directly. This pity has rendered the Government of Balochistan only a salary distribution agency among majority irresponsible, corrupt, rigid, and rude employees who are good for nothing.
Government can only attain the ideal of good governance if there is a departure from this psychology. All the promotions should be made in the public sector on merit rather than dull seniority of an official who might have sipped tea for some 20 years in an office, cracking jokes and debating politics more precisely than politicians. The best way out can be holding of screening tests for the employees to be promoted to the next ranks. Unions should exist in the public offices but they should not be allowed to turn into blackmailing mafia to collapse the entire system of an organization at once. Recruitments in public offices should not be made on political grounds at any cost. While writing these lines, this author feels that these suggestions may take decades to be considered even but they should be considered if change is really desired in Balochistan otherwise physically fit and mentally unfit bosses would continue to ruin the public offices in Balochistan and would create untold miseries for the poor masses of Balochistan.
Published in The Balochistan Point on April 5, 2017