What are the Components of civil services reforms in India?

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Reforms must take into account the role of the Civil Service in the governance needs of the day and the expectations generated from it. The main components of Civil Service Reform should pertain to the following:

1. Size and Structure of Government:

Since independence, the government has increased the number of their ministries, departments and officials; in some cases even doubling them. In part, this growth been stimulated by political considerations; it accommodated more and more intra-party groups by o more ministerial positions.

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It also created posts for senior civil servants, along with other jobs at levels that enlarged the patronage capabilities of a number of political and bureaucratic leaders.

However, this expansion has not been offset by a concomitant shedding of lower responsibilities or other attempts to eliminate redundancy. Apart from its budgetary aspect, this kind of expansion has stretched implementation capacity, and compounded coordination problems.

Civil servants are spending more and more time in maintaining and/or clarifying their jurisdictional rights and boundaries, clearing their decisions through increasingly complex internal processes, and coordinating their activities through an increasing number of agencies.

In addition, it has created vested interest groups at all levels that have blocked efforts at reform and rationalization. Once a ministry, department, division and unit have been created, it is difficult to abolish, even though its function may well have been transferred or may no longer exist. Similarly, it is difficult to dismiss a govern­ment employee who has tenure guarantees.

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Although these kinds of expansion have serious impacts on the performance of civil servants, they are difficult to compare systematically in either fiscal terms or in terms of quality of service.

Although the cost of running the government as a percentage of Gross Do Product is roughly the same in many countries, taxpayers receive vastly different values in return.

Rightsizing Civil Services.-This issue of civil service efficiency Vis-^-Vis size is critical. Alt worldwide reduction in size of civil services is often under budgetary pressures and/or threats from donors and lenders, fundamental questions such as the number of ministries and internal cohesion and the integration of functions within each ministry are not looked into.

Although limited guidelines exist on the appropriate size and structure of a ministerial administration, it is possible to make some tentative recommendations. The number of ministries should be kept low.

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Even if political considerations warrant the appointment of new ministers, these should be kept as ministers with a major portfolio within an existing ministry.

The critical point is to retain the viability and integrity of a ministry by keeping all the closely related activities in the context of a government’s priorities within one administrative structure.

This enables ministry officials to carry out their responsibilities efficiently and to be held accountable for their performance. The administrate reforms must look into the role clarification, core governance issues so that optimum number functionaries are available for effective service delivery without any spillage or leakage.

2. Recruitment:

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Civil service recruitment and promotion hinge on several factors such as patronage versus merit; the relative importance of ethnic, religious, regional and gender preferences. Even where countries adopt a merit-based system, various practices militate in favour of these biases.

An explicit political dimension becomes pronounced not only at the highest levels of policy and programme formulation, but also at the lowest levels of regulatory and control activities.

Such political pressures are most pronounced in countries with diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. These stresses on recruitment and promotion become severe where economic growth has not opened up job opportunities for the employable, either educated or unskilled and the government becomes the employer of last resort.

However, where economies expand, public employment tends to shed bias restrictions and even to use private sector practices to bring qualified people into the civil service.

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The recruitment examination for Indian Civil Services is of course one of the rigorous examination across the world. The changing trends in the society as well as the economy makes it imperative to stress more on technological knowledge and in areas such as human rights. There is also very little stress on testing managerial skills in the examination.

The changes in our economy also create a need for specialists at various jobs. With rapidly advancing technology and high degrees of specialisation in every field, the country can no longer afford to put generalists in positions requiring specialised skills.

The entry and exit of civil servants from public service to private sector and vice versa, will make the civil services jobs more attractive, thus making it a new economy job.

This may create the risk of competition feeding into the civil services even more insidiously than it already has. But that will at least help enforce accountability and be beneficial in the long run.

In the decades since independence, Indian scholars and officials have produced an extensive and lively debate about ways in which civil service productivity can be increased and staff accountability and responsiveness enhanced.

The thrust is as much about enhancing merit-based systems to raise the productivity and motivation of existing employees as on streamlining and rationalizing the structure of the civil service.

There are differing opinions regarding the extent to which the civil service will benefit from the entry of outsiders. On the positive side, many maintain that lateral recruitment practices will help to bring fresh ideas and skills into government, and that it will also provide incentives for current civil servants to perform better or risk being passed over for the prime postings.

Yet a number of factors have to be balanced against these advantages. The response of the organized sector to the deputation of its senior management and professionals to central and state governments is not clear.

Karnataka’s Administrative Reforms Commission cautioned about the need to ensure that the skills which lateral entrants are expected to bring in were not otherwise available within the civil service, which is needed to avoid the risk that the selection process becomes ad hoc and ends up demoralizing existing personnel.

The other touchy issues are the offer of market-related salaries and the process of selection. It is necessary to lay down an open and uniformly enforced process of eligibility criteria, selection and assessment to avoid charges of arbitrary and politically biased appointments.

Governments also have to contend with union opposition to the offer of market remuneration to outside recruits for performing what the unions perceive as essentially departmental functions.

A final dimension relates to the mobility of senior civil servants across public and private sectors to gain exposure by working for short or long periods with the private and voluntary sector.

Beyond provisions for deputation to state enterprises and external aid agencies, there are provisions in the rules of AIS and a number of state services to permit the deputation of senior officials to work in private sector or NGOs.

The challenges confronting expanded use of lateral recruitment are important, but not decisive.

The issue must be addressed carefully in a phased and systematic manner, which will allow governments to take full advantage of the benefits in terms of improved skills and motivation while militating against some of the costs in terms of political favoritism and demoralization.

3. Capacity Building & Human Resources Development:

The training offered for civil service recruits is one of the most comprehensive training systems. The gaps where the training facilities are not in tune with the new trends have to be identified from time to time, so that training can be provided right at the induction level.

The urgency for reforms in civil services is dictated as much by the imperatives of global developments as by the forces of new technology and communication which are shrinking distance and commerce, rendering conventional approaches and practices of administration obsolete and dysfunctional. Towards this end, a number of measures have to be taken for simplification of rules and procedures, delegation of enhanced powers, better enforcement and accountability and speedy redress of public grievances.

Reforming and Restructuring Human Resource Management: Building a motivated and capable civil service requires merit-based and nondiscriminatory recruitment, which rests on the absence of political patronage, transparent rules and procedures, open competition and selection by an independent agency.

Subsequently, important elements in meritocracy and the motivation of employees are the opportunities for promotion, recognition and reward for performance, inter-sector mobility, placement in right jobs and the scope for skill upgrading and self-improvement equally important to address demotivating factors like frequent and arbitrary transfers, a poor environment, decrepit housing and health facilities, as well as special factors affecting women in and field jobs.

Strengthening Meritocracy in Promotion: In the final assessment, promotion-with its hi emoluments and enhanced status – remains a key element of motivation.

There are differing approach to the use of seniority and merit as criteria for promotion in countries following a similar hierarc “mandarin” structure of civil service management. Singapore consistently promotes people en’ according to merit and it is common to see younger officers supersede more senior, but less compete officers.

Malaysia follows a system of promotion and annual salary progression based upon a performance appraisal and remuneration system.

A statutory body Civil Services Board (CSB) can be created to look into issues such as and promotion of Civil servants (NCRWC, 6.7.1). This will help in reducing political pressures on careers of civil servants.

As there should be cohesion between the political masters and the civil ser for ensuring good governance, the civil service board can be used to delink civil service perform issues from politics. A clear demarcation line can be drawn between the two with the establishment such boards.

4. Performance & Promotion Reforming the Annual Confidential Report Process:

Because it’s impact on salary, career prospects and decisions on premature retirement, the framework performance appraisal has important consequences for the motivation of employees.

The An Confidential Report process is also meant to be used in training and human resource develops; confirmation and crossing efficiency bars.

The question of how employee performance should be systematically evaluated in a fair and relief fashion, without generating unnecessary conflict, is a complicated one Although supervisors have right to provide continuous feedback and guidance to employees, Annual Confidential Reports (or A” are the principal means of periodic formal appraisal. However, the non-transparent, subjective unilateral character of ACRs in all states has reduced its utility for public agencies and employees.

In most states, the formats are uniform for all the employees regardless of the nature functions. Discussions between the evaluator and employee being evaluated are infrequent and typically only take place if an adverse remark is being entered.

Serious efforts to reform the system of performance assessment are urgently needed. In the near term, efforts can be made to revise and update the ACR format and incorporate more department- specific feedback. Improvements can also be made without much difficulty to improve the consultative nature of the ACR process and the feedback managers provide to staff. A Performance Appraisal Model will be of great use in reforming Annual Confidential reports.

Civil Services Performance Systems: ‘But those who do not consumer goods and increase them in just ways should be made permanent in their offices, being devoted to what is agreeable and permanent to the king.’ -Arthasastra.

The present promotion system in civil services is based on time-scale and is coupled by its security of tenure. These elements in our civil services are making our dynamic civil servants complacent and many of the promotions are based upon patronage system.

The non-inclusion of incentives or disincentives for performance is a major drawback for civil services and is making Indian Civil Services largely unaccountable to the state.

Civil Servants are not only recruited through open competitive examination, but certain officials from the state governments are also being promoted. The whole idea of All India Civil Services gets lost when other state officers are promoted to civil services and work in the state itself.

This is indeed a retrograde step. It should be made mandatory for the officers who are promoted to civil service to serve in other states to keep the idea of creating All India Civil Service working.

These promotions should be merit based and the respective authority have to benchmark the best practices and evaluate the performance of the civil servants both qualitatively and quantitatively with a variety of parameters.

The performance appraisal of civil servants has to be according to these benchmarks and the necessary placement reward and punishments can be taken up by the authorities.

The recent reform in Hong Kong Civil Services wherein it was mandated that the civil servants would be recruited on a permanent basis but their continuation in the job would be subject to verifying the performance indicators from time to time. This model can be replicated in India also.

5. Professionalism & Modernity:

The founding fathers of the Constitution wisely provided, by making provisions in Part XIV of the Constitution, for apolitical and independent civil services, with requisite protection for service matters.

These provisions pertain not just to the union but also the states. One of the provisions of the Constitution (Article 312) which was hotly debated and faced considerable opposition, particularly from the provincial governments, pertained to the creation of All India Services (AIS) with recruitment based on all India competitive examination and dual control by the centre and the states.

Such a constitutional protection was meant to enable the AIS to operate independently, freely, objectively and fearlessly. Unfortunately, political interference and administrative acquiescence has severely dented the professional fibre of the service.

The neutrality of civil servants, especially at the highest levels of policy-making and programme formulation, is important to maintain, particularly in democracies where leaders change periodically.

Bureaucratic continuity is a necessity, even though it may become a mechanism for creating a privileged, self-oriented group within the state. It is worth noting that the principle of bureaucratic neutrality as an instrument for the preservation of democracy has never been rejected outright.

Although legal, sometimes constitutional measures can provide for such neutrality, there are also structural arrangements that facilitate the separation between politics and administration both substantively and procedurally.

In parliamentary democracies, the secretary of the ministry is a permanent civil servant who heads the ministry’s administration temporarily and acts as the chief advisor to the minister.

He or she is thereby involved in discussing and often influencing political matters that relate to the ministry. Usually, a thin line is drawn between the secretary’s advisory capacity and his or her active involvement in promoting the interests of the dominant party in policy formulation and implementation.

However, neutrality does not mean that high-ranking civil servants cannot or should not be involve! Articulating public policy indeed, senior officials are professionally and morally obliged to provide t political leaders with policy alternatives based on sound arguments, relevant precedents,! Sustainability in the context of changing political environments it is essential that they do so, how from a non-partisan position.

Civil Servants have to bring a new orientation to rules by which the everyday conduct of affairs has to be regulated. Civil servants have much to contribute to the shaping and not ju^ implementation of the policy.

Professional Skills: Professional skills of officers may relate to three functional categories implementation, program/project preparation and policy formulation – as well as to specific themes (areas or specializations).

Concerted effort needs to be directed towards encouraging civil servants| cultivate professional skills through direct work experience or through research. Training and study participated in must be reflected in the ACR as well as peer-reviewed published research.

Modernity: Reforms and e-governance: The concept of e-governance is bound to play a maj role in the reform process of civil services. With the increase in literacy rates and accessibility! Technology, the civil servants will be more accountable and transparent in the conduct of their duties any present day civil service reform is incomplete if it neglects the role of information and communicable technology.

As we have been emphasizing the need to reform, keeping in view of the changing there is a need to reform civil services and make civil servants pro-active in the developmental the civil servants should not view reforms with cynicism, but should actively take part in the process. The sense of reforms should come from within the civil servants to create pro-active, vita and accountable civil service.

6. Civil Service Accountability:

The Civil Servant has always played a pivotal role in ensuring continuity and change in administration.

The civil servants are dictated by the rules and procedures. It is the ‘rule of law’ rather than ‘rule of man’ that is blamed for widespread abuse of power and corruption among government officials. The explosion of media has also opened civil servants to external scrutiny.

The chart on the right shows the accountability of a civil servant at various levels.

Transparency is a necessary part of accountability, though they are two different concepts. To hold a civil servant accountable, it is necessary to find out the information about the civil servants’ decisions and actions. This leads us to the urgent need for legislation such as the Right to Information and protection for the citizens to blow the whistle.

For greater accountability, the following are some of the measures suggested:

» Strengthening and streamlining reporting mechanisms

» Streamlining and fast-tracking departmental enquiries

» Linking performance with incentives

» Overhaul of employee grievance procedures

» Action on audit findings

» Implementation of Citizens Charters’ for monitoring service delivery

» Right to Information Act and its enforcement

» Code of conduct for civil servants

Change in Mindset: A paradigm shift in the nature of civil service/servants is required to cope up with the emerging demands and the changes in society and economy.

Securing Leadership for Change: The importance of securing the highest level of political authority, namely the commitment of ministers and senior officials, to an administrative reform programme was identified. Equally important is the institutionalization within the government machinery of the skills necessary for the continuation and development of good management in government.

Policy Development and Strategic Planning:

Strategic planning deals with strengthening the core policy development, management and coordination capacity within the government. The lack of policy-analysis skills has been identified as a key weakness within the civil service in many developing countries. Strategic planning also deals with civil service improvement programmes, and in particular, the development of priorities with responsibility through clear systems of delegation.

Making the Most of Staff: Human Resource Management:

Improved human resource management systems within the public service should aim to encourage and reward both team and individual performance. Increasing managerial autonomy over departmental and agency human resources management practices allows for innovations in producing, measuring and rewarding individual performance.

Tailored Training:

Current reform programmes are adopting a highly pragmatic approach to maximizing the effectiveness of all levels of staff. Training programmes to ensure competency are increasingly tailored to individual needs. Performance appraisal techniques which identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual contributions, and personal career planning to ensure the personal ambitions and aspirations are harnessed towards the overall service of government, are also being introduced.

Rewarding Achievements:

Incentive packages which ensure that skills and, in particular, personal achievements, are recognised and rewarded, are also becoming more widespread. Open recruitment procedures, with wider recruitment for senior posts, helps to ensure that vacancies are filled on the basis of skills and competence.

Establishing Fast Track:

As the emphasis continues to shift from high-security careers, shaped by length of service and seniority, towards shorter-term employment contracts and achievement-oriented promotion, a new cadre of responsive managers is emerging in many settings

Managing the Political/Administrative Boundary; Reform programmes are increasingly seeking to demarcate the political/administrative boundary more clearly. Authority is explicitly delegated to senior officials in exchange for accountability performance. Power is provided on the basis that its use and, very particularly, the result achieved with it will be monitored.

Clarifying Public Service Accountability:

An emphasis on personal and institutional accountability runs through all the current reform programmes personal contracts and public reporting of the planning and delivery of services are the practical mechanisms by which accountability is highlighted this enables public exposure of poor performance by senior officials, agencies, departments or other institutions, including that caused by corrupt practices.

Anti-Corruption Measures:

Current reforms are translating the broad appeals for transparency and accountability in government into operational systems for specifying the expected performance of staff and institutions. Anti-Corruption measures are to be supported by tighter employment frameworks for senior officials.

Redundancy Management:

It was emphasised that the management of redundancies is a reform component of last resort. Ideal or otherwise, it is however a pressing issue within many Civil/Public Service bodies, particularly following structural adjustment programmes. Major programmes of redundancy management within the public sector must be linked to more systematic approaches to controlling workforce size, and procedural mechanisms to achieve this must be founded on a “culture of realism”.

Making Government More Efficient:

Another common component was the need to review a examine structures of government, including the potential for decentralisation and disinvestment, establish efficiency and market testing programmes.

Structuring for Efficiency;

Traditionally, the primary structural choices facing government co the height and breadth of departmental bureaucratic pyramids accountability is assumed to flow up with the administrative dimension funneled smoothly towards the Permanent or Chief Secretary a the political dimension, towards the Minister. By contrast, recent experience shows government choosing from a considerably broadened range of structural options. This development has reduced previous consistency across the machinery of government. Unity remains a feature of the civil se~ but uniformity is assuming less relevance.

Establishing an Efficiency Programme:

Efficiency programmes comprise both cost red and performance improvement they question whether a task should be done at all, whether it s be done by government directly or by contractors paid by government, or done by the private sect Since government resources are always under pressure, there is an on-going requirement tore’ activities to ensure that resources are used to best effect and that government can demonstrate stewardship.

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