CERP conducts Civil Service Reforms workshop

23 Aug 2019

On August 17, 2019, CERP in collaboration with National School of Public Policy (NSPP) hosted an exclusive one day Civil Service Reforms Workshop in Lahore.

The workshop aimed to analyse the current system and structure of the Civil Services of Pakistan as well as possible reforms to help improve its quality. Another goal of the workshop was to establish a collaborative relationship between academics and policy practitioners where data and evidence are pivotal to inform smart policy design and reform.

Dr. Ishrat Hussain, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Mr. Suleman Ghani, Former Civil Servant, Mr. Nazar Muhammad Buzdar, Joint Secretary Establishment Division, Mr. Salman Siddique, Ex-Chairman FBR, and Dr. Umair Javed, Task Force Member were some of the prominent members of the government that represented the policy perspective on the Civil Services of Pakistan. Whereas the academics perspective was led by Dr. Asim Khwaja, co-founder and board member CERP, Mr. Maroof A. Syed, President and CEO CERP, Dr. Adnan Khan, co-founder and board member CERP, and Ms. Zahra Masoor, alumni at CERP among other CERP affiliates.

Dr. Ishrat Hussain opened the session and apprised the forum about the current work of the task forces on civil services reforms, austerity, and restructuring. He also shared that the task force is currently working towards proposals and recommendation in areas of recruitment, training strategy, performance management system and is also considering bringing areas of compensation, benefits, and retirement policy under focus.. Following this, Dr. Adnan Khan set the agenda of the event by highlighting the need for a body of practitioners for reform.

Selection and recruitment of civil servants, performance metrics, incentives and accountability, organisational design and technology, and training/capacity building were the four main themes under discussion.

According to Mr. Suleman Ghani, the current recruitment of civil servants lags due to lack of domain-specific knowledge, the reason being that the exams are designed to induct the civil servants on academic knowledge rather working knowledge. Furthermore, civil servants comprehension and analytical skills are evaluated poorly under the current recruitment mechanism. This demands for reforms that focus on problem-solving, aptitude and motivation, and domain-specific knowledge.

Commenting on the recruitment process Ms. Shan Aman Rana, PhD candidate in Economics at London School of Economics, added that due to asymmetric information Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) does not know the traits of the candidates to match them with the right jobs. The solution she proposed is to carefully screen and signal candidates to improve the recruitment process. Ms. Rana also suggested organising extensive outreach programmes and open days that can help in the selection and recruitment of civil servants.

Mr. Nazar Muhammad Buzdar discussed the lack of performance-based incentives in the civil services and stressed the importance of having clear a job description and key performance indicators (KPIs) linked to promotion, financial incentives, trainings, and postings.

The importance of alignment of incentives between government and civil servants was highlighted by Dr. Asim Khwaja. He said this is possible theoretically in a controlled situation but difficult to implement in practice as measuring and observing outcomes are arduous, and there are also the problem of multiplicity and freeriding.

“The current organisational structure of civil services is outdated” remarked Mr. Salman Siddique, while discussing the conservative 4 to 5 tier structure of civil services which impediments efficient and timely decision making. He also discussed the low willingness and resistance of the civil servants towards the new system and technology. 

Elaborating on the organisational structure and design from the academic/research lens, Dr. Adnan Khan said, “The organisational design is vital for government performance and that size of the government is an important element that feeds into the organisational design.” Deliberating on the use of technology for developing efficient system Dr. Khan said, “Technology should be considered as a complement to governance and not substitute, as technology alone cannot solve problems”

Adding to Dr. Khan’s comment Mr. Maroof Syed reiterated the fact that “Innovation is confused with technology, whereas innovation is closely linked to organisation design and culture. Innovation can only happen in organisations where failure is celebrated and is a source of learning”

On the subject of training of civil service officers, Dr. Umair Javed, Task Force member, stated that training of civil servants is not job-specific and is attended with the intention of promotion and not job performance. “The course content is too general with little evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of the training programmes”, he commented.

According to Zahra Mansoor, CERP Alumni, in order to improve the job performance of the civil servants emphasis should be placed on enhancing the right competencies. “There are frictions on both demand and supply side in the market of training.” she said. Speaking on emerging research on civil service reforms, Ms. Mansoor informed the participants that “the need of the hour is to test the content of the trainings.”

The event concluded with a thank you note from Dr. Khwaja who emphasised all the participating members to reflect on the workshop’s discussion and understand that change is a slow process and it takes time to create an impact.