Violation Of Merit In Sindh's Planning And Development Department

Violation Of Merit In Sindh's Planning And Development Department
Some of the senior officers of the Planning and Development Department, government of Sindh are mulling over the idea of submitting an appeal against the decisions made after the P&D Board meeting held on March 2, 2021. It emerged after the meeting that the Secretary (Planning) intends to change the mandate of the Planning & Development Department by initially hiring two positions of the Members-BS-20 (Services) & (Energy & Infra) to the exclusion of existing senior officers by undermining their seniority, career profile and decades-long services rendered to the government of Sindh.

Such a move has been necessitated in view of the imminent retirement of the existing members (BS-20) in P&D Department. There are senior officers of equal grade in waiting with extensive experience in the affairs of the Department duly deserving to be promoted to the existing slots and may be elevated to the responsible positions of authority to play their roles as members of provincial civil services with due rights, responsibilities and privileges to perform their duties instead of experimenting with the idea of market-based hiring. 

The efficacy of such market-based hirings is highly debatable in view of our recent experience in the Planning & Development Department since it is only the permanent officers of P&D who always remain under obligation to perform the required assignments with due diligence under pressure. The market-based human resources simply take the careerist view of their jobs and continue to hunt for privileged positions in donor and development agencies for lucrative positions. They not only keep trying for privileged and lucrative positions but also continue to provide consultancy services without intimating the official channels and obtaining required NOCs from the relevant departments to avoid conflicts of interests. .           

The Senior Officers of P&D Sindh would also like to submit that this idea of market-based hiring to the exclusion of deserving Senior Officers is effectively “Ultra Vires” from the perspective of delegated authority defined under the administrative law and in the light of the Rules of Business. Their only concern and plea is that the Secretary (Planning) is essentially trying to alter the mandate of the P&D Department in complete breach of the Rules of Business -- 1986 for which she is not principally entitled. 

They consider that in strict adherence to the administrative law, the delegated authority cannot be exercised in restraint of the fundamental principles of natural justice. Depriving serving Senior Officers of their rights, privileges and growth opportunities within the Department as they gradually climb the seniority ladder with commensurate experience, exposure and practical understanding of the internal workings of the departments and the rules of government at large would be against the very principle of natural justice.

Theoretically, the administrative law and its practical procedures play an important part in securing good administration, by providing a powerful method of ensuring that the improper exercise of power can be checked.

It is an important function of administrative law to ensure that the government's powers are exercised according to law, on proper legal principles, according to the rules of reason and justice, and not on the mere caprice or whim of the administrative officers, which may result at times be cloaked as public good and departmental interest.

The deliberations and decisions of the P&D Board’s minutes of the meeting will result in the creation of an aggrieved party within P&D Department ringing the bell of justice instead of focusing on their day-to-day affairs of the Department. 

Delegated legislation can only be exercised if the authority in question has the statutory power to do so. Administrative directions can be treated as rules if they have certain characteristics of statutory rules. Unfortunately, the P&D administration often breaches the rules and in turn takes strict disciplinary actions against the officers who take positions on certain moral principles. Such practice on the part of P&D administration must be questioned in the light of law and legality.

From the perspective of declining capacity in the government sector, the most vacuous flank would always be the administrative side of the government, where the vacuity of skills, professional capacity of internal governance, commitment towards service delivery and eagerness to perform is found wanting in all aspects. Will the same principle of market-based hiring desperately required in the administrative flank of the government be equally applied remains to be seen and judged from the same perspective. It is once again reiterated that the nature of failure of P&D is essentially administrative as opposed to either technical or economic, therefore the technical or economic flanks of P&D have nothing to do with the administrative shortcomings and lack of vision of the serving administration who is trying to fix the matter by ducking the core issue of their own incompetence, lack of transparency and administrative duress.

It is also worth mentioning that the position of Special Secretary is very well defined in the rules of business and the job description of this position is already laid down in the government procedure. But when it comes to P&D the job description of Special Secretary takes sudden twist and gains unnecessary prominence and privilege to edge and sway a certain individual over the technical slots of equal grades.

In view of the above, it is positively expected that the worthy Chief Secretary, Sindh would like to consider the plea of the Senior Officers of the Planning and Development Department regarding upholding the principle of seniority in the promotions in due regard to their decade-long services in lieu of experimenting with an imported idea of market-based hiring which is against the very principle of natural justice and ostensibly breaches the delegated authority enshrined in the rules of business to be exercised in consonance with the spirit of fundamental rights well stipulated in the Constitution of Pakistan.