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Committee on Civil Service Reforms

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Introduction

The Fifth Central Pay Commission, 1997 had considerably raised the emolument structure in the Civil Service wanting it at the same time to become more productive, accountable and ethical. The latter objective was not achieved. On the contrary, the popular image of the nation’s Civil Service was becoming poorer. The Government of India wanted to improve the health of the Civil Service by its several interventions in the last decade or so. In 2001, it set up the K.P. Geethakrishnan Expenditure Reforms Commission, which made detailed recommendations to reduce public expenditure. In August 2000, the Civil Service Examination Review Committee was set up to suggest improvement in the examination system of the higher civil servants even though this scrutiny was initiated, independently of the executive by the Union Public Service Commission as part of its regular exercise. In 2003 the Surender Nath Committee was launched to suggest reforms in the system of performance appraisal, promotion, empanelment and placement of the higher civil servants in India . Around the some time, the B.N. Yugandhar Committee was set up to suggest appropriate in-service training to the members of the All-India services at different stages of their service careers. It is this background against which Committee of Civil Service Reforms appointed in February 2004 and mandated to submit its report within a period of six months. Matters like examination system for higher Civil Service, in-service training and performance appraised have been already examined by the above mentioned committees. The Civil Service Reforms Committee was more open ended and subsumed the earlier reports. The Committee consisted of 15 members including its chairman and the member secretary. It was a Committee exclusively of civil servants, either serving or retired. Its chairman was P.C. Hota, a retired member of the Indian Administrative Service.

Summary

The Committee examined the whole gamut of the Civil Service reform covering the higher Civil Service. It was to recommend on the following:

  • Making the Civil Service:

  • Responsive and citizen-friendly;

  • Transparent;

  • Accountable; and

  • Ethical

It had to propose mechanisms so that civil service improves its actions and interface with the people in the following ways:-

  • Making the Civil Service e-governance friendly.

  • Putting a premium on intellectual growth of civil servants and on upgrading their domain knowledge.

  • Protecting the Civil Service against wrongful pressure exerted by administrative superiors; Political executive; Business interests; and other vested interests.

  • Changes, if any necessary, in the various All India Services Rules and Central Civil Service Rules to provide a statutory cover to the proposed Civil Service reforms.

  • Changes in rules governing the disciplinary proceedings against civil servants to decentralise the process as far as practicable, and to make the disposal of such proceedings time-bound.

  • Any other matter that the Committee may consider relevant to the subject of Civil Service reforms.

The Committee on Civil Service Reforms submitted its 93 page report in July 2004, in which it made as many as 64 recommendations in the four areas of public administration, namely: making the Civil Service responsive, citizen friendly, transparent, accountable and ethical; making Civil Service e-governance friendly, promoting intellectual growth of civil servants; and protecting the higher Civil Services against environmental pressures.

‘Nothing basically wrong is diagnosed in the higher Civil Service of India’ is the fundamental belief of the Committee on Civil Service Reforms. What is required is the faithful observance of the rules of the game by both the political and permanent executive of Government and a few more incremental changes. The essential parameters of this relationship are reiterated as following:-

  1. Formulation of the policy of the Government is the legitimate task of the minister. At the stage of formulation of the policy, the civil servant is expected to give his free and frank advice. Once the minister, after giving due consideration to advice of the civil servant, takes a decision, it becomes the duty of the Civil Service to carry out the policy diligently and faithfully though he may be having his own views about the soundness of the policy.

  2. The preservation of integrity, fearlessness and independence of the civil servant is an essential condition of a parliamentary system of Government. One of the important functions of the Civil Service is to ‘speak truth to power’, as once asserted by a head of the Canadian Public Service.

  3. There must be trust and mutual respect between the minister and the civil servant as without them unity of action in the higher echelons of Government will be difficult to achieve.

  4. Both the minister and the civil servant must perform their roles in accordance with the Constitution and the laws, as even a minor transgression thereof can ultimately be subversive of good governance and rule of law.

Today, the Committee is best remembered for its recommendation favoring a lower age of eligibility-twenty-one and twenty-four for entry in the higher Civil Service. The present age concession of five years to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and three years for the ‘other backward classes’ is to continue.

A very sensible recommendation of the Hota Committee was about the preparation of annual action plan by each ministry / department of the Government. Each officer should prepare his annual performance plan and the officer should be accountable for performance. Needless to say, he must be ensured a minimum period of stay in his job, for his too frequent shifting may make accountability meaningless. Civil Service must become performance oriented and non-performers must be weeded out, this requires honest writing of the performance appraisal reports. What the Committee wants is that public administration in India must get rid of the deadwood, which gets accumulated in the Civil Service at present. Corruption in the bureaucracy is widespread and it must be combated fiercely. The ill-gotten property of corrupt officials must be confiscated. Article 311 of the Constitution should be amended. Corrupt officials should be dismissed summarily but the official may be given post-decisional hearing to prove his innocence.

An important problem area of the Indian administration is the frequent transfer of public functionaries, and the Hota Committee sought to ensure minimum tenures of postings statutorily. The Committee wanted a fixed tenure of three years for civil servants, for too frequent transfer of officials delays implementation of plans, prevents the officials from picking up meaningful experience and lowers the morale in the Civil Service.

A refreshing feature of the Hota Committee was its emphasis on the use of Information Technology (or Information Communication Technology (I.C.T.)) in Indian Administration, The Committee dreamt of I.C.T. friendly India : increased application of Information Technology would make the administration more accessible, effective and accountable. Information Technology is also a move towards checking corruption in the Civil Service. Application of Information Communication Technology is particularly valuable in sectors having intense citizen-administration interface. The Committee itself enumerates many of them.

a) Transactions relating to land;

b) Registration of documents;

c) Sales Tax/Excise/Income Tax/Service Tax;

d) Issues of Passports and licenses;

e) Payment of dues for electricity and water, and House Tax and complaints relating to them.

f) Banking transactions and financial institutions;

g) Law and order; filing of complaints by citizens;

h) Complaints about quality/ non-availability of services or mal-administration;

i) Grievance Redressal;

j) Tendering and procurement processes;

k) Hospital service; and

l) Administration in educational institutions;

“It is now possible through Information Technology to provide a clean, transparent, efficient and hassle-free environment for the delivery of Government services. This will considerably simplify the dealings of the common citizen with the Government. This will require simplifying the procedures and improving the processes keeping specific service goal/targets in mind for electronic service delivery in various offices. Each of these initiatives has to be implemented in a Mission Mode with a clear timeframe, resources and accountability.” The Hota Committee Report’s chapter on e-governance provides a road map to the future, which awaits the Civil Service.

Executive Summary

The Committee on Civil Service Reforms is a Committee of committees on Administrative Reform; being a quintessence of recommendations on Civil Service reform articulated from time to time by successive committees. Areas discussed by this Committee have nearly all been covered in other committees set up by the Government in the past, which makes the report a useful anthology of suggested Civil Service reforms. The report must be read in full as it constitutes a civil servants manifesto on Civil Service reform in a developing democracy.

Written by upsc aspirants

February 5th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

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