Chapter # 38. Civil Services Reforms
- To put in place a reformed system of recruitment, training and performance evaluation of the civil service to ensure more effective and efficient delivery of public services to achieve the development goals envisaged in New India 2022.
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) was constituted in 2005 and in 2009, the Commission submitted around 15 reports on var-ious aspects of governance, making 1514 recom-mendations. Of these, 1183 have been accepted by the central government.
Decisions on the accepted recommendations have been sent to the relevant central ministries and state/union territories, with a request to set up an institutional mechanism to monitor their implementation. However, a bulk of the recommendations have not yet been implemented.
In the meantime, the demands on the civil service continue to grow with the ambitious programmes of the government.
Reforms in civil services are a continuous process and several initiatives have been taken in recent years by the present government. These include, the introduction of a multi-stakeholder feedback (MSF) performance evaluation, dispensing with interviews for lower level positions, introduction of online mechanisms for appraisals and filing of various returns by employees, implementation of e-office, and strengthening training and merit-based postings. About 18 states and 7 union territories have also discontinued the practice of interview for recruitments to lower level posts.
Several constraints impede the development of a highly efficient, transparent and accountable civil service.
- There is a mismatch between positions and skill sets. Recruitment is not competency specific and often, the right person is not placed in the right job.
- A related issue is the opposition to lateral entry, which hinders the development process. As the complexity of the economy increases, policymaking becomes a specialized activity. This creates an inherent need for the lateral entry of professionals into government service.
- There is a need to forecast staffing needs in the civil services. This could ideally be done on a five-year rolling basis. There are instances of lack of employment opportunities in some areas, while there are many vacancies in others.
- Attracting talent and nurturing excellence, ensuring transparency and accountability along with participatory and representative decision-making are some issues that need to be addressed.
The strategy for 2022-23 should be centred on the implementation of the Second ARC recommendations that have been accepted by the government. Broadly, the constraints can be tackled through interventions in the following areas: recruitment, training and evaluation, and governance.
- Improve the teeth to tail ratio: Promote an officer-oriented culture and focus on expanding the numbers of officers.
- Objectivity in the recruitment and placement process: Widely disseminate job descriptions and selection criterion and eliminate elements of arbitrariness.
- Reduce the number of civil services: The existing 60 plus separate civil services at the central and state level needs to be reduced through rationalization and harmonization of services. Recruits should be placed in a central talent pool, which would then allocate candidates by matching their competencies and the job description of the post.
- Concomitantly, the number of exams for civil services should ideally be brought down to one with all India ranking. States may also be encouraged to use this pool for recruitments.
- Encourage lateral entry: Inducting specialists at higher levels of government will provide much needed expertise.
- Nurture specialization: The key to reform in the civil services is encouraging officers to cultivate specializations based on their education and skills early on in their careers. Wherever possible, longer tenure postings need to be made based on the officers’ expertise.
- However, it is also necessary to ensure cross-sector mobility for civil servants from areas where they have become surplus to areas of emerging importance.
- Mentorship: Upon induction, young officers should be assigned mentors, preferably with an officer having a similar functional specialization or with high-quality NGOs for values and soft-skill mentorship.
- Information Technology (IT): Use of IT needs to be significantly upscaled for planning, forecasting staffing requirements and recruitments.
- Hiring policies: The upper age limit for the civil services should be brought down to 27 years for the general category in a phased manner by 2022-23. Service conditions for employees of autonomous bodies need to be regulated and harmonized.
- Strengthen municipal corporation cadres: The number of staff at municipal corporations should be increased. Measures that monitor performance along the same lines as proposed for other services, including through online appraisals and biometric attendance, need to be introduced.
- Outsource service delivery: Efforts need to be made to outsource service delivery to reduce dependence on the administrative machinery. Research is needed to identify possible services to be outsourced; various PPP models should be explored to determine the best possible mode of outsourcing.
- Reorient training: Alter the current system of training to meet job-outcome oriented goals. With economic gravity shifting towards cities, training should be reoriented to focus relatively more on managing urban areas.
- Introduce mid-career training modules for all services.
- Strengthen and leverage online avenues for training
- Introduce pre and post-training matching of skills to determine postings.
- Digitize human resource records across states.
- Develop a competency matrix to monitor ongoing skill acquisition and help match requirements with resources in real time.
- Institute an e-learning platform to conduct training modules.
- Mid-career exams/skill assessment might be undertaken to evaluate and decide on future postings.
- Prepare handbooks for skill orientation to improve competency.
- Introduce the ‘living university’ concept of value creation based on outcomes and good ideals.
- Develop ongoing training and immersion modules on a district-by-district basis.
- Consider replacing annual confidential reports (ACRs) with multi stake holder feedback (MSF): ACRs could be replaced with MSF. It is important for MSF to be online to retain transparency and accountability.
- Institute goal setting and tracking: There is an inherent need to set key responsibility/focus areas and progressively reduce discretionary aspects to evaluate civil servants. Institute the online Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window (SPARROW) template in all central and state cadres.
- Incentivization: Review existing schemes and introduce new schemes of incentives for extraordinary performance.
- Compulsory retirement for underperforming officers: Develop benchmarks to assess the performance of officers and compulsorily retire those deemed unable to meet the benchmarks.
- Citizen-centric framework: An inclusive policy framework with citizens at the centre needs to be developed. Apart from improving public access to information through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the Right to Information Act (RTI), the RTI’s management information system portal needs to be expanded to cover more public authorities, especially subordinate offices of ministries and public sector units.
- Institutionalize system for effective monitoring of suo moto disclosures: To bring further transparency to public affairs and adopt safeguards to promote accountability, effective monitoring of suo moto disclosures is essential.
- Enhance capability of public authorities: The capabilities and knowledge base of central public information officers (CPIOs), appellate authorities (AAs) and information commissions need to be upgraded on a continuous basis to enable them to perform their assigned roles without external influence.
- Protection of civil servants: Introduce an appropriate system of checks and balances, including for the process of suspension, to ensure that officers are given their due process and are not vulnerable to vested interests and political pressures.
- Revisit Allocation of Business Rules (AoBR)/ Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR): Every ministry/department should review their AoBR/ ToBR keeping in view present day requirements.
E-initiatives and Probity
- Ensure probity in governance: Strengthen institutional mechanisms for prevention and detection of corruption:
- Reviewing existing vigilance operating manuals and instructions to ensure probity.
- Improving transparency in placement through initiatives in recruitment, placement and training.
- Reviewing performance of officers based on probity.
- Strengthen implementation of a Centralized Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System (CPGRAMs): Develop a reform framework for the top twenty departments for periodic monitoring of grievance receipts.
A revised version of CPGRAMS became operational in January 2018, which enables citizens to monitor the grievances lodged by them on a single screen. An updated version that enables transfer of grievances between ministries/departments, bulk disposal of grievances and multiple forwarding will be operational shortly.
The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG) has analysed these grievances, identified the top grievance prone areas and their root causes and recommended systemic reforms to bring about improvements in service delivery.
These initiatives need to be continued with greater vigour and over time; CPGRAMs should emerge as a strong mechanism for efficient redressal of public grievances with similar mechanisms across all states/UTs.
- Implementation of e-Office1: Implementation of e-Office may be expedited in all ministries/ departments; all states/UTs may also be encouraged to adopt it.
- Prompt delivery of services: Every department should seek to simplify their processes to cut administrative delays and ensure participatory feedback mechanisms for efficient service delivery. IT tools need to be expanded for single window clearances and stakeholder consultations in policy.