LAHORE  - The trend of frequent transfers of officers without completing the fixed tenure under political pressure is denounced by the officers who demand a high-powered statutory body to regulate transfers and postings of the civil servants.

The assurance of completing tenure accelerates service delivery and adds to the efficiency of officers. Besides posting officers on special duty (OSD) against the apex court ruling and the issue of posting junior officers on senior slots also add to the worries of those high on the seniority list, according to a TheNation survey.

During the (random-sampling) survey of the officers who were frequently transferred during the past year, it was noted that political postings have generated groups in the top brass of civil servants and its trickle-down effects could be seen the ranks; down the hierarchy too.

When people in the Chief Minister’s office, ministers and parliamentarians seek to get the blue-eyed officers posted on prize posts, merit becomes a casualty with serious repercussions, an additional secretary said on condition of anonymity.

He said competent, honest and dutiful officers who lack lobbying could get key postings neither at the Civil Secretariat nor in the field formations. Their capabilities are wasted on relatively unproductive tasks, he said.

A good number of section officers complained that they had been serving in the Secretariat as they lacked political backing. Had they got political connections, they could have enjoyed field postings as assistant commissioners, district monitoring officers or other such jobs considered hot cakes, the officers said. They said that the government had badly failed to implement the ‘Rotation Policy’ for grade-17 officers that created a circle of disappointment among those continuously ignored.

An assistant commissioner confirmed that the backing of an MNA or MPA was a must to continue in offices such as his.

During the last year, about 1,600 officers were shuffled in Punjab prematurely, and the exercise made a mockery of good governance claims. Political interference has mounted and has giving rise to grouping as favourite and not-favourite officers, said an officer on condition of anonymity. He said that ‘transfers and postings’ have become an industry that generates huge amounts of black money not only for the corrupt officials but also for the political bosses who back them one way or the other, mostly for acquiring favours in turn, administrative clout and monetary benefits, said a retired bureaucrat.

Though there exists no law on transfers and postings, the court rulings like in the Anita Turab case may be followed in letter and spirit to avoid any inconvenience, said the officer. The need, he said, was to foster functional freedom among the civil servants, giving them challenging environments either in secretariats or in field postings.

The undue political interfering in appointments, transfers and postings of officers leads and adds to poor performance. If the practice to please political masters continues, the state-run institutions suffer performance erosion and ultimately cease to deliver as has been happening in this country for years now, said a senior bureaucrat.

Though there is an urgent need to make civil servants accountable, their freedom within official domains must be respected to get varied benefits, the officer added.

Lauding the chief minister’s interviewing candidates for key positions like administrative secretaries, commissioners, DCOs, RPOs, DPOs, etc, a former DCO said this act, on the face of it, is designed to help searching suitable candidates for prime positions. He said there was no mechanism to check and monitor officers’ performance and the need was to record in writing the progress, service delivery and personal efforts as benchmarks for such postings.

It could involve curtailing powers of the political and bureaucratic bosses to an extent in favour of an independent commission or a board to carry out postings and transfers, another officer proposed.

However, defending premature transfers, the officer said that it was indispensable at times to transfer an officer who wins complaints rather exhibits delivery, as such an officer deserves instant transfer without any delay. He, none the less, acknowledged political interferences and said that politicisation of the bureaucracy must be shunned at every cost to ensure service delivery. He said some officers stick to the seats owing to political favours, some others move from the pillar to post for prize posts, while the rest, the lobby-less, are left in the lurch.