COURSTEY THE ECONOMIC TIMES APRIL 21
INTERACTION ON CIVIL SERVICES DAY - Top Bureaucrats Engage With Government
Ministers & officials have candid talks on performance and functioning
Senior bureaucrats spoke their mind in a candid discussion in the presence of the minister of state for PMO, Jitendra Singh, and asked whether the government wants problem solvers or just civil servants who can spend the budgeted expenditure in time.
During the discussion on Civil Services Day on Thursday , where the country's top bureaucrats were in attendance, secretary to the electronics and information technology ministry , Aruna Sundarajan, questioned the scope for bureaucrats to foster innovation.
“I don't know how keen we are to have problem solvers in government. The single-point orientation is expenditure of Budget funds. The assessment is on who has spent maximum funds rather than who has solved a problem or achieved something.How can a bureaucrat innovate or disrupt amidst such a straight-jacketed approach to them?“ Sundarajan said.
Sundarajan also flagged an “overwhelming feeling of riskaversion“ among bureaucrats, saying the smallest mistake could entail a heavy cost. “Our po licies discourage any lateral thinking... there are compelling obstacles to fostering innovation,“ she said.
The minister intervened to say a lot depends on political leadership. “I am sure in past three years, bureaucrats realise they have a government which promotes out-of-the-box thinking and encourages them not to be negative,“ he said.
Sundarajan's one-batch senior and Department of Personnel and Training secretary, BP Sharma, put the Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) system in the dock, saying bureaucrats are “over-assessed“ and that the focus needs to be more on actual work indicators than personality.
“The place ment decisions are happening on the basis of informal repu tation and not on APARs, as in the latter, every one is invariab ly marked outstanding since APARs have to be disclosed to the officer as per a Supreme Court ruling. The 40% weightage to numerical work criteria and 60% to personality needs to be reversed,“ Sharma said.
The DoPT secretary advocated a parallel confidential system whereby top 30% officers are identified through APAR system and are considered for empanelment for senior posts. He also questioned the concept of lateral entry into government at policy-making positions, flagging an inherent issue of “conflict of interest“ since a private individual with a certain specialisation generally works in the related ministry .