Bogus ACRs

The ACR system has lost utility

Finally, the Prime Minister has focused on the importance and sanctity of Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) of the civil servants. For the last many years this activity has been a farce. If normalized averages are tabulated, the performance of bureaucracy in Pakistan will perhaps be comparable to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) of the USA. that hires the best brains of the world and is currently working on a Mars landing.

While ground realities look grim, most ACRs of officers are marked ‘excellent’ with very few indicating below-average performance. In case of adverse remarks, the ACR has to be discussed with the affected person. To avoid conflict, average performance is reported and the lack of achievement is covered up. Most bureaucrats stand in the queue, deliver almost nothing, yet move up the ranks making it into Grades 20 and 21, while a few even manage to reach 22, mostly with good political connections. Input of the public or the customer will certainly help but it will not be easy to implement.

- Advertisement -

A separate neutral entity will have to be created to solicit and then forward public input into the conduct of the civil servants who are required to serve, not to rule as has been the case. Lack of SOPs, no accountability and cover-up by peers is the hallmark of the bureaucracy today. All reforms have been resisted by this colonial left-over, and in fact the pendulum has swung in the reverse direction. Till the 1970s, the entire bureaucracy together with the ministers were housed in the Civil Secretariat, but not anymore.

The Chief Secretary, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners now have functional offices within their residences in the confines of GOR (Government Officers Residences) where the public has limited access. Over the years the gap has widened between the servers and the served.

Evaluations are tedious in nature, and they must result in the growth of the individual as well as the organization, which has been missing in the land of the pure. Bogus ACRs serve no purpose, in fact they are damaging in many ways both for the individual and the organization which has resulted in their decline. Public inputs into ACRs is certainly a good idea but more directed efforts are required for a meaningful outcome of this annual exercise.

In the early 1960s, the first major attempt at civil service Reforms was initiated under the Cornelius Commission. Open public hearings were held at the YMCA Hall on the Mall. The unlimited powers of the colonial bureaucracy were redefined. Before the findings could be announced the two bureaucrat members of the commission conspired to build resistance against the implementation of these reforms. In the UK some of the recommendations were adopted by the Fullerton Commission but the people of Pakistan were denied the proposed relief. Till today, the report remains relevant and could be implemented after upgradation.

As Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation whenever I received a complaint against a subordinate, I always reviewed his previous ACRs which were mostly good. It took me a while to understand the reason behind such a blatant lapse.

Over the years institutional loyalty was replaced with individual gains. The instrument of the ACR was no longer used to reform the employee to better serve and build the organization, and while the complaints were real they were neither reflected nor addressed in the ACRs, thereby defeating the purpose of the exercise. It is widely believed that the ‘Gora Sahib’ was very fair in performance evaluations as there were no local biases or links, but with the ‘Brown Sahib’, the situation has changed. Merit no longer exists in selection or promotion in most government departments.

I studied in a missionary school. Those were tumultous years, student protests against the first dictator had erupted. Discpline violations were rampant. The Principal, Mr Norman Green, wrote my School Leaving Certificate. As an activist, I had serious differences with him. He gave an honest evaluation of my stay at the school, and the last line said it all, “He has strong tendency towards leadership which must be guided in the right direction.”. Very skillfully he pointed out my strengths, traits and the importance of direction for a positive career outcome, it was an indisputable and fair evaluation.

- Advertisement -

In the USA, a system of Management By Objectives (MBOs) is extensively used. Objectives are defined at the start of the year and then evaluation is done at the end. First there is self-evaluation, followed by the supervisor’s grading. In one of the evaluation years, I had published three technical papers which were on top of my self-evaluation. My supervisor called me for an explanation. He asked a straight question, “What were the benefits of these publications to the organization?” When he saw a blank look on my face he said, “For a commercial outfit, patents are more beneficial than technical papers.”

It was an eye opener for me. After that I started working on the Patents and succeeded in getting them for mutual benefit. As the inventor I got the credit while the company as the assignee had full rights over its commercialization and application.

Evaluations are tedious in nature, and they must result in the growth of the individual as well as the organization, which has been missing in the land of the pure. Bogus ACRs serve no purpose, in fact they are damaging in many ways both for the individual and the organization which has resulted in their decline. Public inputs into ACRs is certainly a good idea but more directed efforts are required for a meaningful outcome of this annual exercise.

Dr Farid A Malikhttps://www.pakistantoday.com.pk
The writer is ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

Joint Action Committee terms PMDA as ‘unacceptable’, expressed reservations

A Joint Action Committee comprising representatives of the media industry and the government have made efforts to discuss the Pakistan Media Development Authority, wherein...

The test that was not used

Rise of Taliban and geopolitics

The accession by Junagadh