Article 54 (Haa) of the Civil Service Act says a Permanent Secretary's post must be created and filled in each responsible office of the government. To anyone except the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the wording of this article and its context leaves little doubt as to its meaning: each ministry must have one and only one permanent secretary. But today some ministries have more than one permanent secretary. What gives?
Having two permanent secretaries in a ministry is more than a mere cosmetic issue. It dilutes the responsibilities of a permanent secretary (PS) described in Article 55 of the Act, and weakens the line of authority from minister to PS and onwards to civil service staff.
Perhaps the most serious accusation leveled against the erstwhile Public Service Division (PSD) of the President's Office was its tendency to create posts for people. CSC came with the promise of making the practice history. But history appears to be repeating with vengeance.
How does the performance of CSC compare with that of PSD? In the late 1980s, PSD introduced the post of Director General (DG) as the senior most public servant in a ministry. For more than 5 years PSD managed to maintain a single DG in each ministry. Similarly after introducing the post of Executive Director (ED), PSD managed to maintain a single ED in a ministry for 3 to 4 years. Compared to this CSC managed to maintain a single PS in a ministry for just about 6 months. Interestingly, throughout the presidency of Ibrahim Nasir, he managed to maintain a single Director to head each department and a single Vakeel to head each division of a ministry.
CSC inherited an extremely top heavy bureaucracy. Let us hope the Commission manages to take decisive action to streamline the civil service.