Eligibility Criteria for selection

  • The eligibility criteria includes “Individuals working at comparable levels in Private Sector Companies, Consultancy Organisations, International/Multinational Organisations with a minimum of 15 years’ experience” besides those working in central public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, statutory organisations, research bodies and universities.
  • The notification specifies a minimum age of 40 years and minimum qualification of graduation from a recognised university or institute while higher qualification will be an added advantage.
  • The recruitment will be on contract basis for three to five years.

Background

So far, these posts were held by joint secretary level officers, who were career bureaucrats, who join the service after passing UPSC exam. The post of joint secretary (JS) is crucial for policy making and implementation of government programmes and schemes, with most crucial decisions in ministries and departments taken by bureaucrats appointed JS. The National Training Policy, 2012, adopts a “competency-based approach”.

Why is this move?

  • The World Bank ranks India at 130 in the Ease of Doing Business Index.
  • India ranks 76 in the Corruption Perception Index brought by Transparency International.
  • It also mentions that India has the highest incidence of bribery in the Asia-Pacific.
  • The Political and Economic Consultancy Report rated Indian bureaucracy as the slowest among its 12 Asian counterparts. Such indices and reports are a manifestation of the retrograde bureaucracy of India and its un-progressive performance, urging immediate rejuvenation.

Need for lateral entry in civil services

  • Shortfall in numbers: There is an overall 20% shortfall of IAS cadre officers alone in 24 state cadres. The Baswan Committee has pointed out the huge deficit of officers
  • Developing effective user-focused digital services is now necessary. As citizens easily connect effectively with each other in real time, they expect the same end-to-end services from their administrators.
  • Human resource management concepts taught by professors from business schools treat human beings like technological or financial resources to be used to establish a successful organization, or even ignore citizens in achieving a mission.
  • Target oriented: Outside talent from the private sector is more likely to be target-oriented, which will improve the performance of the government.
  • Also, more competition will encourage career civil servants to develop expertise in areas of their choice.
  • It enables the entry of right-minded professionals and the adoption of best practices for improving governance.
  • The assurance of a secure career path has been held to be the career-based system’s biggest lacuna.
  • This weakness has been compounded by a heavy reliance on seniority, an inadequate annual reporting system, and frequent transfers.
  • Accountability, the need for a system that holds administrators accountable for both results and the public interest, is central.
  • It has discouraged initiative by reducing competition in the higher echelons of government.
  • Allegedly, the quasi-monopolistic hold of the career civil services on senior management position breeds complacency inhibits innovative thinking and prevents the inflow of new ideas from outside government.
  • Also career promotions in the IAS move along seamlessly with few impediments along the way. Attempts to introduce ‘meritocracy’ hasn’t quite worked out.
  • There is reluctance among officers of the state to undertake Centre deputation.
  • The lack of specialisation across the top tier of Indian bureaucracy is a concern that has remained unaddressed until now.
  • IAS officers get recruited at a very early age via the UPSC exams. It is difficult to gauge their administrative judgement and capabilities then.
  • The IAS was designed for a time when the State was all-powerful. That reality somewhat changed with liberalisation in 1991, where the state was compelled to cede more space to markets.
  • Improved governance: The conventional wisdom on lateral entry is that it infuses fresh energy and thinking into an insular, complacent and often archaic bureaucracy.

Challenges and concerns

  • The All India Services provide a unique link between the cutting edge at the field level and top policy-making positions as has also been mentioned by the First Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) and by the Sarkaria Commission.
  • This bridge between policy-making and implementation, while crucial to all systems, has been of strategic significance in the Indian context, given the regional diversity of the country.
  • Disturbed balance: The proposal for lateral entry at senior decision-making levels disturbs the balance in bureaucracy.
  • The exposure and sensitivity to the country’s complex socio-political milieu and to the needs of the common man, which widespread field experience provides to these services, may not be available in the private sector since the private sector does not have the same width and depth of exposure to this type of field experience.
  • Lateral entry only at top level policy making positions may have little impact on field level implementation, given the multiple links in the chain of command from the Union Government to a rural village.
  • Lack of sufficient and suitable talent in the private sector.
  • The principle of merit could be compromised.
  • Operational difficulties of fresh recruitment for a Senior Executive Service (SES).
  • The possible adverse impact of such recruitment on the constitutional mandate for affirmative action as a result of the creation of a new recruitment channel at a senior level.
  • An issue of conflict of interest when it comes to entrants from the private sector.
  • The potential loss of internal talent as well as the likelihood of atrophy of the existing career based services.
  • Difficulty in assessing performance: Also, it is not easy to assess the performance of a secretary to the government, given the sheer complexity and amorphous nature of the job.
  • This would become a potent trinity to deter talented persons from aspiring to civil service careers.
  • There are also concerns that the introduction of pro-establishment candidates through lateral entry at the position of joint secretary could stifle good civil servants who are resisting against something inadvisable that the government seeks to do.
  • Lateral entrants from the private sector and academia may not work well with the bureaucracy.
  • It’s important to gauge what processes the Centre has put in place to ease the transition and establish authority.
  • The IAS establishment is likely to balk at lateral entrants who haven’t made it through probably the hardest open competitive exam in the world, but because of privilege and social networks.

How do other Countries Operate?

  1. Career-Based Senior Executive Service (SES)
    • Found in India, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Spain.
    • Recruitment at the entry level through competitive examinations.
    • They are trained and groomed to become elite corps and then put on an accelerated career trajectory.
    • The advantage of its closed nature is that there are a common culture and value system, and an enviable degree of esprit de corps, a combination that facilitates excellent communication across the governmental spectrum.
  2. Position-based Senior Executive Service (SES)
    • Found in Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, UK, USA, and Netherlands.
    • The appointments to identified senior positions are made from a wider pool comprising all civil servants who are qualified to apply as well as those applicants from the private sector with relevant domain competency and experience.
    • Its openness is its basic strength. All professional cadres in the government and even those outside the government can compete for selected top positions.
    • This makes it possible for lateral entrants to bring in their own work culture which enables renewal and adaptiveness in government organizations.
    • However, the bulk of appointments in the position-based system is from among career civil servants.
    • In the American SES, only 10% of the positions are filled up by “outsiders”. In Australia, recruitment to the SES from outside the Australian Public Service has ranged from 25% in 1992-93 to 14% in 2000-01. 20% of Korea’s career-based SES is now recruited from the open market.

Comparison

  • Career management is more decentralized in the position-based system as compared with the career-based system.
  • While members of the career-based SES are employed from the time of recruitment to the age of retirement, the position-based SES is on the basis of contracts.
  • In both cases, performance standards are stipulated in advance and appraised rigorously

First Administrative Reforms Commission inputs

  • The first Administrative Reforms Commission while examining the whole issue of personnel administration with reference to the higher management positions in Government of India, had distinguished between two categories of senior management posts, viz,
  • Posts within the functional area which should be staffed by the relevant functional cadre.
  • Posts outside the functional area for which the required functional experience may be available in the All India Services, the Central Services, and among specialists like engineers, scientists, economists, etc.
  • The Commission went on to recommend that the level of Joint Secretary and Additional Secretary in senior management, outside the purely functional posts, “the areas of specialism will broaden out and it should be possible, and it is necessary to provide for mobility from one specialism to an allied specialism.
  • At the highest level of Special Secretary or Secretary and equivalent in Central Government, the factor that should count most is one’s general managerial competence”

Sixth Central Pay Commission inputs

  • For creating a senior management or leadership pool in Government of India, competition can be infused through two main mechanisms: a) opening up the senior management cadre to all existing Services, and b) lateral entry by opening the senior management cadre to aspirants from the private sector who can bring new skills into government.
  • Lateral entry into civil services as done in the past on an ad hoc basis is not a suitable model of manpower planning since the present incumbents in government departments tend to resist entry of outside talent and the whole process remains personality driven and inchoate.
  • Need to institutionalize the process of induction of outside talent into the government.
  • Lateral entries should be done at the present level of Additional Secretary / HAG which is a leadership position from which one can aspire to reach the rank of Secretary to Government.
  • These posts involve leadership rather than purely operational roles and issues such as the requirement of greater functional/ technical knowledge at operational levels.
  • Central Civil Services Authority should be entrusted with the task of identifying the posts at the higher management level, HAG and above, where induction of outside talent would be desirable.
  • Such posts could then be opened for recruitment by tapping talent both from within and outside the government through a transparent process to be implemented by the Authority.

Recommendations from the 10th Administrative Reforms Committee report

  • The present empanelment system for short-listing officers for posting at the Senior Administrative Grade (SAG) level and above should be replaced by a more transparent and objective placement procedure.
  • At higher levels of government, it is necessary to ensure that the tasks assigned to a public servant match his/her domain competence as well as aptitude and potential.
  • Ministries should classify all of their SAG level posts according to their relevant functional domains.
  • There is need to introduce competition for senior positions in government by opening these positions in Government to all Services.
  • A Central Civil Services Authority should be constituted under the proposed Civil Services Bill. It shall be a five-member body consisting of the Chairperson and four members.
  • The Central Civil Services Authority should deal with matters of
    • assignment of domains to officers,
    • preparing panels for posting of officers at the level of Joint Secretary and above,
    • fixing tenures for senior posts,
    • deciding on posts which could be advertised for lateral entry into civil services and
    • Such other matters that may be referred to it by the Government

Conclusion

  • The recruitment in the lateral entry can be done for specific mission-mode projects. Eg, Nandan Nilekani for the Aadhaar Project.
  • Transparent recruitment as per recommendations of 10th ARC report to ensure clearly defined service rules and accountability.
  • Norms should be liberalized for civil servants to work outside the government with multilateral agencies, non-profits or corporations.
  • This isn’t the first time that the government brought in professionals from the private sector or academia into the top tier of government. Take a look at the Finance Ministry, Reserve Bank of India and even the current NITI Aayog, which have hired the likes of Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian and Arvind Panagriya to name a few.