The state government on Monday tabled the Goa staff selection commission bill in the Assembly to lay down the law for the constitution of a commission for conducting examinations and selecting candidates for subordinate services and posts in government departments and organizations and semi-government bodies. The three-member commission will be headed by a chairperson who shall be a retired officer from the IAS, Goa Civil Service or any government-aided or semi-government organization. It is good that the government has kept a wide range of options for appointment of the chairperson, for sometimes it becomes very difficult to find a suitable person for the post if options are limited. The main criteria should be experience, knowledge and expertise and above all, a strong track record of integrity. The bill provides for a clearance by the vigilance department before the Governor will appoint someone as chairperson.
Only if a person of rectitude is at the top can the Goa staff selection commission inspire confidence among candidates that selections will be made purely on merit. Hitherto, recruitments in subordinate posts in government have often been manipulated through politicians. Politicians have used their influence to oblige young persons from their constituencies by prevailing upon selection panels to appoint them even if they lacked merit and were certainly not the choice of the selectors. Jobless youths, instead of preparing for competitive examinations, had to go begging their MLAs for months and years for helping them get a job. Openings in government departments were thus used by ministers and MLAs for “constituency nursing” at the cost of public exchequer and of the quality and efficiency of the administrative service.
The quality of service rendered by a government servant is today very crucial to a state. All states are competing with each other to attract investments and to improve the lives of their people with fast and corruption-free services. Development today is all about the ability of a state to implement its policies and programmes with excellence. It is this ability that is going to determine the position of a state in the community of states of India. Goa’s administrative machinery has been characterized by corruption, inefficiency and sloth. This is not the kind of administrative machinery with which the state can win the race among states. The states with efficient administrative machinery will have a competitive advantage over Goa. Creating efficient administrative machinery therefore should be a top priority of Goa.
When we talk of administrative machinery the picture that forms in mind is usually of the upper echelons of the bureaucracy. However, a lot of how policies, programmes and projects are implemented depends on the lower echelons. The setting up of a staff selection commission is going to be the first step toward reforming the recruitment system in the subordinate services and posts. The important change the commission would be expected to make is selecting a junior engineer, technician, operator, accountant or assistant on merit. However, merit alone cannot ensure efficiency. The state government must at the same time introduce administrative reforms that make performance appraisal system foolproof and make it easier for the heads of department to replace a poor performer. Rules and norms pertaining to removal from service should also be relaxed in order to keep the complacency of the subordinate staff in check.
It would be naïve to expect the administrative machinery of Goa to achieve high quality only with merit-based appointments in the subordinate posts. Much of the corruption and inefficiency flows from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. It would be meaningless to have merit-based appointments in subordinate services without simultaneous reforms to reduce the scope of manipulations by politicians and top officers. Merit of subordinate employee in such cases becomes a demerit for him. If honesty becomes a liability, the system can never improve but only deteriorate. What Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar needs to do is establish a strong system in every government department that regularly assesses the performance of the employees through an objective and double-check appraisal system and rewards them for performance. At the same time the processes for weeding out the deadweight, the inefficient, non-performing liabilities of the department – processes which have been very obstructive and slow – should be made convenient and faster for the heads of department or section heads to get rid of them. As far as reducing corruption goes, the government has started using technology to deliver some services and promises to deliver more. But as far as deterrence to bribe-taking among the employees goes, there has not been much of a reduction. Parsekar needs to improve the conviction rate in vigilance and crime branch cases.