Thursday 29 Sep 2022

Force-retiring staff? Stop political hand in recruitment first



An office memorandum issued by the General Administration Department mentions that strict action will be taken against non-performing, underperforming, lethargic or disobedient employees, to the extent that they will be force-retired from service. Stop transferring non-performing staff was the message that was loud and clear. Furthermore, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant clarified on Wednesday that the directive does not apply only to Secretariat staff but to all other government employees who have completed a minimum of 30 years of service. On the radar are Group A and B employees in age groups of 50 years and 55 years, respectively.

So, what does this mean? On the face of it, and against the backdrop of non-delivery of timely services that has been a consistent grouse of the common man, this appears to be a people-friendly decision that could bring in new urgency in government department functioning. Non-performance has to be tackled seriously because it not only acts as an impediment to the smooth functioning of departments but also creates unnecessary irritants and hardship for ordinary citizens. The positive here is that the government has finally identified the elephant in the room.

The question, however, is how non-performers and indisciplined staff survive in the system. Or were there no checks from the Heads of Departments all this time? The HoDs are duty-bound to evaluate staff from time to time and assess them on various parameters. Therefore, absence, disobedience and other breaches should have been recorded and acted upon.

The directive concerns laying off employees in their last leg of service while they head towards retirement. The question is, why was their non-performance tolerated for a significant part of their working tenure? By force-retiring them at this age, they will be rendered helpless because all other avenues will be virtually closed by this time, and sustaining life could be a problem. Furthermore, the decision to include only those officers completing a minimum of 30 years in service is ridiculous because underperformance cannot correlate exclusively to the years of service.

Lastly, it is positive that reality has dawned, and the government has admitted to some employees being indisciplined and non-performers. The question is, can the government absolve itself of the problem it is facing? It cannot, for the simple reason that recruitment has been consistently done not on merit but under political pulls and pressures. Sadly, even the requirement of processing vacancies via the Staff Selection Commission has been bypassed, with ministers trying to distribute jobs in constituencies to create vote banks. The government cannot expect service and discipline from candidates who have entered the stream through the job quotas of ministers.

Political influence is the most crucial factor in producing non-performing and indisciplined employees. Candidates selected on merit will best understand work output and service delivery. And herein is the mismatch.

While cracking down on employees is the first step, it cannot be the last. First, the government must get its act together and clean up the recruitment mess. Select candidates based on merit, aptitude and work profile, and stop political interference in jobs. Force-retiring non-performers will make better sense only then.

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