ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday approved the Civil Servants (E&D) Rules-2020 under the government’s policy of institutional reforms to improve the performance of bureaucracy and state institutions. According to a senior official of the Prime Minister Office (PMO); the aim of these rules is to ensure transparent and effective internal accountability of bureaucrats; and bring efficiency and discipline in their service.

Under the new rules, inquiry against government officials will have to be decided within 90 days. For the first time, plea bargain and voluntary return have been included in the definition of misconduct and the civil servants involved in them shall now be proceeded against.

One of the main features of the rules is that in case of inquiry, the case will be heard by the ‘authority’, ‘inquiry officer’ or a ‘committee’ instead of any ‘authorized officer’ who was assigned to decide the issue. In these terms the authority means “the official who is authorized to appoint a person against whom the inquiry is being initiated”,; the PMO official said.

PM said earlier it had been seen that whenever an officer (but not the authority) was assigned to hold an inquiry; he usually disposed of the matter either by awarding minor punishment or under some influence or pressure. He could also decide the case at whatever time he deemed appropriate. However, the authority will now have to decide the case in 30 days.

New rules

According to the new rules, in the case of Pakistan Administration Service and Police Service of Pakistan officers posted in provinces, a two-month timeline has been provided to the chief secretary to submit a fact-finding report, failing which the Establishment Division can proceed on its own.

In order to expedite the inquiry process, the tier of the authorized officer has been eliminated; leaving only two tiers — the authority and inquiry officer/committee. Timelines have been introduced at every step of the proceedings. Around 10 to 14 days will be given to the accused officer to respond to the charges; while the committee or an inquiry officer to be assigned by the authority will have to complete investigations; in 60 days whereas the authority will have to decide the case in 30 days.

Earlier, no timeframe was fixed to conclude the proceedings as a result of which cases lingered on for years. The opportunity of personal hearing would also be provided by the authority/hearing officer. The procedural issues relating to the provision of record, slackness on part of departmental representatives, suspension; and proceedings against officers on deputation/ leave/scholarship have been clearly provided in the new rules.

The rules further state that the Establishment Division has been authorized to issue subsidiary instructions to avoid any delay in finalizing the inquiries. In the case of multiple suspected officers in a single case; the restriction of appointing a single inquiry officer has been imposed to ensure transparency; and avoid different decisions in a single case.