ISLAMABAD - The government is set to wipe out half of Pakistan’s senior civil service grades, boost the number of provincial officials at the centre and open its top jobs to private sector experts, The Nation has learned.

The reforms are aimed at creating a modern, efficient and independent civil service through the most sweeping administrative reforms since Pakistan’s creation in 1947.

The proposals are contained in a series of papers by Pakistan’s Planning Commission, which have been seen by The Nation.

They include a reorganised Public Service Commission which will oversee appointments and prevent political interference.

Under the proposals the number of middle and top ranking civil grades will be reduced from six to three, while provincial government officials working for the federal administration will be doubled to 20 per cent.

The recommendations have been submitted to the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and he is expected to back them in the interest of modernising government, officials said.

The draft reforms strategy, funded by the United Nations Development Programme and prepared by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, has recommended rationalising Federal Secretariat grades to BS17/18 Section Officers, BS-20 Joint Secretaries and BS-22 Secretaries.

There will be six main groups each with 20 cadres and each cadre will have its own relevant degree requirements. Cadre candidates will be given a 20 per cent weighting if they have the right qualifications.

Foreign Office group candidates, for example, will be required to have a Masters degree in International Studies, International Relations, or History and Political Science; if a cadre candidate with any other qualification applies they will get 20 percent fewer marks than those with the relevant degree.

Under the existing system, graduates take a single entrance examination and depending on their grades, provincial quotas and personal preferences, are appointed to one of 12 service tracks. Selection does not take into consideration previous education and experience. For instance, an accountancy degree is not necessary for induction into the auditing and accounting groups.

The Public Service Commission will be given greater financial and administrative autonomy and its chairman will be vested with the powers of a principle accounting officer. The recruitment of recruiters will be made more transparent and competence-based, the Planning Commission paper recommends.

A more professional approach to recruitment will be promoted. “The criteria for appointment of chairman and members of public service commissions must ensure the selection of professionals with unblemished service records and members of the commission will be appointed through meaningful consultation with the chairman,” the proposal added.

The government also wants to end the ban on lateral entry into the civil service, allowing people in the private sector to join through senior government positions.

One of the most important recommendations is the establishment of a national executive service (NES) to attract private sector high-fliers, specialists and civil service stars for selected slots in BS-20 and above. The recruitment would be done through a competitive process.

The draft has proposed 35% instead of 15% weightage for trainings in promotion policy. It has also recommended the introduction of mandatory four weeks’ training for promotions to BS 18 and BS-22.

Base salary must be improved for civil servants, especially for grade 17 onwards - it could be in the form of a critical service allowance. Senior managers all over the world are not motivated by financial incentives but by good base salaries, the proposals argue. The tenure of civil servants must be protected and the secretaries must be given a voice in the selection of their subordinates.

Other recommendations include an aptitude-based screening test to be conducted before the CSS exam and the curriculum of CSS to be rationalized according to contemporary learning needs. Only those who have completed sixteen years of education will be allowed to sit the screening tests. After the approval by the prime minister, the recommendations can be implemented from next month. The proposed recruitment plan will be implemented as early as February 2017.