Loopholes have failed the new 360° assessment to empanel IAS officers. It needs reforms

Existing process and its problems

The Narendra Modi government, while trying to streamline and rationalise this process in its bid to sift out the best talent, found that the existing process laid undue emphasis on the ACR/ PAR (Annual Confidential Report/Performance Appraisal Report). The scenario was further complicated by the widespread practice of rating virtually everyone as “outstanding” in most states. For the uninitiated, senior positions in various ministries of government — Secretary, Additional Secretary, and Joint Secretary — are filled up from among various all-India and central services, through a well-established process called empanelment.

The new dimension of 360° assessment

The newly-added process of 360° assessment of the officers has now become an integral part of the empanelment process. No guidelines in this regard are made available in the public domain. Senior retired secretaries of the government get in touch with senior colleagues and even junior officers, with whom the officers under consideration have worked. Based on their telephonic conversation, they come up with an assessment that effectively overrides, or at least vetoes, the gradation received through the ACR/PARs.

Encourage experienced IAS officers

The latest guidelines also provide that before an officer can be empanelled as a Joint Secretary, they need to have put in at least three years of service in the central government. Since the lower cut-off in terms of length of service is 16 years for IAS officers, this would mean that they should complete a stint at the Centre before they have logged 16 years of service. This is precisely the stage in their career where IAS officers are posted as District Collectors and heads of department, which are arguably their most meaningful tenures.

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Dad, Leo, Mentor, ex-IAS, 1984 batch, superannuated as Spl. Chief Secretary, Punjab. Electronics Engineer, University of Manchester, UK, and Harvard Alumnus.

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