The selection of joint secretaries to the government of India — middle level bureaucrats who play a crucial role in policymaking — will get transparent and competitive if the prime minister approves a proposal that he is considering.
The current mechanism of randomly choosing joint secretaries will be a replaced with a selection process that starts with an open announcement of vacancies, said a senior official. There are 477 joint secretaries in the government.
The proposal also envisages lateral entry into the government, an idea that PM Manmohan Singh has broached several times. The UPA-2 has made some lateral inductions such as Nandan Nilekani to head the unique identity project and Raghu Raman to construct a national intelligence grid, but the radical shift in bureaucracy will come if lateral entry is allowed at middle level.
An official note says that up to 10% of vacancies should be open to lateral entry from “state governments, private sector and academics”. According to the proposal, such lateral entrants could be selected by the UPSC, based on the CVs and an interview with the candidates.
The note points out that the present system of appointing joint secretaries do not necessarily result in finding the right person for the right job as “suitability or aptitude” of officers are not considered for the appointment.
The proposed system is to do a mid-career assessment of bureaucrats before they are empanelled for posts of joint secretaries.
“The attempt is to ensure that people who have interest in a particular domain gets that particular job,” said the official.