It isn’t just school students who are getting a perfect score in Class 12 exams. So do Indian civil servants.
Cabinet secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha conceded that the performance appraisal system for civil servants was in a bad shape, making it difficult to distinguish between performers and the inefficient, or the corrupt and the honest.
“We all know for sure that there are a number of officers who we all know are dishonest, or their integrity is suspect... The whole world knows but he has a vigilance clearance. How does this happen,” he asked a meeting of senior officers and vigilance administrators on Monday.
Sinha went on. “And when we are sitting in the government to place them or promote them through process of empanelment, we are really in a fix because vigilance clearance is there.”
“And nowadays everyone gets 9.5 or 10 out of 10 (in their performance appraisal). So how do you differentiate between the good and the bad, or the honest and not-so-honest,” he said.
It has been long acknowledged that the appraisal system was an unreliable barometer of an officer’s abilities or performance but the government has not been able to fix it.
The previous Manmohan Singh government tried to deal with the problem by reworking the performance appraisal forms in 2007, requiring that officers be graded on a 10-point scale instead of five.
But it did not really make a difference. Instead of rating their favourites as excellent, the senior officers just gave them a perfect or near-perfect score.
A study on performance appraisals conducted for the cabinet secretariat a few years ago found that the cut-off marks to shortlist civil servants for empanelment at the Centre often went into four decimal points.
One quick-fix pushed by the Narendra Modi-led PMO was to give greater importance to peer rating of civil servants. But there are concerns that an informal peer rating could be abused.