In a first, the government has proposed to give Central Secretariat Service (CSS) officers an extended tenure of up to 10 years before they can be moved out to ensure departments do not lose their institutional memory.
The department of personnel & training (DoPT) has proposed a new transfer policy that seeks to give CSS officers a 10-year tenure — instead of the existing seven — in junior management positions of assistants and superintendent and six instead of five years as an under-secretary. The tenure then continues with the five-year term when they are moved up the ladder as deputy secretary and director.
Nearly 1,700 CSS officers — posted across 80 central departments and ministries — make up for the government’s lower and middle management leadership and are recognised as the backbone of the civil services at the Centre.
But the proposal does not appear to have gone down well with CSS officers, who insist their efficiency should not be held against them.
“We will convey our concerns to the government... This isn’t fair,” said Rakesh Kumar, general secretary of a representative body of service officers, CSS Forum.
“A decade is too long. This means in the first 20 years of an officer’s career, he will just be familiar with issues pertaining to just two departments,” Kumar said, saying they didn’t want to end up as the proverbial frog in the well.
Notorious for being sticklers for rule and precedents, CSS officers spend their entire career poring over files, drawing up policies and analyzing the ones under implementation.
“Some are so good with the paperwork it is almost impossible to counter an argument they make on files,” conceded an IAS officer.
The draft policy recognises it was the CSS — that traces its origin to the Imperial Secretariat Service set up in 1919 — that provides the permanent bureaucratic set up and continuity at central departments.
It, however, echoes “an opinion” that when CSS officers are transferred, departments lose their institutional memory.
“There has to be a better way to achieve this objective… maybe e-governance,” Kumar argued. Transfers, and a new job profile not only enable officers to expand on their knowledge base but also ensure they do not develop vested interests.