IAS officers’ ACR taken out of mayors’ purview in Punjab civic bodies
After notifying Civil Services Board providing for fixed tenure to Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers, a move that did not go down well with the ruling party leaders, the Punjab government has now taken the annual confidential report (ACR) of IAS officers appointed as municipal commissioners out of the purview of mayors of civic bodies in the state.
Punjab has 13 municipal corporations (MCs), with those in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Patiala always having an IAS officer as the commissioner. An ACR is a confidential report, accessing the performance, character, conduct and qualities of the member of service, and helps in their career advancement.
With the June 10 notification of the personnel department, undersigned by chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh, the post of mayor has been reduced to a mere rubber stamp, as all executive powers are already vested with the commissioner. The mayor only presides over meetings of the MC General House.
Not only this, now instead of the local bodies minister, the chief minister is the final accepting authority of the ACR. Navjot Singh Sidhu, as the local bodies minister, had remained at loggerheads with municipal commissioners and had even recommended strict action against three IAS officers.
According to the notification, now the administrative secretary of local bodies will be the reporting authority and will write the ACR, while the minister will be the reviewing authority and the chief minister the accepting authority. IAS officers had been lobbying for these changes to ACR rules for quiet some time.
Former local bodies minister late Kewal Krishan, in a bid to give more powers to elected representatives, had allowed president of civic bodies to write the ACR of executive officers besides countersigning cheque books for withdrawal. Later, when the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act was framed, the power was given to mayors, giving them control over bureaucratic setup of the civic body.
“After the fresh orders, the mayor is nothing more than a rubber stamp,” said Ajitpal Singh Kohli, a Shiromani Akali Dal leader who remained the Patiala mayor from 2013 to 2018. “The mayor is an elected representative and accountable to the public, which is why they were given the power to judge the working and write ACR of commissioners. Now, the commissioner has no accountability towards the mayor or political setup. Already all executive and financial powers are vested with the commissioner.”
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Sunil Jakhar said the matter has not come to his notice yet. “Already MLAs and party workers have approached me over the fixed tenure of IAS officers. This is a similar issue. I will convey sentiments of workers to the CM,” he said.