SIFC, new NAB SOPs help bureaucracy regain its lost confidence

Ansar Abbasi
Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The working of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) and change in standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the NAB is helping regain the lost confidence of the civilian bureaucracy.

Sources in the civilian bureaucracy told The News that the environment of harassment for the government servants has considerably subsided that is encouraging the officials to take decisions and implement policies.

“There is a definite change in the working environment for the government servants,” a top federal secretary said on condition of not being named. He added that the trend of shying away from signing government files because of NAB’s fear factor is fast changing.

Another secretary, holding a key position in the federal secretariat, said there are a few factors that help encourage the civilian bureaucracy to take decisions, sign the files and deliver. He said that for the better performance of the government and to address red-tape in the bureaucracy, the lost confidence of the administrative machinery is critical.

He said that the creation of SIFC, changed policies of the NAB and assurances from the prime minister and the army chief to government servants have definitely helped improve the environment of fear for the bureaucracy.

The unchecked misuse of NAB’s power and the arrest of senior members of bureaucracy on frivolous grounds and for political purposes in the past had badly shattered the confidence of the government servants. The NAB’s fear factor had created an environment of harassment for the bureaucracy and as a consequence the decision-making in the government had badly affected.

According to a senior government servant, there is a need for the corrupt to fear accountability. But the NAB’s years-long policy of arresting and initiating corruption cases against government servants on anonymous complaints, trivial matters and without any concrete evidence of corruption had badly hurt the working of the bureaucracy.

Now, it is said, the bureaucracy has not only started taking decisions but is also showing a trend of saying “No” to external pressures.

Following the intervention of the prime minister and the army chief, the NAB under its present chairman has changed its SOPs to ensure that no innocent is arrested and no government servants are harassed unnecessarily. Last year, Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, during his interaction with top bureaucracy in Lahore, had urged the government servants not to be shy away from taking decisions and assured that they would not be harassed unnecessarily by the NAB. The Army Chief had also explained that sometimes decisions taken in good faith do not produce the required results but it should not be the reason to take action.

The NAB recently issued new standard operating procedures (SOPs) to all its offices for fair handling of only genuine complaints, admitting that precious time and resources get wasted in processing non-cognizable complaints that adversely impairs efforts and impacts of Bureau’s operations.

In the case of complaints against government servants, the following instructions were issued for strict following: i) No anonymous complaint against government officials will be entertained; ii) Identity of government officials will be kept strictly confidential during complaint verification process; iii) Complaints against officials up to BS-19 shall be authorised by Regional DGs, whereas, for BS-20 and above officers, approval of NAB chairman will be required; iv) Government officials will not be called in person in NAB premises during complaint verification and inquiry stage; v) Regional DGs in consultation with the respective provincial Chief Secretaries will establish Accountability Facilitation Cells (AFCs) in respective civil secretariat for the requisite assistance; vi) All correspondence and sharing of information will be made through AFCs.

For consideration of processing complaints against businessmen, the SOPs said: i) No anonymous complaint against businessmen will be entertained; ii) Identity of businessmen will be kept strictly confidential; iii) No businessman will be summoned to NAB premises during complaint verification stage; iv) For dignified conduct of probe, a separate Business Facilitation Cell (BFC) will be established at regional NAB offices. The BFC will comprise of representative from respective chamber of commerce and industry, representative from “Realtors’ Association” and representatives from other business associations (if required on case to case basis).