Dozens of candidates claim they were deliberately failed to make room for ‘favourites’
HYDERABAD: The Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) is likely to dispose of as unimportant around five dozen complaints of malpractice or omission filed by candidates who took the Combined Competitive Examinations (CCE), 2013.
The development comes as an utter dismay for complainants who expected remedy against the alleged nepotism, corrupt practices and mistakes in question papers and paper checking.
The announcement of the written exam results on March 16 stirred protests from large number of candidates who failed the exams. Prompted by protests, the SPSC on March 21 designated its secretary, Shafi Muhammad Shah, as the focal person to receive candidates’ complaints. The interviews of qualified candidates scheduled for April 18 were also postponed to April 25 allowing time for him to complete the process.
“The SPSC would welcome any substantive information from any quarters or individuals which should lead to disclosure of any graft or malpractice. In this regard, the commission is setting a period of one month to receive such complaints up to April 21, 2016,” reads the notification.
However, SPSC officials informed The Express Tribune that none of the complaints contained evidence of any wrongdoing. “We have decided to treat these complaints as routine ones,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
On August 2, 2013, SPSC advertised 182 posts of BPS-17 and BPS-16 officers to be filled through the competitive exams, which comprises screening test, written test and interviews. These included 76 BPS-17 section officers, 45 BPS-17 assistant commissioners, 12 BPS-17 excise and taxation officers and three BPS-17 labour department assistant directors, besides 46 BPS-16 posts. The screening tests, initially scheduled for November, 2013, were conducted on December 28, 2014. The results announced on January 8, 2015, declared pass 3,376 out of around 28,000 candidates. The written exams, comprising eight subjects, were held in April, 2015. As many as 664 candidates passed the exams.
The candidates found faults in paper checking and questions of Sindhi Essay, Islamic History period I, Forestry and Commerce subjects. “Dozens of candidates who scored 70% to 90% marks in History of Sindhi Literature were failed in Sindhi Essay [a compulsory subject],” said Asif Jamal and Raza Mohammad Shar, two of some 20 candidates who have gone to the Sindh High Court, which heard the case in Karachi on Friday.
They argued that SPSC and examiners deliberately failed candidates. “Lower number of candidates qualifying on merit will give room for maneuver to the SPSC to adjust those candidates who can only get these jobs on the basis of bribe or nepotism,” says the petition.
They gave references of several candidates who scored as high as 133 out of 150 in literature but failed in Sindhi Essay with some getting zero marks.
They said three questions of Islamic History period II were put in the question paper of period I. “During the exams, the wrong questions were changed. But we have strong reason to believe that the paper checker assessed the answer sheets from the question paper which contained the changed questions.”
Similar issues were also identified in the question papers of the optional Forestry and Commerce subjects. Zubair Ali Metlo, another petitioner, is a forest official and a graduate in forestry. But even he was failed in the forestry exam.
Saeed Memon, another petitioner, said several relatives of incumbent staff of the SPSC have qualified the written exam, accusing employees of assisting family members to qualify for the test. According to him, 44 ‘favourites’ were issued two roll numbers in violation of the rules. Some 11 of them did not take the screening test, he alleged.
The candidates have demanded an inquiry against the alleged manipulation and want the rechecking of answer papers. As per the rules, a candidate can only request the commission to recount their score.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2016.
Read more: CCE Exams 2013 , SPSC
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has raised serious questions about the Sindh Public Service Commission’s (SPSC) failure to regularly hold Combined Competitive Exam (CCE) after it found that the exam was held just six times in 28 years since the commission’s inception.
In the 34-page judgment on a suo motu case on the illegal appointments of chairman and members of the SPSC, Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed that the commission was not regularly holding annual tests and examinations as there were gaps spanning many years. The court also wondered that since 1989, the combined examinations had only been held in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013.
The judgment stated that in the absence of the competitive examinations, initial appointments were made through non-prescribed methods.
“The government should submit a list of vacancies that exist or may become due in the foreseeable future to the commission to enable it to conduct examinations, but the Government does not do so nor the commission calls upon it to do so. Arbitrariness and ad-hocism prevails.”
“If the FPSC can hold examinations annually, including those of the central superior services (“CSS”) and the provincial public service commissions of some provinces can also manage to have competitive examinations every year, then there is no reason that the Sindh commission cannot do so too.”
The court also wondered that 25 posts in urban areas had been left vacant in the CCE 2013 exam without assigning any reason was yet another illegality.
“If through a discriminatory selection process civil servants are selected and appointed, it would infringe Article 27 of the Constitution.”
The verdict stated that the commission and the government were obliged to ensure complete transparency in the process of selection and appointment and anything less was unacceptable.
“Those who have earned the privilege to serve the nation … unlike those whose lodestar is nepotism or corruption. Since taxpayers are paying dearly to be served by the best, they are entitled to get the best. If the incompetent or the corrupt ingratiate themselves into the civil service, citizens are deprived of their due. The hapless taxpayers foot a never-ending bill which includes the salaries and other emoluments of civil servants till they retire, and after their retirement their pensions and other benefits. And they are denied the benefit of competent and honest individuals. Appointments which disregard merit, perpetuate bad governance, and drain the public exchequer; such appointments also erode the credibility of the commission and the government.”
It stated that it also affected the government’s performance, and its brunt was borne by the public. Those given the responsibility to select the best candidates should acquit themselves of the trust reposed in them to the best of their ability and, needless to state, without any fear or favour.
“The Civil Service enables government in its most essential way. A robust and efficient system allows for smooth governance. A weak and corrupt system disables government. Without a properly functioning Civil Service, even the most basic functions and workings of the government become an enormous task.”
Meanwhile, the apex court declared all written tests and interviews for competitive exam held in 2013 under the SPSC null and void and directed the provincial government to freshly appoint chairman and members of SPSC.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, ordered the provincial government to appoint the new SPSC chairman within two weeks.
The verdict called for appointing a “person of integrity and competence who meets the stipulated qualification for the appointment as chairman under Article 242 (1B) of the Constitution within two weeks from the date of the announcement of this judgment”.
The judgment was authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The court also asked Sindh government to ensure that all members of the commission meet the prescribed qualifications.
“In view of the larger scale ‘illegalities/discrepancies’ committed in written tests and interviews of CCE-2013, the same are set aside and cancelled,” the judgement read, while clarifying that screening test results had not been cancelled.
“Only 2,813 candidates who had earlier taken the written tests of CCE-2013 for the 182 posts be permitted to take the fresh written tests, even if … they have crossed the stipulated upper age … without requiring any additional fee,” the order read.
The bench further observed that when the papers of the written tests are sent for checking, the identity of candidates must be kept anonymous. Marks of the written tests should be publicly displayed on the commission’s website, on the notice board in its premises, and in one Urdu, English and Sindhi newspapers.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017.
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The commission, the court stated, was not fulfilling its constitutional mandate. Consequently, the pool of competent officers in the government was shrinking, the public is being denied good governance and qualified young men and women of the province were being deprived of opportunities to enter into the civil service.