Mar 302017

The ‘How not to do governance’ manual has new chapters added on an almost daily basis. The latest ignominious addition is the failure to appoint the head of the Prime Minister’s office’s accountability arm — the Prime Minister Inspection Commission (PMIC). The past chairman of the commission retired on November 14 2016 and enquiries as to exactly why the position remains unfilled four months later are revealing. The PMIC has in the past faced allegations that it had pursued politically motivated enquiries against opposition members at the instigation of the ruling party — the PML-N. The last thing the incumbency wants, particularly with the long-awaited ruling by the supreme Court on the Panama Papers affair imminent — is to throw the opposition a stick which it will then use to beat it. A nameless but probably accurate source says that making such an appointment ‘at this time’ had the potential to open another Pandoras Box — which in all likelihood it would.

It is when the matter of the unappointed head of the PMIC is unpacked that a deeper malaise is revealed. Without a head the commission cannot function, it has no direction and is essentially jobless — but not disbanded. Therefore there are an unknown number of civil servants sitting in their posts with all the perks and privileges of the job description and precisely nothing to do. There are support staff, cleaners, drivers, vehicles and buildings to maintain and all at a cost of Rs64 million which is the allocated budget in the current financial year.

Whilst Rs64 million is little more than small change in the overall budgetary picture it is symbolic of the wasteful and cavalier attitude to the details of governance that contribute to the perception that the PML-N makes it up as it goes along. A minor but potentially inconvenient arm of the largely crippled national process of accountability has been shoved on to the back burner. Men and women sit idle in their offices — or perhaps they do not bother to turn up at all other than to sign the attendance register — a few million goes into the waste basket and who cares? Well certainly not the PML-N. No way to run a country, is it?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2017.

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