Annoyed by the failure of ministries and divisions to appoint heads of 86 companies, the Cabinet Division has initiated an investigation into the matter.

Earlier in July 2019, the prime minister had given a three-month deadline for filling vacant positions in state-run companies. However, the Establishment Division recently informed Prime Minister Imran Khan that 21 ministries and divisions had failed to fill 86 seats, which once again irked the premier.

Among all the ministries and divisions, the Power Division is on top as it has to fill 16 positions that are lying vacant in different entities under its administrative control.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research stands at second place, which has to fill 11 positions and the Commerce Division has eight positions that have been lying vacant since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came to power. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has to fill five positions whereas the Petroleum Division has four vacant slots.

Now, the cabinet, chaired by the prime minister, has sought details of vacancies, mode of appointment, advertisement of posts, reasons for delay and tentative date of appointment.

The Establishment Division informed the cabinet that the federal cabinet in a meeting held on October 27, 2020 decided that all vacant positions of MDs and CEOs should be filled within three months without fail. It also decided that the minister and secretary concerned would be personally responsible for implementing the decision.

The cabinet once again highlighted the decision in its meeting held on November 24, 2020. It directed that all ministries and divisions should ensure appointment of heads of organisations – CEOs and MDs – within the timeframe given by the cabinet.

The Establishment Division requested the ministries and divisions to provide details of vacant positions of CEOs and MDs, including the posts which were filled recently on a temporary and stopgap basis.

Consequently, the list was updated based on information provided by the administrative ministries and divisions. It was informed that a total of 96 positions were vacant as on October 27, 2020.

Since then, 26 positions had either been filled or merged and 16 new positions had been added. Currently, 86 positions are vacant. Sixteen ministries and divisions submitted ‘nil’ report.

They included the Defence Production Division, Privatisation Division, Economic Affairs Division, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, Foreign Affairs Division, Parliamentary Affairs Division, Interior Division, Railways Division, Kashmir Affairs and G-B Division, Postal Services Division, Law and Justice Division, Narcotics Control Division, Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Division, National Security Division, States and Frontier Division.

During discussion, the prime minister showed disappointment over the very slow process of appointing CEOs in various ministries and divisions, and wondered as to how an organisation would function in the absence of a leader and CEO.

He emphasised the need for undertaking urgent steps for appointing CEOs on vacant positions. He pointed out that the government allowed headhunting to find talented professionals from abroad but still 70 positions were lying vacant apart from the additional 16 positions. He inquired about the impediments (if any) to the hiring process and called for providing reasons for the delay in filling each position so that corrective measures could be taken.

He said that the acting CEO or any stopgap arrangement in an organisation would impact its efficiency and may lead to nepotism and corruption.

Meanwhile, the adviser to PM on institutional reforms and austerity explained that a new well-designed policy had been prepared to attract talented professionals working anywhere in the world, and through the process 26 CEOs/MDs had so far been appointed.

The secretary to PM apprised the cabinet that there were no genuine impediments to the hiring process and the ministries/divisions knew the exact cut-off dates of contract expiry or retirement of on-job CEOs, but they still didn’t take prior and timely steps to fill those positions.

The cabinet directed all the ministries and divisions to intimate the Establishment Division the posts of CEOs/MDs/heads that were likely to fall vacant over the next three months and an action plan to fill the posts along with timelines.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2021.

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