Rethinking The Pay and Pension of Public Office Holders

Rethinking The Pay and Pension of Public Office Holders
I had argued in one of my earlier articles published here in August 2020 that the salaries of career public officials are intentionally kept inadequately low so as to compel them to indulge in corruption and bribery. Later in May 2021, Pakistan Institute of Development Economic (PIDE) published a report demonstrating that civil service pay and pension was actually “cash poor” but “perk rich”. The PIDE report had recommended liquidation of housing, transport and other perks and a corresponding monetization of pay and pension. However, the report did not go into necessary depth and detail required to design a new pay and pension system that made sense in the context of Pakistan’s overall State structure. 

Two general principles must inform this debate. First, all federal civil servants should be rewarded with a respectable income for a nuclear family having two to three children. Second, the overall compensation for federal civil servants should be labelled as “care”, and there should be two heads of “care”: personal and official. Personal care should include salary, sports, insurances, and retirement, while official care should also have four heads: office equipment, field tours, postings and transfers, and promotions.


Allowances running amok in our public financial system are a colonial legacy of control over natives and must be discarded. Instead, salary should be lump sum and sufficient for all domestic expenditures on food, clothing, entertainment, children's education, residential rent and utilities, office commute, health insurances and car and housing finance needs. Moreover, 24K Gold prices, fixed at the beginning of each financial year for recruitment purposes, are ideal for pegging salaries to a reliable base (alternatively, Dollar price or minimum wage may also be used as a base). For instance, grade 1 could be 10-gram gold while grade 22 could be 150 grams.

Annual increase in salary should be slightly more than annual inflation and should also serve as an incentive to keep inflation low. Therefore, an annual increment of 15% should be mandatory and be default every year, due on 1st July. There should be no other “allowance” or increase in salary, except annual performance bonuses at budget time. The same salary structure should apply to all federal civil servants, whether they are CSPs, direct recruitments or on contract.

A productive mind is only possible in a proactive body. Therefore, two free-of-cost unisex sports clubs should be established in each tehsil. The clubs should provide at least three individual sports (choice from badminton, lawn tennis, table tennis and squash) three team sports (choice from hockey, cricket, football, basketball, volleyball), three chess boards, three billiards tables, three snooker tables, one swimming pool, one gym, one mosque, one library (with at least 5,000 books), and one canteen.
Therefore, all service groups and officials, including PAS and PSP doing field postings, should stay in rented houses paid out of their salaries (which already accounts for this expense).

Since enhances salaries, there may be a possibility to scale down the insurance and other costs. Officials should approach the private market in this regard. Entry of public officials would also help create a trustworthy and informed market in this regard.

There should be no retirement benefits for leaving service before one has reached the full retirement age of 60 years, except on medical grounds. At the time of retirement, three years bonus pay should be granted as a savings deposit and acknowledgment of about 30 years of public service. However, pension should be 50% of the last drawn pay because of reduced expenditure on children's education, office commute, and car and housing finance. This pension should last only until the employee, or their spouse is alive, because a 60-year-old retired employee with a nuclear family of two to three children is not expected to have minor children post-retirement.

Rethinking Official Care

No official should have to spend out of his own pocket on office equipment and essential utensils and resultantly should not have to go out for lunch/tea or bring it from home in a lunch box. Therefore, following minimum office equipment should be provided by the state. For officers of Grade 17 and above, separate offices should be provided equipped with standard furniture, stationery, a laptop, and a printer. Subordinate staff should be provided a separate desk, stationery, and desktop, with a common printer in each section.  Every office should have a cook and a working kitchen (stove, fridge, oven, toaster, water cooler and utensils as per office sanctioned strength) for lunch, water and two tea breaks. The cost of daily consumables and food menu should be contributed by officials out of their own pocket under the supervision of a kitchen committee.

No official residence should be provided to any officer or staff, the principle being that all officials must be familiar with, absorbed in, trusted by, visible to and be able to relate with the society they serve. Therefore, all service groups and officials, including PAS and PSP doing field postings, should stay in rented houses paid out of their salaries (which already accounts for this expense). However, the Estate Office should help in this regard to get good deals for officials and maintain a pool or list of decent rentable accommodation in each tehsil at different rates for both furnished and unfurnished options. A centralized online website and app should be created to facilitate and manage this activity. Accordingly, all existing official residences of civil servants should be sold immediately, and the associated staff deemed redundant.

Tours: Official transport, driver and fuel is necessary for official tours within and outside the city, so that no official is embarrassed to perform his public duty nor waste precious time in driving during important assignments. Therefore, sufficient and respectable transport vehicles should be made available in every office for field tours and also to provide pick and drop services to officers of Grade 17 and above. However, all such transport should stay only at office and officials shouldn’t be allowed to bring such vehicles under their personal use inside or outside office hours.

Similarly, for accommodation during official out-of-city tours, officials should neither have to worry about finding an accommodation, nor be given a choice to compromise on standards, nor have to pay out of pocket, nor carry cash for this purpose, except for food. Therefore, Estate office should maintain an officially approved pool or lists of accommodations in the form of rest houses or hotels in each tehsil, as per the requirements of different grades of officials. The bill for utilizing such accommodation should be charged to and paid directly by the Estate Office against the relevant office's Daily Allowance budget and approved tour programs. An online system should be developed to facilitate, manage, and reconcile this activity. Lastly, the daily food allowance while on tour should also be paid in advance to avoid any embarrassment or difficulty for the officials.

Postings and Transfers

Officers of Pakistan Administrative Service and Police Service of Pakistan basically belong to local government and should therefore be posted only in their home provinces. This is to ensure that the officers are emotionally invested in improving their birthplaces and have the requisite support of local subordinate staff in tackling local mafias that currently proliferate in Pakistan and are the main cause of the failure of all governance models tried so far in Pakistan. However, officers should be rotated across districts after no less than three and no more than six years of service at one place of posting. The minimum three years is accounted for as a year each for learning, contributing, and consolidating.

However, a province may borrow PAS and PSP officers from other provinces through the Federal Establishment Division only when home province officers are not sufficient in number.

Federal CSS officers of the remaining ten service groups (namely, Foreign, Customs, Inland Revenue, Military Lands and Cantonment, Audit and Accounts, Commerce and Trade, Information, Office Management, Postal and Railways), male or female, should also be rotated across provinces (or countries in case of FSP) after no less than three and no more than six years of service in one province (or country). Moreover, all such officials should be required to learn, on their own, one of the main primary local languages of the province in which they are posted to make them truly federal officers with deep knowledge of all federal territories.
The principle for promotions should be consistent delivery of high-quality performance coupled with meeting requisite academic or in-service training requirements for each pay grade. Moreover, assessment needs to account for human elements of bias, time, and existing HR capacity.


The principle for promotions should be consistent delivery of high-quality performance coupled with meeting requisite academic or in-service training requirements for each pay grade. Moreover, assessment needs to account for human elements of bias, time, and existing HR capacity.

Therefore, assuming a total service span of 30 years, all officials should be considered for promotion every five years with a performance threshold of 75% marks against official assignments in four out of five preceding years.

A monthly assignment log or proforma should be kept by every reporting officer of all his subordinate staff and filled in on a running basis (it may also be kept in soft or online form). The official being assessed should have no responsibility in this regard, and reporting officer would be proceeded against for misconduct for not submitting annual assignment logs of his subordinates to the counter-signing officer for the preceding calendar year by 31st January next year. The design of the monthly log or proforma could include the following: 1) tasks assigned; 2) percentage marks for timeliness, contents, and presentation for each task; 3) monthly average percentage marks for each task and 4) annual average for all tasks in the preceding 12 months.

Every year, during the month of February, the counter-signing officer must interview the reported officer to evaluate his or her performance against the log submitted by the reporting officer. Based on the interview, the counter-signing officer should also have the authority to add or subtract 5% marks from the annual average submitted by the reporting officer. An official may be dismissed from service if his or her performance is below 50% for three out of the five preceding years.

Non-civil service salaries.

A similar, revised personal and official care may be adapted for military, judiciary and members of the parliament.

Military officials are kept apart from society, trained to do strong physical labour and denied ordinary fundamental rights. But otherwise, a revised structure as proposed above is needed for military pay. The salary bill could be reduced if the formula for rent and utilities is applied here. This would require internal debate within the institution led by the ministry of Defence and come up with rationalized salary and pension arrangements.

For the judiciary the national judicial policymaking committee led by Chief Justice of Pakistan needs to review how the salaries and pensions could be rationalized. Ideally, they should correspond to a revised civil service structure.

The ever-increasing salary bill for members of Parliament needs to be reviewed. Do they really require hefty salaries and perks is a question that civil society and experts need to ponder and pressurise the executive.

All these changes require political will and a national debate that cannot be postponed.

The author is a lawyer and civil servant.