A symbiosis of civil service and politics in transfers: The case of Pakistan's management cadres

Published date01 December 2017
AuthorMusharraf Rasool Cyan,Obed Pasha
Date01 December 2017
A symbiosis of civil service and politics in
transfers: The case of Pakistan's management
Musharraf Rasool Cyan
| Obed Pasha
Department of Economics, Georgia State
University, Atlanta, Georgia
Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland
State University, Cleveland, Ohio
Obed Pasha, Levin College of Urban Affairs,
Cleveland State University, 1717 Euclid
Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115, USA.
Email: obedpasha@gmail.com
Job rotation is an important tool in public administration that is
used to enhance learning and diversify experience among employ-
ees, while reducing opportunities for rent-seeking behaviour. The
benefits of job rotation, however, may be reduced if carried out
too frequently or for narrow partisan reasons. Frequent transfers
and postings in a civil service characterized by life-long contracts
negatively impact on-the-job learning, accountability for results,
and incentives to acquire skills. This study examines the political
and internal civil service determinants of frequent transfers in the
civil service of Punjab, Pakistan. We employ Poisson panel estima-
tions for 338 job positions for elite management cadres in
Pakistan over a five-year period from 2006 to 2010. The analysis
shows that a change in elected government and desirability of a
position increase the frequency of transfers.
Job rotation is a well-studied concept in the literature, and scholars have emphasized its importance in increasing
organizational performance by improving learning, diversifying experience, and enhancing change management skills
among employees (Campion et al. 1994; Eriksson and Ortega 2006). The importance of rotation, accomplished
through transfers and postings of civil servants, is especially accentuated in the context of civil service systems of
developing countries, which are largely built on generalized management and legal training, and with employees
learning most specialized skills through on-the-job experience (Kennedy 1980). This learning, however, requires
time, and too frequent transfers and postings made for narrow political reasons may inhibit skill attainment and sub-
sequently lead to a decrease in the quality of employees.
Even though the political dynamics surrounding job rotation in developing countries have a salient impact on
civil service quality and programme implementation, the subject remains under-studied in the literature (Schaaf and
Freedman 2015). Politically motivated transfers are used as control mechanisms by politicians to consolidate power
over the civil servants by installing loyal administrators to key positions or exiling insubordinate officials (Banik
2001; Schaaf and Freedman 2015). The civil servants also engage in lobbying for desirable positions that offer
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12355
Public Administration. 2017;95:10771091. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/padm © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 1077

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