The announcement by the Royal Civil Service Commission on the performance of university graduates in the civil service examination is an important revelation.

Based on the last three year’s performance, the commission found that graduates from Sherubtse College and Gaeddu College of Business Studies consistently topped the main examination’s general category. This is good ​because it tells us that our institutes at home are producing candidates that meet the criteria that are required in the civil service.

While the commission’s concerns over students opting for low quality institutes abroad is reasonable, given the recent degree recognition issue, it ​is important for the commission to analyse the performance of technical graduates as well. An overall analysis would guide the students, teachers and parents better in choosing colleges at home and abroad.

We must also explore ways to increase the intake of students in our colleges and institutes. This would among other things, help clam anxious parents who spend their lives’ earnings on educating children on a foreign soil. Education consultancy firms conning parents and students in their effort to assist them have become routine business.  Recently, a mother shared her concerns about a consultancy firm conning her with her son’s college admission in India. A year after her son started college, she learnt that he was not a registered student.

The commission also pointed out in its report that only one graduate from the Sikkim Manipal University, which is involved in a degree recognition controversy, was selected in the civil service examination. While this assertion may be revealing, the commission basing the legitimacy of the recent graduates’ degree on their performance in the examination is preposterous. We expect more from an institution that claims to uphold values of meritocracy and professionalism. The civil service may remain the most sought after sector for employment but records show that our civil servants, despite being chosen through examination do not hesitate to leave as well.  The same report shows that 349 civil servants voluntarily resigned last year, one everyday, accounting for 55 percent of all separation. Whether such an attrition rate is an indication of ‘good to great’ civil service​,​ or the other way round, only the commission can tell.

Even if the move to analyse the performance of graduates is appreciated, we urge the commission to take this further and assess civil servants on their performance. Public service delivery is an important tool to assess their performance at work, more than the agreements they sign with elected leaders. But somehow, we don’t find it problematic when an apolitical civil service pledges to politicians to perform and deliver. Who then is the civil service accountable to – the public or the politicians?

If the commission doesn’t feel uncomfortable signing these agreements, its concerns over a group of civil servants approaching political authorities to intervene and address their grievances should not cause the commission discomfort. There is a need for apolitical institutions such as the commission, which claims to draw its values from the State to revisit its need to sign performance agreements at all.

The commission has started to take the lead in issues that affect the society. It can do more and better to maintain the constitutional intent of an apolitical civil service.