360 may sink civil services’ anchor

PMO, 360

Governments run on established and time-tested rules and regulations with institutional support mechanism and not on peripheral procedures with changes introduced frequently to both circumvent and override the   existing institutional mechanism which invariably runs the risk of destroying the anchor of the ship and break the confidence of the participants. As days pass, more and more glaring violations of rules have begun surfacing as the administration continues to follow the 360-degree evaluation method which is not only opaque, but also contravenes the established institutional mechanism.

The following brings out the contradictions between the procedure of 360 feedback and the institutional mechanism of feedback based on Performance Appraisal Reports and obtaining vigilance clearance from CVC, CBI and State Government.

The All India Services (Performance Appraisal Report) Rules, 2007 being violated are as follows :-

Rules 5(2), 6(4), and 5(7)

  • Rules 5(2), 6(4), and 5(7) clearly stipulates that after one month of superannuation or relinquishment of the post, the retired officers cannot report or review the performance of serving officers. In the case of 360, officers who have retired or have demitted the post much earlier are also being consulted. In many cases the consulted officer may also be working with the private sector which results in conflict of interests.

Rules 5(4) & 6(3):

  • Rules 5(4) and 6(3) mandate that the reporting/reviewing/accepting authority shall write the CR only if he has seen the performance of the officer for at least three months during the period for which the CR is to be written. The present 360 consultation violates the basic nature of this rule as many of the officers being consulted have never worked with the officer and thus may not have any information/knowledge of the work done by the officer in his career, asno recorded documents or copies of the ACR are made available to the retired officer who is being consulted. Most of the comments and views are thus on hearsay, gossip or their individual perceptions.

Rule 8(1)

  • Under Rule 8(1), before the Amendment in 2007, an adverse remark in the CR was communicated to the officer in writing within two months of the receipt of the CR. This Rule is violated as there is no mechanism for communicating the comments received under 360, to the officer concerned.

Rule 9 and Rule 10

  • According to Rule 9, before 2007 amendment, the officer may represent to the government against the remarks communicated to him within 45 days and Rule 10 provides for consideration of the representation made against adverse remarks by the officer.
  • After 2007 Amendment, the performance appraisal report, as a whole, is communicated which ensures more transparency and also acts as an improvement oriented reporting system and this is grossly violated by the 360 degree evaluation methodology.In the place of a transparent institutional mechanism of review, an opaque system of 360 is now being followed. Under the 360-degree evaluation methodology, as adverse remarks are not communicated, the officer has no chance of representing against the remarks and there are chances of the officer being condemned unheard.This also brings in subjectivity at both the level of gathering the inputs and at the level of giving inputs.
  • Further, there is a growing opinion that the reporting/reviewing/accepting officers who have already recorded their remarks in the ACRs of the officer should not be consulted as a part of the process of 360 as their comments are already recorded and available. It may be unnecessary if same comments are repeated and if, in case, the verbal comments (after a gap of many years) are at variance from his own comments recorded earlier then the credibility of the retired officer itself becomes questionable.Hence,giving primacy to views over written ACRs assessing the work and accomplishments of the officer concerned is violating the very purpose of the formulation of these Rules.
  • Under the existing Rules of APAR, the officer reported upon is asked to present in brief the work done in the year of appraisal for the benefit of the assessing officer. Whereas in 360 evaluation no such information regarding the work done by the officer is made available to the persons from whom a feedback is taken, which is again a glaring violation of Rules.

May it be noted that a retired officer conducting 360 has no access to or information regarding the subordinate officers who have worked with the officer whose 360 is being done. Even if information becomes available, how does the retired officer doing the 360 find out about the current posting and telephone numbers of the subordinates? It is strange that the time given for the enquiry is 3-4 minutes feedback over the telephone without ascertaining the suitability of the time or convenience of the officer who is providing inputs/views and also without giving the copy of the work done by the officer, whose credentials are being enquired upon.

Clearly, 360 is only used against an officer. In case 360 is favorable to the officer and the institutional recorded feedback is against the officer, can 360 be allowed to prevail?  It ill also result in weakening of the bureaucracy/ administration where difficult and adverse decisions will be avoided by the officers.  Finally, we will be moving towards a system where the officers will compete with each other to make people happy.  Anyway, this will ensure a better status and relevance of retired officers.

(By M K Shukla & Rakesh Ranjan)