Govt asks ministries to review performance of staffers aged over 50

The DoPT has advised examining the personal files of employees, including “uncommunicated remarks”, in their annual confidential reports
The central government has asked all ministries and departments to start a continuous age profiling exercise in order to weed out older employees who have become deadwood. Those so profiled would be reviewed every quarter to see if their services ought to be terminated.

In an office memorandum (OM) sent out on Friday by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), the government has asked for the creation of a register of all employees of 50 years and above. The department heads have been instructed to review their performance every quarter. So far, performance reviews of all 3.5 million central government employees used to be done annually. This will now change for those “due to attain the age of 50/55 years or to complete 30 years of service”.

The DoPT has advised examining the personal files of employees, including “uncommunicated remarks”, in their annual confidential reports.  

The renewed emphasis on premature retirement on grounds of “doubtful integrity” and “ineffectiveness” comes after a hiatus of some years. Between July 2014 and January 2020, the central government terminated the services of 320 officers, according to the DoPT data. But the current exercise has clearly been envisaged on a much larger scale.

For several years, the DoPT has denied reports that the central government was planning to reduce the retirement age of government employees to 55 years instead of the current 60 years (62 for the lowest level of employees). However, the OM issued on August 28 could revive some elements of this proposal by making it easier to terminate the services of those whose performance has demonstrably slipped.

“The register (of those above 50 years) should be scrutinised at the beginning of every quarter by a senior officer in the ministry/department/cadre and the review be undertaken according to the above schedule, so as to ensure timely completion of the review for retention/premature retirement of the government servants,” the memorandum said.

The DoPT’s past circulars on the same issue were never this detailed. What’s different this time is also that the quarterly review is to be headed by the departmental secretary for top officers of the government’s Group A. “The review committee shall be headed by the secretary of the concerned cadre controlling authority. Where there are boards, viz., Central Board of Direct Taxes, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, Railway Board, postal board, Telecom Commission, etc, the review committee shall be headed by the chairman of such board,” the memorandum said.

The OM also advises the review committees to examine the entire service record of an employee: “The personal file of the government servant may contain valuable material. Similarly, his work and performance could also be assessed by looking into files dealt with by him or in any papers or reports prepared and submitted by him. It would be useful if the ministry/department/cadre puts together all the data available about the government servant and prepares a comprehensive brief for consideration by the review committee. 

Even uncommunicated remarks in the annual confidential report/annual performance assessment report may be taken into consideration”.

Clearly, the OM aims to ensure committees have all the rules handy to complete the profiling and review exercise. All court judgments, extant rules and just about everything else, have been brought together to make sure the exercise produces results.

Knowing this could become a minefield of litigation, the OM is careful to offer a range of rights to officers who are to be prematurely retired to make representations against the decision. However, it also makes it clear that as according to the provisions of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules and All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, the government has the absolute right to retire officials prematurely on the ground of lack of integrity or ineffectiveness, and in public interest.

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