New Delhi: Organisations representing five audit-related civil services have approached the Modi government seeking merger — a decision they claim will bolster governance.
Insiders, however, described the suggestion as a means to break “IAS hegemony” on senior positions requiring domain expertise.
The suggestion, made in a letter this week, comes less than a month after the Union Cabinet merged eight railway services in a bid to streamline the transporter’s operations.
The letter is signed by the associations of the Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS), the Indian Postal and Telecom Accounts and Finance Service (IP&TAFS), the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS), the Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS), and the Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS). It is not addressed to anyone, but has been forwarded to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
The five services have said in the letter that it was redundant to have different accounts services working in different ministries at a time when the central government is pushing the agenda of “minimum government, maximum governance”.
All the services, they add, can either be merged into a new ‘Indian Accounts and Finance Service (IAFS)’ or combined into the existing IAAS.
“Question arises that whether different accounts services like ICAS, IP&TAFS, IDAS, IRAS working in different ministries have any relevance in today’s time when all of them follow same set of rules like ‘Accounting Rules’, ‘Pension Rules’, ‘General Financial Rules’ etc. mutatis mutandis,” the letter states.
“Logically thinking, it is impractical for the central government to follow different accounting and financial practices in different ministries in the era of standardisation and harmonisation of accounting and financial practices in government.”
Challenging IAS hegemony
Members of the five services are all recruited through the civil services exam organised by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
While the letter does not say so, insiders in the services claimed a unified accounts and finance service will enable members to take up important finance-related positions in the central government.
This, they said, will help bring in domain expertise in financial decision-making and also challenge the hegemony of IAS officers in key positions. The letter, too, cites several advantages to such a merger, which is described as a “revolutionary” step in the field of administrative reforms.
It would increase synergy among the organised accounts services, resulting in better performance, and help develop and nurture cross-ministry accounts and finance specialists, ensure uniform accounts and finance practices in the government, and allow each cadre to “learn best practices from each other”, the letter adds.
All new batches, it suggests, can be recruited by the UPSC through the civil services examination.
Not a new proposal
The idea to have an all-encompassing accounts and finance service is not new.
The 6th Central Pay Commission had also suggested merging different organised accounting cadres with the IAAS.
“Apart from the IAAS, other organised Group A accounts services exist like Indian Civil Accounts Service, Indian Defence Accounts Service, Indian Railway Accounts Service, etc… The government should look into the feasibility of merging various other organised central Group A accounts services with IA&AS, which will facilitate more efficient functioning and use of resources,” the report had said.
“A committee to look into this issue may, therefore, be constituted by the government at the earliest.”