Around 85 treasury officials are supposed to have decided to leave the boards of state enterprises to which they have been nominated, to represent the shareholdings of the government. The issue has come up because some of the officials who had served on such boards are disturbed as they have been questioned over unlawful transactions or irregularities taken place during the previous government.
Usually, all state officials in civil or military service are responsible for their actions and are not supposed to carry out wrongful orders if they are aware such orders are illegal or irregular. However, this in reality applies to normal circumstances where the officials are able to use their discretion without fear of ramifications.
The argument on their part is that some of them had to acquiesce to the wishes of the then government in the situation that prevailed at the time and therefore it is unfair to hold them responsible. As well articulated by those in the current government there were less democracy and absolutely no good governance during the previous regime.
If that is so, what it means is those poor officials who were in the grip of the then government had very little option other than going by the dictates of those in power. In that case how can it be reasonable for the new government to hold such officials responsible for those misdemeanors?
But one thing that even those officials should understand is that if their evidence is required for any investigations into the activities of the previous regime, it is their duty to cooperate. Mere fact that any of them will have to give a statement to an investigating authority does not mean that he or she is liable to be arrested or prosecuted and there is no reason to be alarmed.
Also it is relevant in the current context that if any treasury official sitting on a board of directors is influenced by a politician to act in a wrongful manner such official has more freedom now to act according to his or her conscience. Victimizing an official for refusing to act unlawfully is now not easy particularly when there is an independent public service commission established under the nineteenth amendment to the constitution.
However, treasury officials asking for some clear cut rules with regard to personal liability when they have to sit on boards of various state enterprises and approve major transactions is understandable. This is because they have already gone through some bitter experiences. After all it is a case of being ‘once bitten twice shy’.