IMPORTANCE OF ANNUAL CONFIDENTIAL REPORTS IN SERVICE

By
ISHFAQ ALI
B.Sc., L.L.B., M.L.I.Sc.
Librarian,
Advocate-General,
N.W.F.P., Peshawar.
High Court Building, Peshawar.

The Annual Confidential Report (ACR) is an evaluation report of a servant (Civil servant/ Government Servant / Public servant). It contains specific observations regarding character, conduct, integrity and performance of a servant. It reveals the clear picture of a servant has to be reported upon, with regard to amongst others, his personal qualities, standard of performance, dealing with others, potential growth and his suitability for promotion, or to appoint to a higher post according to individual aptitude. It is an important document. It is written with a view to adjudge their performance every year in the areas of their work.  It provides the basis and vital inputs for assessing the performance of an officer and for his further advancement in his career. The Reporting Officer and the Countersigning Officer, should, therefore, undertake the duty to write this report with a high sense of responsibility. The system of writing confidential reports has two main objectives. First and foremost is to improve performance of the subordinates in their present job. The second is to assess their potentialities and to prepare them for the jobs suitable to their personality. The columns of ACRs are, therefore, to be filled up by the Reporting and countersigning authorities in an objective and impartial manner.

ANNUAL CONFIDENTIAL REPORTS IMPORTANCE OF ANNUAL CONFIDENTIAL REPORTS IN SERVICEAnnual Confidential Report is written by immediate superior officer and countersigned by an officer immediately superior to the officer who writes the report. Reporting officer and countersigning officer while recording remarks in A.C.R. should be discreet, judicious, precise, detached, disinterested, dispassionate, equitable and fair minded without being partial. Countersigning officer, however, while recording adverse remarks could not be deemed to have violated any of such principles. [1] Annual Confidential Report is the objective assessment and evaluation of Reporting Officer about personal qualities, attitudes and proficiency in job of civil servant which was gauged by his work and performance. In other words, civil servant had no chance whatsoever to controvert the assessment made by Reporting Officer through any objective evidence to the contrary. [2] Courts however generally avoided the substitution for an opinion of competent authority unless the same is tainted with mala fide, partiality and bias. [3] Report written by a person having similar grade and status have been vitiated by the Courts.[4] Only next higher authority can write ACR. [5]
Evaluation of a subordinate servant  is a matter of subjective assessment and not an objective evaluation as held by Supreme Court in Noor Elahi vs. Director of Civilian Personnel[6]. Question of subjective assessment is within the supervisory domain of Reporting officer which could not be interfered with unless some convincing and cogent reasoning was available. [7] Service Tribunal or the Court as a rule cannot substitute the view recorded by the Reporting Officer or the Countersigning Officer, nor it will interfere with the said evaluation.[8] Performance appraisal through ACR should be used as a tool for human resource development. Reporting Officers should realize that the objective is to develop an officer so that he realizes his true potential. It is not meant to be a fault-finding process but a development one. The Reporting Officer and the Reviewing Officer should not shy away from reporting shortcomings in performance, attitudes or overall personality of the officer reported upon.

In a case of Syed Zahiruddin Kazmi[9] relationship between civil servant and Reporting Officer was strained and civil servant had time and again submitted applications against Reporting Officer that his rights should be safeguarded so that he might not become victim of personal grudge of Reporting Officer for purpose of A.C.R.. Reporting Officer was hostile and harbouring ill-will against civil servant. Adverse remarks against civil servants based on bias of Reporting Officer being unfounded and uncalled for, were expunged. In another case titled Saeed Ahmed Vs. Federation Of Pakistan [10], documents on record clearly indicated that civil servant and Countersigning officer were not on good terms from the time when civil servant had represented against inducting in office of Countersigning officer in preference to employee, to whom promotion should have been given. Remarks of Countersigning officer prima facie seemed to be biased. and result of hostility which both civil servant and he had been nursing. Adverse remarks being biased, unreasonable and contrary to facts same could not be allowed to remain on record.

Delay in writing of the confidential reports delays holding of Departmental Promotion Committees for promotion and appointments on higher posts,  which cause undue hardship to the employees whose cases are due for consideration. The confidential reports should, therefore, be written strictly in accordance with the prescribed time schedule in the beginning of the year. Successor competent authority was not debarred from recording adverse remarks if the former officer had not recorded the Annual Confidential Report. [11] In Muhammad Ishaque’s case [12] Supreme Court held that “a retired officers can write or countersign A.C.Rs of their subordinate officers. Where however, the A.C.Rs were not completed for period about two decades back, proper course to follow should have been to docket the A.C.Rs for period in question”. In view of preoccupation of District and Sessions Judges and Judges of the High Court with ever increasing of judicial work, delay in initiating Annual Confidential Report s of some of Judicial Officers and conveying adverse remarks to them is immaterial and cannot obliterate the adverse remarks in question. [13]

In a case titled Government of NWFP Vs. Abdul Nasim Khan[14], Supreme Court held that Service Tribunal had taken note of admission of official representing Government that civil servant had been graded as “good” but Countersigning officer ‘s remark “the officer did not impress me much” fell under pen-picture. Such obvious contradiction in gradation and pen-picture was enough to rob pen-picture of its veracity. Such pen-picture had been rightly found to be unwarranted by Service Tribunal under rules governing recording of pen-picture. Adverse remarks in Annual Confidential Report s requiring countersignatures of superior officer. Service Tribunal on knowledge of such fact should have treated Annual Confidential Report s as incomplete and appeal to Service Tribunal to be premature, directing Authority concerned to get those reports completed by countersigning officer before communicating the adverse remarks. [15]

Reporting Officers should keep in mind that writing of A.C.Rs. was not only a sacred trust reposed in them by Government but it involved the career of an officer and personal likes and dislikes, bias and mala fides must be kept aside.[16] Under rules of discipline in the matters  of civil servants, character role or Annual Confidential Report was regarded as basic record that was required to be maintained every year to evaluate performance of civil servant and said Report should be prepared very carefully. Reporting, Officer as well as Countersigning Officer were supposed to see that Report should not reflect undue generosity or harshness.[17] the Reporting officer been biased, the civil servant would have not been able to get “good” reports regarding his intelligence, confidence, knowledge of Islam and knowledge towards Ideology of Islam. Power of expression, knowledge of work and analytical ability of the civil servant had been appreciated which could not have been done by a biased Reporting officer.[18]

Adverse remarks recorded by Reporting Officer not underlined in red ink by Countersigning Officer as communicated. Such remarks, held, could not be treated as approved by Countersigning Officer. Remarks of Countersigning Officer ordered to be retained and those recorded by Reporting Officer directed to be expunged.[19]

Advisory remarks are meant for improvement, which can neither  be taken as stigma nor be treated as adverse,[20] but is conveyed as a matter of caution for civil servant to correct himself.[21] For the purposes of move over an average Annual Confidential Report could be treated generally as good.[22] Average Report  is not an adverse Report.[23]

The reporting or countersigning officer can write the confidential report of an officer if it has at least an experience of three months of work and conduct of the officer reported upon.[24] The period during which the officer reported upon remains on Earned Leave/Commuted Leave, should be deducted for calculating the required period of 3 months for writing of ACR, because the work and conduct of the officer is actually not supervised during the leave period.

When an adverse remark is made in the confidential report of the official reported upon, a copy of the whole report should be furnished to him at the earliest  opportunity, and in any case within one month[25] from the date the reports countersigned, with a memorandum a copy of which should be signed and returned by him in acknowledgement of the report and be in turn placed in the character roll for record. Communication of adverse remarks beyond prescribed period will be vitiated the report. Unreasonable delay in communicating said adverse remarks to civil servant having occurred, Departmental Authorities failed to explain each day’s delay before Service Tribunal. [26] Adverse remarks recorded in Annual Confidential Report of civil servant, were communicated to him after lapse of about four and half months [27], nine months [28], one year [29], three years [30] , four years[31], were liable to be expunged. Adverse remarks should be communicated within prescribed period. Where there was unreasonable delay in communicating adverse remarks, Authorities should explain such delay with sufficient reason so that such remarks be accepted to be unbiased and effective. [32] According to latest pronouncement of Supreme Court, it was held that requirement of counselling to precede the recording of adverse remarks was not mandatory in nature. [33]

Anwarul Haq Siddiqui’s case [34], it is held that Instruction with regard to recording and countersigning remarks being directory and not mandatory in nature, non-observance of the same would not adversely affect the action of the competent authority.

The Supreme Cuort of Pakistan in a case Zafar Ullah Baloch Vs Government of Balochistan held that “fitness of a civil servant to hold next higher post depends upon his performance which he has been showing during the period prescribed for promotion to next grade which is to be determined on the basis of material placed before Competent Authority including Annual Confidential Report. [35] It means that only the Annual confidential report alone is not the basis of the fitness other things are also necessary for the fitness of a servant. The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a case titled Fida Hussain Javed Vs. Director Food, Punjab held that performance of civil servant could not be assessed only on basis of ACR. [36]

Recording of adverse remarks in ACR of an employee was one of the term and condition of his service and if adverse remarks had been recorded the civil servant enjoyed a right to initially challenge the same before the next higher authority of the Department on the grounds available to him including the one that the adverse remarks had been recorded on subjective reasons and if his grievance was not redressed, then the civil servant could approach the Tribunal for redressal of his grievance. Service Tribunal was empowered to examine the remarks on the basis of available material and if the Tribunal came to the conclusion that Annual Confidential Report had not been recorded property or it was based on extraneous consideration or the allegation was not supported by the material, then the Tribunal was competent to accept the appeal.

[1] .      1994  SCMR  722
[2] .      2005  PLC (CS)  498
[3] .      2007  SCMR  1251
[4] .      PLJ 1997 Tr.C (Service) 293 : 1998 PLC (C.S) 986(b) : PLJ 2000 Tr.C. (Service) 491
[5] .      1994 PLC (C.S) 1601
[6] .      1997  SCMR  1749  = 1997 PLC (CS)  1059
[7] .      2005  SCMR  1035
[8] .      1994  SCMR  1348
[9] .      2002  PLC (CS) 1251
[10] .     1996  SCMR  256
[11] .     2007  SCMR  632
[12] .     1998  SCMR  2237
[13] .     2004  PLC (CS)  236
[14] .     1997  PLC  (CS) 79
[15] .     1994  SCMR  238
[16] .     1988  PLC (CS)  392
[17] .     2006  PLC (CS)  545
[18] .     2005  SCMR  1035
[19] .     1988  PSC  560
[20] .     2004  PLC (CS)  130
[21] .     PLD 1986  SC  684
[22] .     2005  SCMR  904
[23] .     1997  SCMR  1303  : 1989 PLC (C.S) 721 : 1995 PLC (C.S) 288 : 1988 PLC (C.S) 230 and 605 : 1994 PLC (C.S) 1539 : 1992 SCMR 1427
[24] .     1996 PLC (C.S) 635 : 1992 PLC 1046, 697, 566
[25] .     1996 SCMR 256 : 1995 PLC (C.S) 320 : 1993 PLC (C.S) 1729, 1104, :  1999 SCMR 1587 : 1998 PLC (C.S) 1402 : 1999 PLC (C.S) 624 : 1997 SCMR 1749 : 1999 SCMR 1587 : 2000 PLC (C.S) 392
[26] .     1998  PLC (CS)  1392 =1998  SCMR  2622
[27] .     1999  SCMR  1587
[28] .     1985  PSC  270
[29] .     PLD 2004  SC  191
[30] .     1995  SCMR  1036
[31] .     1997  SCMR  1749  : 1997  SCMR  1364
[32] .     1996  SCMR  256
[33] .     1999  SCMR  2141  :  1999 SCMR 2117 : 2001 SCMR 1707
[34] .     2001 SCMR 1707
[35] .     PLC 2002  (CS) 1002  (Supreme Court)
[36] .     2004  SCMR  62

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