Monday, May 20, 2024

‘Politicised’ civil admin sees no reforms

After five years (2009-2013) of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance government, the civil administration has become unstable, due to political influence on administration and in the absence of promised reforms, according to public administration ministry sources.
At present, the civil administration is divided in two parts—pro-government and anti-government bureaucrats. The pyramid structure of the country’s civil administration has been dismantled, to allow a record number of promotions against duty posts, bypassing seniority; the tendency to post many competent officials as officers-on-special duty (OSDs); and non-implementation of recommendations of administrative reform committees.
The government has been trying to build awareness on right to information and introduced e-governance in the administration, with a view to develop Digital Bangladesh. The government also formed a Pay and Service Commission for civil servants.
As per the manifesto of Awami League, in 2008, “The administration will be free from politicisation and will be pro-people. Efficiency, seniority and merit will be the basis of appointment and promotion in public service. Administrative reforms, right to information, and e-governance, will be introduced. A permanent Pay Commission will be set up for civil servants.”
The sources said that the government has failed to start the Performance-Based Evaluation System (PBES) to evaluate annual performance report (APR) of the government officials, although this had been introduced on a pilot basis, in some areas.
“E-filing and E-noting systems have been introduced in some ministries, but most ministries are yet to implement the system,” the sources added.
The government has failed to introduce the planned civil service award for bureaucrats. The authorities also failed to establish a ‘resource person pool’ by the experts, to build an efficient administration, the sources said.
The ministries are yet to build a database on their cadre officials, with information on corruption and discipline, the sources added.
But, the government promoted 2,500 officers to ranks such as deputy secretary, joint secretary, additional secretary, secretary, and senior secretary, in many cases, bypassing seniority. It is also alleged that the public administration ministry did not promote a number of officials for harbouring pro-BNP-Jamaat sympathies.
Owing to uncontrolled promotions in ranks such as additional secretary, joint secretary, and deputy secretary, officers with such designations are in surplus in the civil administration, requesting the higher authorities for postings. They are also approaching the public administration ministry, the ministry’s joint secretary (appointment, posting and deputation), and its senior secretary. However, despite assurance, no posting has been approved so far.
A total of 70 senior secretaries, secretaries and acting secretaries are now working, against 73 duty posts. Of them, five are senior secretaries and four secretaries were made OSD. A total 239 additional secretaries are working against 110 posts. A total of 1,019 joint secretaries are working in different ministries and divisions, against 341 sanctioned posts, while 1,320 deputy secretaries are working against the 828 sanctioned posts. At the same time, 1,436 senior assistant secretaries are working against 2,340 sanctioned posts, and 1,091 assistant secretaries are working against 1,870 sanctioned posts in the civil administration.
Owing to rampant promotion, the public administration ministry is trying to absorb the officials, by assigning them to the same rooms of the ministries and divisions concerned.
However, the authorities have failed to absorb most of the officials. The authorities have also created 230
supernumerary posts, for accommodating the deputy secretaries.
As of December 30, the public administration ministry has made a total of 455 OSDs. Of them, four are secretaries, 39 additional secretaries, 168 joint secretaries, 138 deputy secretaries, 47 senior assistant secretaries, and 59 assistant secretaries.
The authorities have failed to recruit the required number of officials for the civil administration. In the past four years, only 879 administrative cadre officers have been appointed through the Public Service Commission (PSC). The government, however, has appointed a total of 10,146 Class-I officers through 28th to 32nd BSC exams conducted by the PSC, so far.
Following this massive promotion spree, most of the sections of different ministries and divisions are lying vacant. Senior assistant secretaries are working as section officers in different sections of ministries. The officials mainly prepare files and issue gazette notifications, after getting the files approved by higher authorities. A number of posts in the field are also lying vacant, due to shortage of officials.
According to sources, a total of 275,964 posts in sections in the civil administration are lying vacant. As a result, the central and field administrations are becoming “stagnant”, causing acute suffering for the public. There are a total of 1,405,524 posts in the civil bureaucracy now.
For developing a more dynamic administration, the previous governments had formed a number of committees, such as, Anam Committee, Nurunnabi Committee, Shamsul Haque Committee, and Public Administration Reform Committee (PARC) of the World Bank.
But the recommendations of these committees were not implemented so far.
In 2007, a Cabinet committee on Administrative Reform and Good Governance, headed by chief adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, took the initiative to reform the civil administration.
However, bureaucratic tangles came in the way of implementing the reforms.
Former adviser to the caretaker government, Dr Akbar Ali Khan, told The Independent that the government has failed to reform the civil bureaucracy, due to political influence.
“The civil administration has to be changed, overall, to build an efficient and time-befitting administration,” he said.
Dr Khan, also former cabinet secretary, the Awami League-led 14-party alliance government politically influenced the civil administration for the last five years.
Dhiraj Kumar Nath, former adviser to the caretaker government, said that the government drafted the Civil Service Bill, despite having drafted the Public Service Bill, as part of the ongoing reforms in the bureaucracy.
“The government cannot influence the civil administration by giving promotions to politically loyal officials, after superseding and depriving senior officials,” he said.
“It’ll be impossible to establish an efficient, neutral, independent and professional bureaucracy in the country, until the enactment of the Public Service Act, which is under consideration of the government,” he claimed.
Nath, a retired bureaucrat, said that the 20 per cent dearness allowance, that was introduced for government employees, was a wrong step by the government. Because, the allowance was not mentioned in the budget allocation. He said, “The government gave the allowance as election bonanza,” he added.
Nath also criticised the recent formation of temporary pay and service commissions for government employees. He advised the government to form a permanent pay and service commission to ensure financial and administrative facilities permanently.
The former adviser to the caretaker government said the government should enact the Public Service Act; amend the existing Public Service Conduct Role; delete the clause of existing role that allows force retirement from the job, after completion of 25 years of service; erase the provision from the Anti-corruption Commission Act that allows for permission to be sought from a higher officer if corruption charges are levelled against a government official.
Abdus Sobhan Sikdar, senior secretary of public administration ministry, said that they have carried out many reforms in the civil administration, over the past four years. “We are enacting the Public Service Act to protect officials and employees. The draft law is likely to be placed at the Cabinet meeting soon. We have started recruiting persons with disabilities, under the 1 per cent quota, and providing a Tk. 20 lakh interest-free loan to senior officials, to procure a car, under the welfare programme for civil services. We are also giving on-duty accident allowance of Tk. 5 lakh, to each official and employee,” he said.
He also said that they had implemented a performance-based annual confidential report (ACR) evaluation system, on pilot basis, to evaluate the performance of the officials, under the reforms programme. The full-fledged performance-based evaluation system will be started from next year, he added.
“We have extended the retirement age of government employees from 57 to 59 and also increased maternity leave from four months to six months,” he said.
“The government has raised the age for entry-level job from 30 to 32, for disabled people.”
He also informed that they have sanctioned advance funds worth Tk. 20 crore so that eligible government officials can buy vehicles. Already 461 officials have taken the facility and 300 more have applied to get the advance money, he added.
“We have already created 386,000 posts of different categories between March 2009 and 2012,” the senior secretary said. He informed that they are going to enact the proposed Public Service Act within the shortest possible time. “We will send the draft of the Act before the Cabinet Meeting, after getting clearance from the Prime Minister’s Office,” he said.
The senior secretary said that they have also prepared a proposal to divide the ministries and divisions into six clusters.
He advised that the government should develop career planning and giving postings on the basis of academic background.

Courtesy of The Independent

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