Bureaucracy politicised, poll pledges breached

Mustafizur Rahman

The Awami League-led government’s brazen politicisation of the civil administration has further polarized it.
The AL-led government took no initiative to fulfill its election pledge to introduce the system of ‘merit-based administration’ free from political interference.
Pursuing the policy of doling out promotions and prized postings only to those who toed its political thinking by leaving the others to rot the outgoing government has done a disservice to the civil service, said many officers.
This government simply forgot to enact the civil service law it had pledged that it would to make it mandatory for the civil servants at all levels to face examinations before getting promotions.
The government did not enact the law only to placate civil servants toeing its line and opposed to the idea of giving promotions through examinations, said officials.
The government took no initiative to reform the civil administration as it had pledged.
It was going back on its pledge, former caretaker government adviser Akbar Ali Khan told New Age on Saturday.
In its 2008 election manifesto, the AL had pledged that if elected it would end politicisation and make the administration people-oriented.
Efficiency, seniority and merit would be the only criteria of recruitments and promotions of public servants, was the unequivocal pledge AL had made in the manifesto dubbed ‘Charter for Change.’
Akbar Ali, also a former cabinet secretary, said that he finds no significant change in the bureaucracy as pledged.
‘It would have been good for the administration if the civil service law was introduced,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said.
He also said that he was unaware of the latest status of the bill drafted by the public administration ministry to enact the law.
Replying to a question, the cabinet secretary said that many officers were scared of appearing in examinations for promotions.
And recently for the first time in nearly five years, dozens of officers forced to mark time as officers on special duty having denied long overdue promotions on suspicion that they did not toe the ruling party’s political line, on November 27, 2013 sought redress from the civil service top brass.
Several civil servants said that officers are made OSDs only to punish and humiliate them purely out of political considerations as there is no law to discourage this.
The government simply flouted its own election pledge to free the administration from politicization, many officials alleged.
The AL-led government backtracked on its plan to reform the administration only to placate a group of officers who opposed the draft public servants law with a provision of ‘outsourcing’ officers at different level from the private sector.
Both the cabinet secretary and the senior secretary to the public administration ministry said they were unaware of the fate of the draft law designed to make the bureaucracy ‘more transparent and accountable.
The much trumpeted draft of the ‘Public Servants Bill, 2012’, initially named the ‘Civil Service Bill, 2010,’ awaits prime minister’s approval, said a senior official.
Defending the examination system for promotions, a retired bureaucrat said that merit, efficiency and honesty should be the only criteria to develop a professional civil service.
The draft law also stipulates the principles of appointments, promotions, transfers and other terms to ensure a merit and performance based civil service.
In the 2008 election manifesto, the AL said it would free the 1.2 million-strong government servants from politicization to make it accountable and ‘service-oriented.’
Article 133 of the Constitution states that parliament may, by law, regulate the appointments and service conditions of persons in the service of the republic, but until now no law was enacted.
Finalized in December 2012, the draft bill has since been put in the back burner.
‘We await a response to a summary of the draft public servants bill we sent to the prime minister’s office,’ public administration ministry’s senior secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder said.
The government of Sheikh Hasina took the move to reform the civil service immediately after assuming office in January 2009 and later let it remain there.
Absence of the law enabled the government to give promotions to scores of officers much beyond the approved posts, reportedly on pressure from the favoured groups showing extreme disregard to transparency and the age old principles of fairness, officials said.
It also extended the retirement age of public servants from 57 years to 59 years apparently to please the government officials and employees.
In last five years scores of ‘eligible officers’ were dumped as officers on special duty sealing the prospects of their due promotions.
Over 600 officers, four of them secretaries, 39 additional secretaries and 338 joint secretaries were forced to rot as OSDs at the public administration ministry without any work, according to the recent official records.
Around 250 officers were dumped as OSDs immediately after the Awami League-led government took office in January, 2009.
Sobhan Sikder, however, said that no officer was denied promotion on political consideration.
The government spent Tk 150.91 crore on salaries and perks of 3,605 officers made OSDs in nine years since 2004, according to an official report.
In May, the public administration ministry reported to the High Court in compliance with its June 2012 order which had asked the government to submit a list of public servants made OSDs in the past 10 years and the amount of money spent on them.

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