Govt backtracks on admin reform
Draft law gathers dust at PMOMustafizur Rahman
The fate of the proposed law to regulate the civil service, intended to make the bureaucracy ‘more transparent and accountable’, seems uncertain as neither the cabinet secretary nor the senior secretary to the public administration ministry are aware of its current status.
The much-hyped draft of the ‘Public Servants Bill, 2012’, which was initially named the ‘Civil Service Bill, 2010,’ is gathering dust in the Prime Minister’s Office as the Awami League-led government has apparently backtracked on its plan to reform the civil administration, according to officials.
A section of bureaucrats are reportedly opposing the draft public servants law that includes provisions for ‘outsourcing’ activities at any level to the private sector and also holding mandatory examinations before promotion of civil servants.
The draft law proposed holding of examinations for promotion to all levels that include deputy secretary, joint secretary, additional secretary and secretary.
‘The public administration ministry drafted the law. I do not know its latest status,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told New Age.
‘It is not easy to bring qualitative changes in the administration simply by introducing a law. It depends on many other factors,’ Musharraf, the top bureaucrat in the civil service, said.
A key part of the draft law is the regulation of appointment, promotion, transfer and other terms of public service so that promotions and postings are given on the basis of merit and performance.
In its 2008 election manifesto, the Awami League said it would free the 1.2 million-strong civil service from politicisation and make it more ‘service-oriented.’
Although clause 133 of the constitution states that
parliament may, by law, regulate the appointments and service conditions of persons in the service of the republic, at present there is no legislation for this purpose.
The present draft was finalised in December 2012 after consultative meetings with stakeholders, including officials from different cadres. It had been pending with the in-tray of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, responsible for the public administration ministry, waiting for her to give it the ‘all-clear’, a senior official confirmed.
‘We have sent a summary of the draft public servants law to the Prime Minister’s Office, but have yet to receive any response over the matter,’ public administration ministry’s senior secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder said.
He said that he had no idea whether the law would be enacted during the tenure of the current Awami League-led government.
The government of Sheikh Hasina initiated the move reform the civil service immediately after assuming office in January 2009.
The government has already given promotions to a large number of officers much beyond the approved posts and, reportedly under pressure from parts of the bureaucracy, extended the retirement age of all public servants from 57 years of age to 59 years.
The public administration ministry drafted the Public Servants Bill, 2012 to widen its jurisdiction, said an official.
According to the draft, the government could, if it wished, ‘fully or partially’ outsource certain categories of activities currently undertaken by the government servants to the private sector.
The government was thinking of outsourcing activities currently undertaken by Class IV government servants as it wanted to end the allegations of irregularities and corruption in the recruitment of lower-level employees, said officials.
During the consultation, officials belonging to the non-administration cadres suggested removal of inter-cadre disparities, especially in promotions and postings, through enactment of the public servants law.
Defending the examination system for promotion, a retired bureaucrat said that merit, efficiency and honesty should be the criteria here to build a professional bureaucracy.
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