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AL promise for a merit-based bureaucracy goes by default

IN ITS manifesto for the December 2008 general elections, the Awami League promised an end to politicisation of administration along partisan line. It was also unequivocal in its pledge that efficiency, seniority and merit would be the only criteria for recruitment and promotion of public servants. Regrettably, however, these pledges have not translated into reality in the AL-led government’s tenure. According to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, the government doled out promotions and prized postings only to those who toed its partisan line and made hundreds of civil servants officers on special duty, that too, for years, on mere suspicion that they may not be loyal to the incumbents. Moreover, in a bid to appease vested interests, if not to continue its sway over the administration, the government has stalled the initiative to enact a civil service law, which, experts believe, could pave the way for a merit-based administration.
It goes without saying that the country needs a bureaucracy that is efficient and committed to public interest. Public servants at different levels need to play a crucial role in properly planning and implementing national policies, ensuring good governance and the rule of law, dealing with various bilateral and multilateral issues involving foreign countries, etc. As mentioned in these columns on several occasions, politicisation of administration on the partisan line of the government of the day pollutes the processes of recruitment and promotion making way for inefficient people to dominate in the bureaucracy. Moreover, it allows people in different public offices to engage in corruption and irregularities.
Not only that, politicisation necessarily leads to misuse of the OSD provision, originally incorporated into the government service rules to enable the government to address a special situation usually surfacing when an officer’s posting remains pending due to his/her promotion, transfer and the like. Suffice to say, the OSD provision has become a powerful tool for the party in power to punish some officers unwilling to toe its line for some decades now. When an officer is made OSD s/he is entitled to regularly draw salaries and other benefits issued by the government without rendering any service. At the same time, as experiences show, s/he gets posting even with double or triple promotions under another government on same political grounds. Overall, the perpetuation of the OSD culture means creating extra pressure on public coffers and eating away at the efficiency of the bureaucracy. According to official records, more than 600 officers, including four secretaries, 39 additional secretaries and 338 joint secretaries, have had to face such a situation under the incumbent regime.
Hopefully, the conscious sections of society will raise voice against such malpractice. Without pressure on their part, it will really difficult to have a government compliant with its election pledge.

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