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A disproportionately-shaped public administration

  • Published at 04:19 pm December 12th, 2017
  • Last updated at 06:22 pm December 12th, 2017
A disproportionately-shaped public administration
The government is flouting the standard pyramidal structure for a bureaucratic organisation as the recent mass promotions of civil servants have far exceeded quotas for their mid-level posts, public administration experts have said. The experts have attributed the burgeoning bureaucracy to a concerted effort to keep government officials happy ahead of the elections, and to a desire to reward officials who are politically aligned with the government. But the experts warned that such methods are not always productive for a political government as the unusual – and in some cases functionless – promotions also lead to discontent among the officials and a breakdown in the chain of command. “There is a chance of unfit or unskilled officials getting awarded when promotions happen in bulk,” Prof Akhter Hussain, chairman of Public Administration Department at Dhaka University, told the Dhaka Tribune. On Monday, the government promoted 128 joint secretaries to additional secretaries, taking the number of additional secretaries to 562 – over four times the maximum number of 130 recommended by the Ministry of Public Administration. Similarly, there are currently 650 joint secretaries against 450 designated posts and a total of 1,551 officials serving as deputy secretaries against 850 posts, according to data from the ministry. The government is also set to promote two more batches of joint and deputy secretaries by the end of the year, potentially violating the structure and making the middle level of the bureaucracy even heavier. In addition, there are currently over 500 “Officers on Special Duty” (OSD) drawing a full salary under the Ministry of Public Administration, even though they usually have no specific tasks as the OSD designation means only that they are waiting for an official posting. “If these inefficient officials are given responsibilities of important tasks, they will fail to deliver the service demanded by the government,” Prof Akhter said. “Before promoting the bureaucrats, the government should evaluate their performance and take an appropriate test to ensure only those who deserve it are being promoted.”

Pyramidal structure ‘demolished’

Prof Akhter said such a system was used by the government immediately following the 1971 Liberation War, before being discarded. “During Ziaur Rahman’s military rule, officials were promoted without evaluation. Since then, the joint evaluation system for promotions has been absent in the civil service,” he said. Experts also said the large-scale promotions have demolished the ideal pyramidal structure of the civil service. If an official gets promoted against no available post, he or she continues to work in their present positions with a higher salary until their new posting. If made an OSD, that same official still receives his or her full salary without even being on duty. As a result, the government loses money and efficiency of their skills diminishes as they are kept away from responsible tasks. Mass promotions can also leave several officials with the same duty in a specific branch of a ministry, which in some cases slows down the decision-making process.
Also Read- 128 joint secretaries promoted to additional secretaries

‘No role’ for political ties

The recent spate of promotions was, however, defended by State Minister for Public Administration Begum Ismat Ara Sadique. “Officials are being promoted following the proper system,” she told the Dhaka Tribune. “Political ties or influences are playing no role in this. Officials who are eligible for promotions should get it.” Regarding the promotion of civil servants to positions which are not even available, the minister said: “We are working to adjust the situation quickly and provide postings to those who have not been promoted against vacant posts.” In April this year, the government promoted 267 senior assistant secretaries to deputy secretaries. Five months before that, 536 public servants were promoted in three categories — additional secretary, joint secretary and deputy secretary. Around 217 officials were also promoted in May 2016 while in 2015, the government promoted 873 officials in the same posts. During its previous tenure, between 2009 and 2013, the Awami League government promoted a total of 2,528 officers in phases.
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