Reform in the services of the Republic | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 11, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 11, 2008

Reform in the services of the Republic

A Public Services Act to bring about a substantial reformation in the public services is under preparation. This act is meant to make the public services responsive, action oriented, accountable and free from political influence.
Obviously, changes in the existing rules require far-sightedness, experience and wisdom, in the absence of which there could be some major complications in execution and enforcement. Any reformation, therefore, must have the mandate of the stakeholders and citizens prior to its finalisation.
Previously, on different occasions, policies relating to promotion and recruitment in the public services were changed and twisted, making them adjustable to the wishes of the party in power.
The allocation of district-wise quota system as an Interim Recruitment Policy was introduced, for the first time, by an executive order of the Establishment Division on September 5,1972 for filling vacancies in government, autonomous, semi-autonomous and nationalised enterprises. The spirit of the order was based on the political commitment of the government to ensure just and equitable representation of the people of all districts.
This quota system in the recruitment process was modified several times, on the basis of population and other priorities, to respond to the voices of women, freedom fighters, and the indigenous population in the country. The Public Service Commission has now taken steps to rationalise the quota system with the changed situation in the country, and to create more opportunities for the meritorious candidates. This has recently generated discussion and debate among the students and civil society organisations to make the system more pragmatic and consistent with the demand of the days.
In retrospect, most of the Acts, Rules and Ordinances were framed and promulgated to accommodate the demand of the situation. Some of the Acts were precise and fundamental, and generated subsequent Rules and Ordinances governing the entire public administration.
The Services (Reorganisation and Conditions) Act, 1975, provided for the reorganisation of the services of the Republic and of public bodies and nationalised enterprises, and prescribed uniform grades and scales of pay and other terms and conditions of services for persons employed in such services. In fact, this is one of the mother laws under which the services of the Republic are governed and administered by the government.
In fact, the government exercises its power in appointment in the services of the Republic, and regulates its administration on the basis of authority entrusted under Article 133 of the Constitution, in consultation with the Public Service Commission under Article 140 of the Constitution. The role of the Public Service Commission is important due to its constitutional mandate over the whole bureaucracy, from recruitment down to removal from service, and also because it protects a public servant from the wrath of political personalities, or from any irregular attempt to dismiss an incumbent.
The Public Servants (Retirement) Act, 1974, defines public servant as any person who is, for the time being, in the service of the Republic or of any corporation, nationalised enterprise or local authority, or who, on the basis of having at any time been in the service of Pakistan, purports to claim a right to employment in the service of the Republic.
It does not include any person who is a member of any defense service, a teacher or an employee of any university, or anyone employed in or under a commission, committee or board set up for specified purposes. The retirement age of a public servant has been fixed as 57 years under the Act.
The Bangla Vasha Prachalan Ain, 1987 (Bangla Language Introduction Act of 1987) is also a fundamental law, under which Rules were framed to uphold the spirit and execute the provisions of this Act. Besides, The Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1979, The Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules of 1985, Bangladesh Civil Service Recruitment Rules 1981, Prescribed Leave Rules, 1959, and subsequent amendments, are regulating the way of dealings among the public servants in general.
The popular public opinion at present is for making certain institutional reformations, with major changes in the process of recruitment, promotion, retirement, and awarding of contracts in services, and enhancement of remuneration packages. The Public Service Commission was established in the year 1977 under an ordinance to exercise its functions under Article 140 of the Constitution.
The chairman of the PSC has been changed and the members have been replaced to bring dynamism in its functioning. There could be certain basic changes in Articles 138 and 139 of the constitution regarding the system of appointment and of removal from office. Changes have also taken place in the Election Commission through the appointment of CEC and ECs, but not in the system of the appointment as indicated in Article 118 of the Constitution.
Similarly, there could be some changes in the system of recruitment at the level of senior management. Bangladesh Bank has created one instance by inviting open competition in the appointment of deputy governor. Similarly, there could be some changes in the recruitment of chairman and members of these constitutional bodies.
This will encourage the private sector and non-resident Bangladeshis having wide experience and reputed integrity to join and contribute to the nation by infusing new blood and modern methods of management. Major institutional reformations are necessary to cope with the needs and demands of the present century, attain the objectives of MDGs or PRSP, and emerge as a middle-income nation by 2030.
Some political visionaries and members of civil society organisations are seriously in favour of reformation of the service rules to protect the bureaucracy from the whims and caprices of politicians.
The changes in the attitude of political activists must be supported by the party manifesto. They must refrain from influencing the local officials, uphold the rule of law, and maintain the spirit of democracy with utmost honesty. Party discipline should be such that any delinquent should be punished by the party itself, and not always by the law-enforcing agencies.
This article might help in building an independent and capable bureaucracy in the country.

Dhiraj Kumar Nath is a former Secretary.

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