Govt plans outsourcing of public service at any levelMustafizur Rahman
The government has prepared a draft law for public servants making room for outsourcing employees at any levels to the private sector with the general elections only one and half years away.
The public administration ministry drafted the Government Servants Bill, 2012, marking a shift from its previously drafted civil service law, apparently to check ‘abuse of power’ and ensure ‘professional public service management,’ said officials concerned.
The government, if feels it necessary, could outsource services in certain classes and types of work ‘fully or partially’ to the private sector and may dissolve certain grades in phases, the draft says, proposing that the government officials and employees would be classified in the existing four categories – class I, class II, class III and class IV.
The proposed law also empowers the government to extend retirement age in any posts in public service and abolishes the effectiveness of the provisions under the Public Servants (Retirement) Act of 1974.
‘We could not enact any such law in last 40 years after the country’s independence. The new government servants law will have everything of the proposed civil service law,’ the prime minister’s adviser on administrative affairs, HT Imam, said on Sunday after a consultation meeting on the draft law with engineers, doctors and agriculturists in civil service in the city.
He said that it was not a bad idea to outsource any service of the government to the private sector while corporate houses were doing better in different areas.
Professionals in the civil service stressed the need for removing disparity in their promotions and postings as the proposed law did not have any provision to address the issue. They suggested that the heads of various departments or directorates should be upgraded to the rank of senior secretary.
Asked about the new law, senior secretary to the public administration ministry Abdus Sobhan Sikder said, ‘We will form a taskforce with representatives from all associations of different cadres in the civil service to give the draft a final shape.’
He said the government would enact the law after consultations with all stakeholders soon as the law would cover all the 29
cadres, among others, in civil service.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that the provision for outsourcing service might make room for compromising quality, integrity and professionalism. But the idea of outsourcing is good one in modern countries as the government needs expert professionals in some specific areas, he said.
‘The draft law creates a blanket opportunity for outsourcing officials at all levels to the private sector. It now depends on the criteria set for appointments whether the opportunity would be used on political considerations,’ the TIB executive director told New Age.
There is no law to regulate the civil service although Clause 133 of the constitution specifically says that parliament may, by law, regulate the appointments and service conditions of persons in the service of the republic.
Many officials and experts fear the proposed law would rather make room for politicisation in civil bureaucracy due to ‘blanket opportunity for outsourcing public services to the private sector.’ They have opposed the idea of outsourcing at all levels.
The government was doing everything keeping in view the next parliamentary elections, which is due in 2014, many of the officials noted as the public administration ministry all of a sudden came up with a new draft replacing the draft of civil service law which was at the final stage.
After consultations with stakeholders, the public administration ministry early last year finalised the draft civil service law, proposing scrapping of the provision for ‘forced retirement,’ mandatory examinations for promotions and bringing an end to political favouritism.
The draft civil service law proposed examinations for promotion to all levels that include deputy secretary, joint secretary, additional secretary and secretary.
The new draft, however, does not have the provision for mandatory examinations for promotions at all levels in civil service with many officials opposing the idea of promotion determined by examinations.
Mid-level officials said that their seniors in administration were no more interested in framing the law, apparently after extension of the public servants’ retirement age to 59 from 57.
The officials observed that the government had extended the public servants’ retirement age, sidelining its much-hyped reform initiatives to make the administrative functions more transparent and accountable.
In December, 2011 prime minister Sheikh Hasina, also the minister for public administration, sent the draft civil service bill back to the ministry for further scrutiny, delaying the process further to make the officials legally accountable under a system.
The prime minister had asked for a further examination of the draft civil service law as it should be made widely acceptable, cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan earlier told New Age.
The draft law is also aimed at regulating appointment, promotion, transfer and other terms of public service. It suggests that promotion and postings should be based on merit and performance.
The idea of giving promotions through examinations is opposed by many officers who think it keeps the aspirants busy preparing for the examinations neglecting their routine duties, said an official.
The new draft, like the previous one, suggests that promotion and postings should be based on merit and performance to make the administration system-centric.
It calls for a well defined system to regulate appointments, promotions, transfers and other terms of the civil service.
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