Political will compulsory for civil service reforms
There has been a long history of administrative reform in Bangladesh since its inception, with almost every government having instituted an administrative reform commission or committee. However, main task of these bodies has often remained limited to recommendations for changing elements of the basic structure and system without delving into key underlying issues. As a consequence the cumulative problems of poor civil administration have now become so apparent that everyone is realising that something more fundamental needs to be done.
One of the major recommendations for having a merit-based and efficient civil service is to hold competitive examinations for the posts of deputy secretary and above. But it could not be implemented reportedly due to strong resistance from administration cadre officials. Also our colonial style of bureaucracy system is opposed to any form of change. But most importantly, a government must have strong political will and commitment if it really wants to reform the civil administration - this has always been missed.
Some two dozen committees had been formed and no less than 38 volumes of reports full of recommendations were submitted so far. But all efforts seem to have gone in vain. This underscores the fact that, from time to time, governments have gone through the motion of reform without any political commitment to it.
The Pay and Service Commission of 1977 recommended creating an apex cadre, Senior Services Pool (SSP), with talented, efficient and experienced officials drawn from all cadre services. The formation of the SSP was proposed for ensuring equal scope for all cadre services for promotion and posting. Our successive governments, however, doesn't want a strong and effective civil service - rather it prefers a weak and a loyal bureaucracy that will carry out its orders.
A number of officials at the secretariat alleged that promotion is now given not on the basis of performance or efficiency but on political consideration - the age old practice based on annual confidential reports and through lobbying. Several reform committees suggested adopting merit as the criteria for promotion and also downsizing the number of ministries and manpower.
Reforming civil administration is a complex and continuous process for which political support is inevitable, and we believe the government is well aware of the fact. We have an astute leadership and our expectation is that it will focus more on effectively reforming the civil service. The depressing state of our civil service must put to an end.