Good governance cannot be without due process

Editorial, NewAge, November 8, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Fakhruddin Ahmed, the chief adviser to the military-driven interim government, told senior bureaucrats on Tuesday that they should focus on the outcome and result of their actions rather than the input or process. Simply put, he told the bureaucracy that bending rules and regulations was acceptable as long as it got the results, although one of the fundamental reasons of having a bureaucracy is that it would ensure adherence to a set of rules, that there is an inherent mechanism of checks and balances.

Asking the bureaucracy to disregard those processes also implies empowering public servants with the authority to decide by themselves which rules to flout for which purpose. It also means that the bureaucrats have the liberty to decide violation of which rules might justify what end. While shocking, it is hardly surprising, as the interim government has, on more occasions than one, bypassed the due process and adopted ad hoc measures for expeditious outcome. Such a propensity for quick fix, so to speak, inevitably leads to detrimental consequences, as is evident in the case of its anti-corruption drive, because not only debilitates the institutional mechanism but also yields little or no result. It appears that the chief adviser is intent on applying the same quick-fix formula on the bureaucracy.

The bureaucrats, on the other hand, used the meeting to relate their woes and hardship to the chief adviser and requested a dearness allowance for civil servants. Of all people, the jute and textiles secretary asked for dearness allowance apparently to help him cope with the rising prices of essentials while literally thousands of jute mill workers are not being paid their pending wages and retirement benefits. Especially at a time like the present when there is no representative government at the helm of the country’s affairs, the bureaucracy is expected to be the one institution that would put the interest of the people, whom they serve, above everything else and recommend measures to lessen hardship of those teeming millions. It is expected that the bureaucrats would take this opportunity and impress upon the chief adviser the problems that the people face every day in their lives instead of giving in to their selfish interests such as increase of salaries and facilities.

It is all the more expected that the bureaucrats would act with responsibility and good sense since the current state of affairs in this country is partially a result of their doing and willingness to please the previous political establishment and do its bidding.

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