Archive for the ‘Bureaucracy’ Category

People’s reps should get oversight authority at every tier

November 17, 2007

Editorial, NewAge, November 14, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

We do believe that the primary responsibility of the members of parliament should be to enact, modify or repeal laws, as and when necessary, besides their active involvement in policymaking. However, since local government institutions remain weak and often dependent on the lawmakers’ whims and wishes in Bangladesh, as in most developing countries, the members of parliament have come to play significant roles in the development activities in their respective constituencies. Moreover, the role of the local government functionaries and the lawmakers has never been clearly demarcated in Bangladesh, thanks to the failure of successive governments to address the issue decisively. The authoritarian mindset of the lawmakers has also been responsible to a great extent. Consequently, the distinction of roles between the elected local government functionaries and the members of parliament has blurred to a point when the parliamentarians have become the main actors as far as development in their respective constituencies is concerned.

Their increased involvement in the affairs of their constituencies, which should have been ideally left to the local government, is also one of the causes that such a high number of lawmakers are currently being charged with financial corruption. The authority to disburse funds for development and public works has added to the lawmakers’ incentive to spend heavily on election campaigns because with election to the parliament comes the opportunity to acquire large allocations of development funds, which are typically vulnerable to mismanagement and misappropriation due to the lack of monitoring at the central or local level.

As such, the current initiative to restrict the lawmakers to their functions in the parliament stripping away their authority over initiatives that should be conducted solely by the local government institutions is a move in the right direction. But the formation of an inter-ministerial body to make recommendations was unnecessary since a commission on local government during the last Awami League regime had submitted a report recommending public representation in four tiers of the government fully explaining their roles and responsibilities, functions and jurisdictions. Also, such an arrangement is clearly defined in the constitution.

As we have stated before, we do desire a genuinely empowered local government structure that would be effective and meaningful for the people. But in order for that to happen, the elected public representatives must be given the authority to assess the performance of the civil servant heading the corresponding administrative unit. In other words, the public representatives must have the necessary authority and mechanism to command the obedience of the public servants.

Good governance cannot be without due process

November 17, 2007

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.