Make civil servants truly accountable

Publish: 9:36 PM, November 22, 2020 | Update: 9:36:PM, November 22, 2020

Recently, from the highest level of the government came the statement that civil servants of Bangladesh are responsible in the main for money laundering activities or sending their ill gotten monies abroad to buy real estate and other properties. This puts into focus the hard fact that members of the civil services in Bangladesh are among the most corrupt. Otherwise, how could they lay their hands on such huge amounts of monies for sending abroad ?

Not only the same give an idea as to their powers, influences, capacities for wheeling-dealing,etc., the other notable aspect from this is their relative sense of non accountability that enable such corruptions at the expense of the State and its people. But incredibly they remain the undeserved beneficiaries of unceasing showering of monetary and material gifts on them such as higher salaries and perks, cars, state paid residences, loans on easiest terms to buy lands, telephones, drivers, etc.

The question that cannot help but arise is : why these civil servants who are but a tiny fraction of the entire work force in the country, why they are being allowed to perpetuate in their unearned gains or wallow in their unfairly attained wealth and status whereas the rest of the working population remain so unfairly deprived or squeezed. Indeed, this state of affairs has been begging for an explanation for a very long time.

As it is, civil servants in Bangladesh or the bureaucracy form a too privileged group in the sense that they feel accountable to none. Many of them look at their jobs as ‘sinecures’ really from where none can dislodge them. This mentality breeds both arrogance and indifference.

The main cure for unsatisfactory governance in the Bangladesh context can be no other than a system well laid in place to put the civil servants of any rank under compulsion to perform better. In other words, there must be instituted an ‘accountability structure’ to make the civil servants accountable for what they do or do badly and the penalties to be paid thereof. Simultaneously, there should be also devised a system to reward promptly and amply the civil servants for their good and exceptional performance.

Such a framework of discipline and motivation respectively can work better than any amount of suggestions thrown at the civil servants to go for auto improvements of their performance. Individuals in most cases do not or cannot take the initiative to improve themselves. However, if an effective system is in place to guard against their wrong doings and slothful mentality, then the same undoubtedly delivers better results in all situations.

Apart from systems to improve , the civil services are in need of deep and driving reforms in every department. A series of commissions and committees were set up by successive government to study and recommend administrative reforms. But the study reports have been gathering dust and only a few out of the many hundreds of recommendations for administrative reforms have been actually implemented so far.

Vested interest groups in the civil services themselves continue to be very alert to defeat any move for substantial reforms of the government departments that they perceive would undermine their prospects for bribery and privilege. Therefore, the imperative is for the bosses of the civil servants, the ruling political party and its leading lights, to muster enough pluck and resolve to push through extensive reforms throughout the length and breadth of the civil services.

If they really mean business, then they must attempt such reforms at the fastest. There is no need for the present administrative reforms commission to engage afresh in a dilatory procedure to complete its tasks. It would be enough to implement the main proposals of the previous administrative reform commissions for they are essentially similar and their implementation at an early date can achieve qualitative improvements in the functioning of the civil services. Good governance will not come about from wishing for it or urging the civil servants to that end. It can be attained only through purposeful actions to create a system and from reform activities.

Couple of years ago people came to know about question paper leaks in BCS examinations. Thus, some persons who become civil servants after taking and passing such examinations in some cases cannot be relied upon to have any integrity to start with. Besides, it is no secret these days that many civil servants look at their jobs rather as cash cows to squeeze out as much as possible in the form of graft. Thus, customs officials or policemen whose monthly salaries were not even forty thousand taka were found building palatial houses and sending their family members for treatment abroad to treat sometimes minor health problems. From where they get the money to sustain such a lifestyle ? An answer is not necessary and should be obvious to the readers.

Thus, civil service reforms can no more pend because these services are the sources of some of the greatest corruption in Bangladesh today. The deep cleansing of the civil services is absolutely necessary to clean them from corruption and to this end sweeping reforms are indispensable.