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Why are there so many contractual appointments to top govt posts?

  • Published at 01:12 am December 19th, 2017
Why are there so many contractual appointments to top govt posts?
The government is filling up regular posts with retired bureaucrats appointed on contractual basis, depriving competent officers who are still in service. Currently, more than 140 officials, including 12 former secretaries, are working on contractual basis at different ministries, departments, and foreign missions. There is still no guideline for making such appointments. In most cases, a strong political connection is all one needs to guarantee the continuation of the job after retirement, several government officials claim. Contractual appointments to various posts also mean that officers, who were supposed to get promoted and take over the posts, are ignored. Top posts in Bangladesh’s civil service are limited but the number of officials waiting to get promoted and occupy them is huge. Public Administration Ministry’s State Minister Ismat Ara Sadique defended contractual appointments. “The government chooses these officials to utilize their skills in civil service and also because they are indispensable,” she said. Sometimes, the government appoints officials to finish important tasks or projects by utilising their expertise, the state minister claimed. For critics, her argument does not hold water. Former cabinet secretary Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan has been appointed as the alternative executive director to World Bank -- a rank lower than his previous post. Moreover, there are many other competent officers fit for the job, insiders say. Former Road Transport and Highways Division secretary MAN Siddique was appointed at the same post on a one-year contract after retirement. After the expiration of the tenure, he was made managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, a state-run company under the Road Transport and Highways Division, again on a contractual basis. Like Bhuiyan, Siddique’s new post was below that of secretary. An additional secretary, who declined to be named, said that careers of competent and promising officers suffered because of these appointments. “If the government plans to continue the contractual appointment system, the process should be brought under a guideline,” the official said. State Minister Ismat claimed that the government had plans to formulate a guideline. “I do not know about the progress since I was abroad for some time,” she added. India also made contractual appointments in the civil service sector, and it too did not have any guideline. In 2012, the apex court ruled that government service was a status and not a contract. The hallmark of the status is that rights and duties are imposed by the public law and not by a mere agreement between the parties. A contractual employee in a government department was not a government servant and hence, not entitled to the benefits available to a regular employee. Among the contractually appointed officials, 131 are first class – ranked between grade 9 and grade 1, while 11 others are second class – ranked between grade 10 and grade 12. These officials draw around Tk2.25 crores every month as salaries. It appears to be a waste of money since the government can get the services it is getting from these officials from its regular employees. A number of government officials said that political connection was the only requirement for getting a contractual government job. They said the system was frustrating but none could raise a voice against the practice since doing so would put them in a tight spot. Anyone protesting against the moves usually has their promotions halted, among others, the officials said. There are 79 secretaries but interestingly, the two divisions of the Law Ministry – Law and Justice Division, and Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division – are manned by two secretaries working on a contractual basis after retirement. The Energy and Mineral Resources Division secretary, PMO secretary, principal secretary to the prime minister, Information Ministry secretary, Public Works Ministry secretary, and ambassador to Italy are working on contractual basis. These posts are regular and not specialised ones. Moreover, the contractual appointments have created a bottleneck as the government has continued to promote officials without creating more posts. Currently, there are 5,771 first class officials. But lack of higher posts means that they will be stuck with their current posts for a long time. There are 1,554 deputy secretaries against 850 deputy secretary-level posts. There are 787 officials against 450 joint secretary-level posts. Similarly, there are only 130 posts for 453 additional secretaries. “The government can appoint someone with specialisation or specific expertise. Otherwise, if the government blocks regular promotions by making contractual appointments, it will be a discrimination against officials who have potential,” said Prof Akhter Hussain, chairman of Dhaka University’s public administration department.