Ministry of Public Administration
Prothom Alo illustration

The government has promoted a significant number of officials to the post of joint secretary before the forthcoming 12th national elections, even though there are currently no vacant positions. It is rumored that more promotions are in the offing to 'please public administration officials'.

However, a majority of these officials will likely have to continue serving in their previous positions because the number of promotions exceeds the sanctioned posts. Alternatively, they may be designated as Officers on Special Duty (OSD). According to experts, similar to the previous two national elections, promotions are being granted in the public administration in anticipation of the upcoming polls.

On Monday night, 221 deputy secretaries and officers of equal rank were promoted to the position of joint secretaries through two notifications. Earlier, in May, 114 additional secretaries were also promoted. According to sources in public administration, the 29th batch of BCS administration cadre, who joined in 2011, is expected to be promoted next month.

Among the 221 individuals recently promoted from Deputy Secretary to Joint Secretary, 11 hold the position of Private Secretary (PS) to important figures in the government. Notably, these include PS Ahmad Kabir to the Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment Minister, PS Mohammad Masukur Rahman Sikdar to the Commerce Minister, PS Sarwar Hossain to the Social Welfare Minister, PS Aktaruzzaman to the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, PS Rezaul Alam to the Ministerof State for Public Administration, PS Shah Momin to the Minister of State for Industries, PS Abdul Malek to the Jatiya Sangsad Speaker, PS Mohammad Shahjalal to the Parliament Deputy Speaker, PS Md Tofazzal Hossain to the a Whip, PS Al Mamun to the Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman, and PS Mohammad Golam Kibria to the Bangladesh Public Works Commission Chairman.

Besides, 10 Additional Divisional Commissioners have been promoted as Joint Secretaries. Of them, two each are from Mymensingh and Chattogram divisions and the remaining from other divisions including Dhaka, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal and Khulna.

Among those promoted are six officials working in Bangladesh embassies and high commissions in various countries.

Official sources from the Ministry of Public Administration have revealed that the approved number of posts for Joint Secretary in Public Administration is 332. Following the promotion of 175 individuals to joint secretary positions in November last year, the total count of officers in this position reached 725. With an additional 221 promotions to joint secretary on the night of the past Monday, the total number of joint secretaries has now reached 946. This means that the number of joint secretaries is nearly three times the sanctioned posts in the country. 

According to Ali Imam Majumder, a former cabinet secretary, this situation represents a waste of public funds. Even if the posts are granted, the ministry may not be able to provide them with the necessary workload, potentially leading to a chaotic environment in the public administration.

According to experts, such widespread promotions to please officials before elections, even without corresponding posts, disrupt the ideal structure of public administration. Many of these officials may not be equipped to perform the duties of their promoted positions and may end up working one or two levels below their new roles, which is detrimental to public administration. Over time, this situation can lead to frustration among these officials and potentially slow down their work.

However, Abdus Sabur Mandal, Additional Secretary of the APD (Appointment, Promotion, and Deputation) Division at the Ministry of Public Administration, argues that these promotions are not specifically related to the upcoming election; they are considered regular promotions. According to him, these promotions have been granted after a considerable period.

In response to the question of why so many promotions have been granted even when there are no corresponding posts, this official informed Prothom Alo that promotions are awarded against existing vacant positions, and the number of promotions granted is actually fewer than what is required. While many people tend to calculate based on the number of posts originally established, they often overlook the fact that many new posts have been created. Additionally, individuals engaged in various projects, on deputation, on lien, or on study leave are not taken into account.

This correspondent spoke to the additional secretary of the department, Abdus Sabur Mandal, on Tuesday night. Subsequently, it was discovered that he was appointed to the position of Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Technology on the very same Tuesday.

According to sources within the Ministry of Public Administration, a group of officials may receive promotions from Senior Assistant Secretary to Deputy Secretary in the first week of the next month. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 regular Deputy Secretary positions. However, the Ministry of Public Administration claims that there are about 1,750 Deputy Secretary or equivalent positions throughout the country. Presently, 1,698 individuals hold these positions. With the upcoming promotions, many Deputy Secretaries may find themselves serving in the capacity of Senior Assistant Secretary. 

Badiul Alam Majumdar, Secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN), expressed that the government is currently heavily reliant on the administration. He believes that these extensive promotions, even in the absence of corresponding posts, are being granted to appease public administration officials. Similar promotions occurred before the parliament elections in 2014 and 2018, and it appears to be happening again this time.

* The report was originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for English edition by Farjana Liakat