Former public administration secretary, Sheikh Yusuf Harun said at an event of government officials in the capital in December last year, “The criminal tendency among the government officials is so high that three to four departmental cases are heard every day. Many are being punished in these departmental cases which is very unfortunate for us.”
Amidst these discussions regarding the discrepancies and corruption of the government officials and their misuse of power, the “National Public Service Day” day is being observed on Tuesday. Although the day is observed on 23 July every year, this year it could not be held on that day due to the coronavirus situation and Eid holidays. The day was not celebrated last year either due to the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
This year, a total of 32 government officials, two institutions and a project have been given the public administration award. The public administration awards for 2020 and 2021 have been given together. A programme was held on this occasion in the capital’s Osmani Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday morning. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina joined the programme virtually from Gono Bhaban.
According to the latest figures of the public administration ministry, the country has more than 1.5 million (1,504,913) government officials at the moment. Of them, some 6,306 are officials under the administrative cadre (from assistant secretary to senior secretary).
In the very same month of celebrating the public service day, five officials from the administrative cadre were made OSD on 4 and 5 July. There were allegations of discrepancies and negligence against them in the Asrayan project.
There are allegations of discrepancies in the constructions of some houses under the Asrayan project in at least 36 upazilas in 22 districts. In some places, houses have collapsed after the construction and in some places cracks have been traced on the walls of these newly built houses. There are also allegations of building these houses with substandard material and taking money from people in the name of giving houses. The upazila nirbahi officers (UNO) are in charge of implementing this project at field level. At the upazila level, UNOs represent the government.
However, the top officials of the public administration ministry say the entire service should not be judged on the basis of some isolated incidents. If anyone is involved in discrepancy, he or she is being punished. Besides, steps are being taken to bring more accountability and transparency among the officials. And the recent instruction to the officials to submit the statement of assets is a part of these initiatives. Many of the officials are doing good and implementing the huge budget of the government.
There are also several examples of good work of many administrative officials in field administration. For example, the then UNO played a major role in improving the living standard of ethnic people in “Monai Tripura Para'', 17 kilometres away from the Hathazari upazila sadar in Chattogram. The communication of this neglected village has developed a lot now. Each family of this village is enjoying the benefits of solar electricity. Some of the families are provided with disaster tolerant pucca houses. Due to the construction of a new school building and several other facilities, the people of this remote village have got the essence of development.
“Monai Tripura Para” is being considered as a model due to the several initiatives taken by the then UNO Ruhul Amin. And for this, the UNO office of Hathazari has got the Public Administration award as an organisation.
The public administration award has been given for several other good deeds like this. Many senior officials of the administration told Prothom Alo that due to different controversial acts of some officials, good works are being overshadowed now.
There is also an opposite side to this scenario of public services. Speaking at the “Meet the Reporters” programme in Dhaka on 18 November, last year, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said that the government officials launder more money abroad than the political leaders.
He said, “In terms of numbers, the government officials have more houses in Toronto, Canada and their children live there,” adding that the properties of Bangladeshis living in Toronto are being secretly monitored.
Corruption among the government officials has increased as well. According to the figures of the Anti-Corruption Commission, a total of 799 people were arrested from 2016 to September, 2020. Of them 390 are government officials. The rest are bankers, businessmen and people of different professions.
This data shows that although the salaries of the government officials and employers have been double folded, the tendency to corruption hasn’t lessened.
When asked about the involvement of the officials in controversial activities, state minister for public administration, Farhad Hossain told Prothom Alo that different works including the implementation of huge budgets are being accomplished as the overall efficiency of the officials have increased.
However, questions have been raised regarding the behaviour and efficiency of several officials at recent times. Last May, an elderly man called government hotline number 333 seeking help. However, without verifying the information properly, the UNO of Narayanganj Sadar punished him by making him arrange relief for 100 families thinking the man is wealthy. Later, it was revealed that the elderly man really needed help.
The whole administration was embarrassed again when an video of the then district commissioner of Jamalpur, Ahmed Kabir and one of his female colleagues, in a compromising position, went viral.
AKM Abdul Awal Majumder, former secretary and former rector of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre, told Prothom Alo about the involvement of a section of government officials in various irregularities and controversial activities that the main problem for the current administration is the increased political connectivity of the government officials. “The chain of command” often does not work due to the political connectivity of the officials. There are weaknesses in training too. To get out of this, the officials must be kept away from politics, he said.