As the 11th parliamentary polls near, the government officials are being incentivised with a variety of benefits.
Such benefits, records suggest, include pay hike, home and car loans, promotion, posting and leniency in dealing with their alleged corruption and crime.
Officials working in the civil administration and the police force are getting the lion’s share of the given benefits -- a process that made officials of other cadres aggrieved and created controversies.
Deputy commissioners, who are administration cadre officials, are assigned as returning officers during elections while the police officials and personnel under them act as supportive force of the election commission while conducting the elections.
However, in the latest move taken on 27 November, just 40 days before the elections, the Awami League-led 14-party alliance government took a decision, in principle, to provide home loan at five per cent simple interest rate to the officials and employees of autonomous bodies including university teachers. The finance ministry conveyed the decision to the education ministry through a letter.
On 8 November, the election commission announced the schedule for 11th parliamentary elections fixing the date for voting first on 23 December, and then on 30 December.
Since almost doubling the salary of civil servants in 2015, the government promoted many of them even when there were no vacant posts, provided interest-free car loan facilities, flat loans or home loans at low interest rates.
In the latest session of Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly), the Sarkari Chakuri Ain 2018 (Government Services Act 2018) was passed keeping a provision of taking permission from the government for arresting any of its officials on allegation of criminal acts.
Governance analysts termed the relevant section of the act discriminatory and anti-constitution as the general people and even members of parliament can be arrested without any such permission.
“This is only natural to ask whether passing such an important act in the final session of parliament so swiftly is of ill-motive or for temporary benefits,” Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Iftekharuzzaman told Prothom Alo.
Several current and former secretaries, however, told Prothom Alo that the government officials sometimes face harassment or false cases for implementing government or court orders. This law, they argued, will work as a safeguard for them.
They mentioned that arrest can be made if the court accepts charge-sheet and in the same way they can be punished as well.
Currently, around 2.1 million people are working at the government offices and autonomous bodies and at state-owned banks.
In 2015, their salaries were raised by 91-101 per cent. According to the new pay scale, the top officials' basic salary was raised to Tk 78,000 from Tk 40,000 and that of the lowest echelon to Tk 8,250 from Tk 4,100.
On 15 November, seven days after the announcement of polls schedule, the government issued a gazette notification providing annual increment at a five per cent rate and Baishakhi festival allowance at a 20 per cent rate to teachers and officials of nongovernment schools that have MPO (monthly pay order) facilities.
Inverted pyramid in admin
The trend of giving promotion in the public administration without much considerations began since 2012, suggest records of the public administration ministry.
In that year, the government created eight posts of ‘senior secretary’. Currently, 11 people are working as senior secretaries. Later, the post of Inspector General of Police (IGP) was also made equivalent to a senior secretary.
Whereas the regular post of additional secretary is 121, the number of additional secretaries stood at 614, as of records of 29 October this year. Among them, 160 were promoted on 30 August.
The number of joint secretaries has increased to 759, as against 430 posts, thanks to blanket promotion. As many as 154 deputy secretaries were promoted to the position of joint secretary recently.
The number of deputy secretaries stands at 1,789 when the number of posts is 1,006. As many as 256 of them became deputy secretaries through promotion in a single order on 24 October.
Likewise, the government created supernumerary posts in the police department and promoted 230 as superintendents of the police recently. At the same time, five were promoted as SPs in vacant posts.
Against this backdrop, officials of several other cadres of Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) said they are not getting benefits like those of police and administration cadres.
Officials of the education cadre, however, are getting promotions frequently.
The officials of BCS economic cadre will get benefits like that of the administration since the two were merged on 13 November.
Home, car loan facilities
The government gave more facilities to the officials at the fag end of its tenure, especially before the parliamentary elections.
Earlier, the car facility was available for the officials equivalent to the joint secretary and above.
The government has also increased the car-loan amount from Tk 2.5 million to Tk 3 million since all officials could not be covered by the facility.
Now, the deputy secretaries are also getting an interest-free car loan of Tk 3 million.
Recently, the government has taken a decision to provide a home loan of Tk 7.5 million for the officials and is implementing the scheme.
Another facility was added to that in September. If any government service holder dies while on duty, the government will not take back the loan or its interest from his/her successors.
The same will apply to the employees who will go on retirement being amputated.
The government also has taken a decision to install monthly pension benefits along with five per cent increment after 15 years of retirement for those who have withdrawn all the money during the retirement period.
Many people, however, termed the decision to provide the benefits for the elderly as a positive move.
Secretaries and officials of equivalent status had the facility of a cook and security guard. But, the government had issued a gazette notification last year saying that the officials will get Tk 32,000 as allowance for cook and security guard.
Another gazette notification was issued in June this year to provide the secretaries Tk 75,000 for mobile handsets and Tk 3,800 as its bill.
Furthermore, the government has been giving monthly risk allowance to officials ranging from 10th to 20th grade of Anti-Corruption Commission and a ‘special allowance’ for the police inspectors since August this year.
*This report, originally appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza