The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) last Sunday made public the results of a research that covered all aspects of good governance. One of the core findings of the research has been that despite a huge comparative pay hike, vulnerability to corruption among public servants has not gone down. Or at least that is the perception of the ordinary folks who visit government offices for service and whom the TIB interviewed. This comes in the wake of the Prime Minister's recent assertion that the government was perplexed to see corruption remained in place among government servants even after giving them huge pay increases and various other benefits. In fact, every strata of the citizenry has been telling this for years, especially since the last Pay Commission came into effect.
The TIB study dealt in details the National Integrity Strategy (NIS), one of the good things that came in 2012. It was in fact being worked out from the 2007-08 period, when a first draft had seen the light of day. The NIS 2012 has been appreciated by all sections of society. However, as the TIB noted in its study, all segments of the NIS are yet to be materialised. Of the eleven strategies spelt out in the NIS, five have advanced satisfactorily, incentives, reward, training, and a rational salary structure among them, but three others have yet to make a start. These include the whistle-blower protection arrangement, performance-based evaluation and career development that have, for reasons not known, not been started as yet. The study also noted that appointments based on intelligence reports and promotions motivated by politics were harming governance, to say the least. On the good governance side, the study has also mentioned such issues as buying houses and flats without government permission, showing property in the name of spouse and children, or continuing to use transport pool facilities even after availing of car grants from the government.
Existence of corruption even after huge pay hikes in comparative terms might bemuse people, but they may open the door to further studies both of the psyche and the material conditions that government servants are embedded with. For some at least this may be a matter of habit; for others at the lowest end of the pay structure, compelling conditions may be there. The government and the civil society must act in tandem here. The policy makers must find out the habitual ones and punish them, those doing it as a matter of the needs of sheer existence should be confronted differently. The civil society, as the TIB has done, should bring to focus failures of policies that were set forth to put the machinery straight and capable. For the poor ones, no pay hike so far done is possibly sufficient. The price hikes and inflation that have taken place in the market that every person, rich or poor, has to encounter every day corrode much of the gains of any pay hikes, especially of the lower category wage-earners.
Be that as it may, if not for anything else, such studies should be continually there as a matter of check and balance as the public servants do their job. Performance-based evaluation system, promotion based on merit only and apolitical recruitment have always been some of the crying demands of all sane people, and TIB did a good job by highlighting them. The question now is to implement them, as they have been included in the government's NIS. A partially fulfilled NIS cannot deliver national aspirations.
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