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A welcome reform

Published: June 07, 2019 22:11:22 | Updated: June 09, 2019 21:31:38


The government's decision to go for direct transfer of fund to nearly six thousand autonomous entities appears to be a positive step that augurs to save both money and time on the part of both the benefactor and the recipient. Of these six thousand recipients, the vast majority, or about 4554, are union parishads (UP), the lowest tier in government administration. Besides, there are 491 upazila parishads overseeing these UPs, who have above them the district tier with 64 zila parishads. The rest are autonomous statutory bodies and corporations mostly located in Dhaka and a few others in other divisional headquarters. The basic argument behind this latest step has been to save money the government pays as interest to sources it borrows from. Primary assessment puts the figure of saving at sixty billion taka; and while everyone would welcome the latest move, the question will prick many minds as to why this was not done earlier. The main part of the package is putting the money straight into the coffers of the organisations on the first day of the quarter, and doing away with cheques. Resultantly, the bureaucratic necessity of paying for the fourth quarter only after receiving 'a good-performance certificate' will also go now, with money for the last quarter starting its journey to the recipient on April 01 of every fiscal year. The other quarters would similarly be off on July 01, October 01 and January 01 as the planned reform proposes.

The cheque-based payment was the most agonising of possible irritating methods. Too much of time has been wasted behind it, and too much of human labour spent for no apparent rock-hard reason. The fourth quarter delay has long been one of the most demoralising as far as the recipient was concerned. This proposed step, excellent and time-saving as it would be, would also open the door to clamour for reform in other areas. For one thing, monthly pay and allowances are still received through cheques that require time and quite a bit of stationery. If the newly proposed system for autonomous bodies can hold, and if already hundreds of thousands of pensioners be paid direct through their bank account, why not the same be introduced for a million plus strong bureaucracy. As one reform opens the door for others, so also the present one should unlock the entry to the largest number of employees getting freed from the burden of accounting exigency, which can be reformed and made easier.  

As the nation marches on with its recently acquired reputation of a developing country, more and more development projects are being added to the ADP, with this year's development budget proposed to be around Tk 2.2 trillion (2.2 lakh crores). Therefore, the aforementioned reform may also be extended to release of development funds as well. The consequential speed that will be acquired in implementation of projects will make our journey of a developing country smoother and faster. What requires to be done in respect of all development projects is strengthening the monitoring and audit processes. The apparently side-lined IMED (Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division) needs to have more teeth. As a powerful IMED can detect imaginary and faulty projects, so also an unblemished audit work identify phantom persons drawing benefits. As the proposed reform in fund release gets its run, it will be interesting to note the actual saving it has made in both money and time. 

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