Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PUBLIC PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION:

ASIAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION VOL.14 NO.l (JUNE 1992): 25-45
PUBLIC PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION:
TRADITION, PROBLEMS AND ISSUES
IN BANGLADESH
Ahmed ShafiquI Huque and Firowz Ahmed
Introduction
Public Personnel Administration (PPA) is an important element of all
administrative systems. While some form of PPA was obviously necessary
and present in ancient civilizations, it is extremely difficult to relate
the experiences in these civilizations with the modern variant of PPA.
Changes in the nature of states as well as new dimensions in the system of
production and in the patterns of international relations have all contributed
to the current state of PPA.1 Not only have these factors combined to
produce a new and distinct pattern of PPA, they have also led to the
emergence of new problems in the administration of personnel. In postcolonial
societies in particular, these problems, combined with the existing
social, cultural, political and economic situation, have acquired an
immensely complex nature. Consequently, PPA has generally failed to
achieve its objectives.
Drawing on the experience in the field of PPA, this paper seeks to
examine the basic problems of PPA to assess their impact on the administrative
system of Bangladesh. The discussion is organized into two
sections. One section deals with the theoretical formulations of PPA and
the economic forces that have prompted such conceptualizations. This
part is based on the experience of the United States of America which
Ahmed ShafiquI Huque is Principal Lecturer at the Department of Public and Social Administration,
City Polytechnic of Hong Kong; Firowz Ahmed is Assistant Professor at the Department of
Public Administration, University of Dhaka.
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occupies a leading position in the capitalist world and also exerts a major
influence in the socio-economic dynamics of many developing states
including Bangladesh. The second section seeks to analyze PPA in
Bangladesh from the standpoints of history, culture, politics and society
to identify some basic problems-
PPA: Growth and Theoretical Formulations
Any attempt at understanding PPA must begin with a couple of assumptions.
These assumptions areintimateryrelatedtothe subjectveexpanations
as well as the objective and situational background of the development of
PPA. First, theoretically PPA draws heavily from the field of management,
and both these disciplines are rooted in "non-public administration."
Therefore PPA, as we know it, is an outgrowth of non-public
administration.2 Secondly, in an applied sense, administration is directly
dependent on the social system as well as the system of production
prevalent in the society. The first assumption indicates the theroretical
position of PPA, while the second reflects the conflict situation that exists
in the environment. It must be remembered that complexities and
dysfunctions are likely to occur if theoretical advancements are not
consistent with the developments in the system of production.
PPA may be considered from two interrelated points of view: theory
and application. Both must be considered in the light of environmental
factors to attain a proper understanding of the process. The practice of PPA
has evolved in a continuum from the Classical Management theory,
through shifting emphases on Behaviouralism, Systems theory to Contingency
theory. Additionally - and this is perhaps more relevant to the
discussion - there is a need to consider the historical background of the
evolution of PPA. This aspect is also related to the background of social
evolution. "The development of modern management thought and practice
can be traced by examining the evolution of societies as they have
passed from pre-industrial economic structure."3 The same applies to
PPA. There appears to be a correlation between a complicated system of
production and the progress of the techniques of administration.
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Public Personnel Administration
Administration, or more specifically management, began as a
spontaneous process, with hardly any trace of planning. Some semblance
of planning became noticeable with the advent of systematic agricultural
activities. It developed in phases along with the transformation of feudal
society. These phases are categorized as pre-industrial societies where the
practice of managment was consistent with the simple system of production.
Daniel Wren observed that two themes [which] dominated in preindustrial
society [were] (1) people had a relatively parochial view of the
role that managers could play in the organization and (2) the prevailing
culture viewed profit making unfavourably.4 It should be noted that
although profit-motive is derided in most cultures, the concept has been
the key factor in many efforts aimed at the improvement of administration.
Later, the erosion of feudal society, the development of industrial
society, the industrial revolution, and the capitalist mode of production led
to new issues and problems in the field of administration. The history of
modern administrative and management thought and theories is related to
these developments. Specialization came to be recognized in other areas
as well as management, and the administration of personnel was a byproduct
of these circumstances. S tiff competition in the world market, the
rise in the number of destitutes across the world, the frustration among
industrial labourers, and other inherent weaknesses of the capitalist
system added to the importance of PPA. The introduction of Scientific
Management, Behaviouralism and the formulation of Systems and Contingency
theories are related to this background. There are ample reasons
to doubt that an objective situation for Behavioural scientists like Elton
Mayo would have prevailed had the Russian Revolution not preceeded the
Great Depression in the United States.5 The general Systems theory
formulated in the area of the natural sciences provided the prospects of
introducing such a theory for organizations. "The shaping of the globe into
a single, coherent system - built on exploitation - is the first and foremost
product of the pursuit of the volarization of capital."6 In the same way,
competition over markets (which even led to the outbreak of two World
Wars) has produced a Contingency theory based on Social Darwinism.7
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
Looking at the American experience, it can be said that in the initial
years, PPA did not assume any concrete form. Most of the basic issues
were still in disorder, and remained dependent mainly on patronage and
the spoils system. Laissez-faire economy was encouraged as the state
adopted a policy of minimum interference. There was little concern for
the provision of employment opportunities for the public. On the other
hand, private enterprises offered employment to a larger number of
citizens.
The situation began to change towards the end of the nineteenth
century. Discontent was becoming evident against the spoils system and
demands were voiced for entry into the public service based on democratic
principles. The two reasons which had contributed to such demands were
the increasing rate of unemployment, and the need to make American
administration more dynamic by recruiting efficient public personnel on
the basis of merit and open competition. An unfortunate incident in 1881
influenced the turn of events in these directions in spite of reservations
within the government about accepting changes in the area of PPA.
President Garfield of the USA was shot by a dissatisfied job-seeker and
those in favour of change who "took a moralistic tone to begin with were
suddenly able to equate the spoils system with murder."8 Eventually, the
Pendleton Act was adopted in 1883 to provide for the establishment of the
United States Civil Service Commission. This event can be identified as
the beginning of modern PPA in the United States. However, the
organization of "Public" Personnel Administration had to depend primarily
on "Private" Personnel Administration. The literature on recruitment,
selection, promotion, training, transfer , compensation, separation and
other such concepts had to be borrowed from personnel administration as
it was practised in private organizations.
There are various aspects related to PPA in the United States which
are useful for the understanding of this issue in developing countries.
First, Personnel Administration has developed in conjunction with socioeconomic
forces along with the growth of capitalistic industries. This has
influenced the formulation of theories of Personnel Administration.
Secondly, there are similarities in "public" and "private" personnel
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Public Personnel Administration
administration that may have resulted from the nature of the state and the
system of production. Consequently, public administration and private
management complement one another. And thirdly, as a captialist country,
the United States does have certain elements which are essential for
the expansion and maintenance of markets across the world. The development
of PPA has also been influenced by these elements.
However, American scholars are still taking stock of problems that
seem to exist in the area of PPA. These have been summed up by Donald
Klingner who found the emergence of PPA to be so sudden and rapid that
there was little scope for the development of a sound theoretical base. This
explains the reliance on "private" personnel management. Klingner
noticed attempts to eliminate political discretion in personnel administration
by utilizing laws, rules and regulations. He also detected a general
neglect of personnel management by academicians who consider it to be
the realm of practitioners.9 Consequently, personnel functions suffer from
a lack of conceptual framework and continuity among different phases.
The result is an emphasis on techniques with little attention to their
cumulative impact on public employees. Moreover PPA, generally
considered to be value-free, operates in a political atmosphere. These
problems of PPA are quite relevant to the situation in Bangladesh, to
which we now turn.
Bangladesh: Historical and Traditional Dimensions
An analysis of the situation in Bangladesh must begin with a consideration
of the position of the country in the international political and economic
order as well as its internal environment. At first glance, it appears that
Bangladesh possesses a framework of PPA which has been developed
largely on the basis of the system prevailing in the United States, and
which was initally packaged in the form of technical assistance. At the
same time, a long period of British rule, 1757 to 1947 A.D., has left its
imprint on administrative structures and processes on the subcontinent.
But it is not unreasonable to expect that the most profound influence has
resulted from the ancient tradition of public administration that prevailed
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
in this area before external interventions dislocated the system. Unfortunately,
the tradition has been destroyed so effectively that there is little
trace of ancient thoughts and values in the present system of administration
in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, a brief overview of the administrative
process will be helpful to comprehend the current state of personnel
administration in Bangladesh.
It cannot be said that much of the early traditions have been passed
on to the present system of PPA in Bangladesh. None of the theoretical or
applied considerations from the Vedic age (1500-1000 B.C.) can be
found, nor has there been any transfer of ideas during the reign of the
Buddhist and early Muslim rulers (approximately 750 A.D.-1130 A.D.
and 1199 A.D.-1533 A.D.) But the indigenous ancient systems of
administration have contributed to a world-view-based culture. Although
there have been philosophical diversities and breakdowns in the administrative
systems, the cultural background survives. In Bangladesh, the
administrators cannot be considered in isolation from this culture although,
in practice, PPA is conducted along the lines of the British-Indian
tradition.
The industrial revolution and growth of the capitalist system in
Britain led to the colonization of many parts of the world. The process
affected the normal system of production in the colonized countries.
Combined with the capitalistic hegemony, colonizaton stunted the growth
of indigenous industries. Thus, the Indian subcontinent was deprived of
the experience of the growth of dynamic private enterprise. Colonization
also obstructed the prospects of developing personnel administration
theories on the basis of indigenous conditions. Since PPA has developed
in isolation from the existing system of production, the continuity and
consistency between private and public personnel administration that are
noticeable in Britain and the United States cannot be found in Bangladesh.
Moreover, the system was originally established to suit the convenience
of imperialist and capitalist interests. The system did undergo
periodic internal adjustments to serve the interests of colonial powers and
their supporters among local elites, but it did not allow for philosophical
or qualitative changes. Policies were formulated and sources of personnel
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were cultivated with imperialist interests in mind. One consequence of
such acts was the establishment of educational institutions which were
substantially different from indigenous traditional schools. This brought
about a totally alien system of education which was aimed mainly at
supplying personnel for colonial administrative services. This was the
principal reason behind the establishment of the Fort William College and
Presidency College in Calcutta, which were the predecessors to modern
educational institutions on the Indian subcontinent.
While the administrative system did acquire a definite shape in the
British period, PPA did not attain a similar level of stability. Administrative
elites, devoid of political direction, kept on pressing for a strong
position for themselves in the name of the Indianization of the civil
service. The rulers acceded to such demands and made changes in the
administrative structure and personnel administration, but not at the risk
of jeopardizing their own interests. The East India Charter Act, 1793
prohibited the appoinment of Indians to senior posts in the civil service.
The Charter Act of 1833 did away with this provision, but the change
could not be implemented due to the system of patronage that was
prevalent at the time. The system of open competition for recruitment was
adopted in The Government of India Act, 1853. But this step was more a
response to the demands of the Ox-Bridge fellowship winners than to
those of educated Indians seeking public employment. The concession to
demands for appointment to the civil service as a democratic right did not
bring about the desired results. The tests were held in London, and no
Indian could be appointed for several years. Some could not afford the
trip, and others were discouraged by religious restrictions on sea travel,
age bar or general backwardness in education.
Two specific demands were voiced towards the end of the nineteenth
century for the Indianization of the civil service. Political supporters
of the colonial rulers who received the benefit of British education
asked that: (1) the recruitment tests be held in London and India simultaneously;
and (2) the age limit for participating in the tests be raised.10 As
a result, The Government of India Act, 1870 provided for the appointment
of Indians through nomination. Later, the Act of1879 stipulated thatone-
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
fifth of the positions must be filled by nomination from among the
Indians.x l But none of these acts could appease the educated Indians, nor
were the circumstances conducive to their appeasement. Up to 1871, only
four Indians succeeded in entering the higher civil service, and none of
them was nominated.12
Since non-political efforts to include Indians in the higher civil
service did not bring about the expectedresults, the demands were later put
forward in the form of a political platform. The first political party in India
- the Indian National Congress - was founded in 1885. In its first meeting,
speakers criticized the process of nomination to the civil service as
"humiliating", and called for the government's acceptance of the two
specific demands voiced earlier. The government responded by forming
the Aitchison Commission in 1886. The Commission recommended
raising the age limit, but rejected the call for holding tests simultaneously
at two locations.13 A number of changes were recommended in the service
structure by the Aitchison Commission, and the practice of appointment
through promotion was adopted for provinical services.
Obviously, the history of British-Indian PPA is simply one of
Indianization. The trend continued up to the end of British rule in India
in the 1940s and contributed to a number of features of PPA that are now
noticeable in Bangladesh. These can be summarized as follows:
(1) PPA has not been based on the indigenous system of production, nor
has it been adjusted to the changes that have taken place in society over
time. It has rather been directly related to the British imperialist system of
production;
(2) The administrative system has sought to obstruct, rather than
develop, the indigenous system of production. Self-reliance of agriculture-
based villages has been destroyed through major changes in the land
system. At the same time, all possibilities of industrial progress have been
subverted;
(3) PPA has concerned itself mainly with controversies over the issue
of recruitment and selection for many years, while other equally important
issues have been neglected;
(4) Principles of PPA adopted for the British capitalist industrial system
have not been adopted to suit the Indian situation; and
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(5) PPA has been operating as a closed system and, in practice, has been
isolated from the society as a whole.
It should be noted that under colonial rule, conflicts inherent in PPA
did not arise from administrative ideals; neither were they manifestations
of conflicts between imperialist and indigenous systems of production.
On the contrary, these conflicts stemmed from the expectations of local
allies of the imperialist forces for more facilities. It must also be
mentioned that the British felt the need to Indianize the civil service in its
own interest, particularly following the First World War. Industrial
development in some European countries gave rise to competition at the
international level among capitalist forces as they tried to capture markets.
Naturally, the British sought to strengthen their own position in the
colonies. For this purpose, they tried to win over native administrators and
political elites by granting them various concessions. Thus, PPA in the
British period may be viewed as the product of conflicts inherent in world
capitalism as well as among opportunists and indigenous elites.
The First World War failed to bring about a long-term equilibrium
in the capitalist world. Thus, the Second World War was destined to affect
the political geopgraphy of the world. New nations were born across the
globe including the Indian subcontinent, and indigenous elites constituted
the forces that came to power and prominence after these changes. They
were supported by local industrial entrepreneurs who expected the support
to be mutual. But the ruling elites failed, in most cases, to provide
opportunities for adequate development of the system of production. At
the same time, they were unable to ensure uninterrupted growth of
indigenous industries. Two explanations can be put forward for such
failures. First, the rulers of newly independent countries were practically
oblivious to or unconcerned about the ills of world capitalism. Secondly,
the economy of most of these new states was crippled by their total
dependence on external assitance. Governements were unable to proceed
with industrial production or expansion. Similar failures were evident in
the case of private industrial production. Consequently, PPA could not
develop in conjuction with the changes in the system of production in new
states.
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The termination of British rule in 1947 ushered in a period of
Pakistani colonial rule. PPA, historically based on the British colonial
tradition, began to be tinged by inputs from American scholars and experts
through advice and programmes of technical assistance as Pakistan
developed very good relations with the United States. But the results
continued to be the same. The prospects of developing PPA on the basis
of indigenous culture were still not explored. Private sector development
was encouraged in Pakistan, but this sector was complimentary to the
world capitalist system and, therefore, did not allow PPA to develop
spontaneously. PPA was not approached from a comprehensive point of
view either in the public or the private sector. As a result, PPA continued
to suffer from similar problems and shortcomings although the situation
was expected to change after the departure of the British colonial rulers.
Issues and Problems in Bangladesh : Contemporary Dimensions
Bangladesh became independent in 1971 after a traumatic war of liberation.
After the nationalist leaders came to power, there were expectations
of major changes in several areas of personnel administration as these
leaders had been very critical of the Pakistani system of administration.
But due to a number of reasons, such changes have not materialized. The
systems of production and administration have not yet been established on
indigenous bases even after two decades of independence. Since the
problems can no longer be attributed solely to colonial rule, an attempt
should be made to identify other possible causes. It is clear that PPA has
not made any progress. It remains infested with problems and is affected
by a number of issues that have their roots in the legacy of colonial rule.
But there are other causes related to the culture, state, constitutional
responsibilities, civil service, administrative agencies and institutions,
and personnel policy of the government of Bangladesh. This section
provides an overview of the issues and problems of PPA in Bangladesh.
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Nature of the State
Bangladesh inherited a number of problems from Pakistan at the time of
independence, and some of them were in the area of public administration.
The country has constantly suffered from poverty and instability. It has
been under intermittent military rule for long periods since independence,
and brief periods of democratic and civilian rule enjoyed by the country
can best be described as one-party rule. One constant feature is the
disagreements and controversies on various issues among the key actors
in the system. These include: the form of government (parliamentary or
presidential), nature of the economy (socialist, capitalist or mixed), and
development strategies.
The lack of an ideological stand on the part of the government adds
to the confusion. Commissions are constituted for drawing detailed
programmes to bring about major changes in the system. But the social
background of the members appointed to such Commissions do not seem
to be consistent with the tasks to which they are assigned. Moreover, the
dominance of the civil-military bureaucracy is so strong that recommendations
affecting the position of these groups are often not implemented.
For instance, recommendations made by the Administrative and Services
Reorganization Committee (1972) could not be implemented, while those
of the Pay and Services Commission (1976) were implemented with
certain modifications.14
There is a lack of consensus on many vital issues, and popular
opinion and demands are not taken into consideration in the making of
crucial decisions. The legislature has always been dominated by the ruling
party and laws are enacted with total disregard to the sentiments of the
opposition members in the Parliament. Even elections are no longer
considered as indicators of the popularity of the elected as rigging is very
common. The stand of the government on various matters of national and
international importance is not clear. Contradictory positions seem to be
favoured at different times, depending on the convenience of the ruling
elite. As a result, it is extremely difficult to predict the decisions and
actions taken by the government. A chaotic and confusing situation
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
prevails, both under civilian as well as military rule. Thus, the nature of
the state has not allowed a consistent development of programmes and
policies in any area. This state of affairs inevitably has an even more
adverse effect on PPA which has always been neglected.
Historical and Cultural Traditions
Historically, PPA in Bangladesh has been influenced by divergent traditions.
In the past, the area had been subjected to rule by feudal chiefs,
independent kings, landlords, and representatives of the rulers at Delhi
and Islamabad as well as Great Britain. Naturally, public administration
was organized in different ways to suit the needs of the rulers, while those
of the public and the country were neglected. The system became more
organized during the Mughal period (1576-1707 A.D.), but it was aimed
mainly at the setting up of an efficient machinery in Bengal for the
collection of revenue. Later, the British rulers continued the colonial
practice of administration in relation to personnel, further organizing the
system. But most of the changes resulted from developments and demands
made in Great Britain, and not according to indigenous needs. The net
effect has been a PPA system which was established without consideration
of all factors essential to its sound development.
Culturally, the region has been influenced by brief periods of
independence followed by long periods of domination by external powers.
The topography and climate have been very favourable to cultivation, and
the abundance of crops has contributed to a peaceful atmosphere. But it
also led to repeated attempts to colonize the area by foreign powers.
Colonial rulers enforced rigid systems that were not responsive to public
needs. They emphasized loyalty to procedures and unquestioned obedience
in the system of PPA. Consequently, the PPA system in Bangladesh
has not developed the capacity to respond to the needs of the public and
the administrators or to changes in the environment.
In the post-independence period, Bangladesh ran into several problems.
Prevalent economic and social conditions contributed to a large
extent to the process. The state could not recover fully from the damages
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incurred in the liberation war. Moreover, due to repeated shocks in the
political system, the situation deteriorated. A high percentage of unemployment
continued while the country suffered from a shortage of skilled
manpower. Resources for experiments and research in the area of PPA
were not available, and all governments that came to power demonstrated
their preference to accord priority to other areas. Huge amounts of money
from the national exchequer as well as foreign assistance were spent on
development projects and building of physical infrastructures, while the
crucial task of PPA continued to be neglected.
Constitutional Responsibility and the Failure of the Private Sector
One of the constitutional responsibilities of the Government of the
People's Republic of Bangladesh is the provision of employment to the
public.15 The private sector in Bangladesh has not developed adequately
to absorb a large section of the employables. Therefore, the government
must assume this formidable responsibility which is discharged in a
disjointed manner. One example is the Food-for-Works programme
which is aimed at providing agricultural labourers with employment.16
The employables produced by the educational institutions are provided
for in a haphazard manner through occasional recruitment to the civil
service and other nationalized organizations and agencies. Increased
emphasis is now placed on large-scale recruitment exercises for the armed
forces and other paramilitary services. But these attempts do not serve the
needs of the country, and represent only unsystematic and inadequate
efforts to maintain the equilibrium of the system. The pressure on the
system is very strong, while little is done to provide employment to the
large number of employables. Consequently, a healthy system of PPA has
not been able to take an institutional shape.
Conflicts within the Public Service
There are a number of controversies within the service which contribute
to the problems of PPA in Bangladesh. Conflicts between specialists and
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
generalists are commonplace in all countries of the world, although the
mainifestations may vary. The tradition of public administration in
Bangladesh has always been biased in favour of the generalists. They have
held and exercised more power, while the specialists have been given
authority only on technical matters. The latter group is dissatisfied since
technical competence is not given adequate weight and they are unable to
perform duties in the best way. They feel that major administrative
decisions pertaining to technical matters require a substantial degree of
experitse in the related field, and this is not appreciated by the generalists
who wield a considerable amount of power. Consequently in 1985, a joint
platform of engineers, agricultural specialists and physicians launched a
movement for bringing about changes that would place the specialists in
better positions and allow decisions to be made with adequate input from
the technical personnel. The professionals went on strike from November
22,1985. Several resigned from their jobs, while fourteen were dismissed
by the government in this confrontation. Abstention from work by the
professionals resulted in serious disruptions in administration, particularly
at the hospitals. Early in 1986, the President of Bangladesh intervened,
reinstated the dismissed professionals, and instituted a Committee
for considering the demands of the professionals. Chaired by the Deputy
Chief Martial Law Administrator and Chief of Naval Staff, the Committee
included the incumbent Ministers of Health, Agriculture, Land Administration
and Land Reforms, and Labour and Social Welfare. The move of
the government succeeded in stemming the momentum of the movement.
Subsequent political unrest (1987-90) and change of government (1990-
91) dominated the national agenda in the following years, and the issue has
remained unresolved.
There are other divisions, although not always apparent, among the
public servants in Bangladesh. Immediately after independence, officials
who participated in the freedom movement received a bonus of "two years
seniority" and were given preferential treatment over the non-freedom
fighters for their services towards the independence of the country. They
were able to get rapid promotions and soon came to occupy crucial
positions in important administrative agencies. The non-freedom fighter
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officials rallied and were able to regain their position since they outnumbered
the freedom fighters. The decline of enthusiasm over the liberation
war as time went by also helped their cause. The conflict between these
two groups affected PPA in Bangladesh for a long time, and continues to
add to conflicts that arise in other areas.
A related issue is the conflict between the members of the former
Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) and officers belonging to the other
services. The CSP officers constituted the highest level of public service
in pre-independence Bangladesh and occupied the most powerful positions
in th government. After independence, the government looked to
these officers for leadership in the public service. Unfortunately, the
attitudes and practices of the pre-independence period persisted, even
though they were not consistent with the needs of the new state. Moreover,
the CSP officers expected certain privileges due to their position, experience
and perceived superiority in comparison to the other public officials.
Naturally, this resulted in resentment among the other officials and add to
the number of conflicts within the service.
An example of the confused, attempt to resolve such conflicts was
the organization of the Senior Services Pool in 1979 "to constitute a new
apex cadre of senior officials of proven quality drawn from all branches
of the civil service on the basis of merit and ability to be tested in an
objective manner."17 This resulted in a sense of resentment among the
non-cadre civil servants. After almost a decade and a change of government,
a cabinet Sub-Committee was constituted to examine the issue.
Consequently, the Senior Services Pool was abolished in 1989. This
tendency by governments to "undo" the deeds of previous rulers obstructs
the development of policy.
A recent development in the public service of Bangladesh is an
increase in the appointment and deputation of armed services personnel to
civil administrative positions.18 Officers are not ready to accept these
infiltrators from outside the public service, and there are resentments
against such deputations, expecially from those who feel that such actions
may lead to obstructions in their progress through the hierarchy. The
conduct of PPA becomes extremely difficult with such diverse kinds of
division and fragmentation along different lines.
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
Dispersal of Authority and Responsibility
PPA in Bangladesh is conducted under the supervision of a number of
authorities. The Ministry of Establishment (ME) is the principal agency
performing this task. The ME is responsible for most of the activities
related to personnel administration including formulation of recruitment
policies, staffing, training, promotion, compensation, discipline and general
supervision of all such activities. But the ME is dependent and linked
intimately with a number of other ministries and agencies which collaborate
to accomplish the functions associated with PPA.
The Bangladesh Public Service Commission advertises vacancies,
conducts tests for the selection of certain categories of civil servants and
submits a list of eligible and available applicants to the ME. The Ministry
of Finance oversees its own cadre of finance services and is instrumental
in determining overall salary policy. The Ministry of Law and Justice is
also a participant in the process of PPA. It oversees PPA from a judicial
point of view, and must be consulted on legal aspects of personnel
administration by all ministries and divisions. Additionally, the offices of
the President and the Prime Minister are parties to the process of PPA as
certain appointments, promotions and terminations must be approved and
endorsed by the head of state or government.
Thus, the authority to organize and operate PPA in Bangladesh is
dispersed among various agencies and offices. This results in overlapping
jurisdictions and, sometimes, crucial decisions are delayed. Complications
arise frequently as all the agencies involved in the process cannot be
coordinated very effectively. Dispersal of authority and decision-making
power on personnel matters appears to be a major problem in the
organization of PPA in Bangladesh.
Lack of a Pragmatic Personnel Policy
Most of the problems mentioned earlier can be linked to one deficiency in
the administrative system of Bangladesh - the absence of a practical
personnel policy. As already discussed, the historical and colonial
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tradition of Bangladesh did not allow the development of a suitable
personnel policy and post-independence rulers have accorded more
importance to other areas. During the colonial period, cosmetic changes
were made in the interest of the colonial rulers and long-term projections
were not even contemplated as the intention was simply to extract and
transfer resources. Later, post-independence needs were not considered
and PPA remained in a disorganized state. Over the years, incremental
changes have been made to resolve problems as they crop up. But an allencompassing,
realistic and public-oriented personnel policy has not been
developed. Consequently, the country suffers from discrepancies and
inconsistencies in a number of areas.
All the bodies constituted for reform and reorganization have
lamented the lack of, and suggested the need for, a personnel policy. They
have, however, been unable to put forward concrete proposals in this
regard. The principal cause is that reforms have not been attempted under
a stable political system. Immediately after independence, the objective
was to transform a provincial administrative system into a national one.
Subsequent attempts were made generally after takeover by the military,
and the exercises were aimed at pointing out the defects of the previous
regime, thereby establishing excuses for overthrowing civilian governments.
Members of such bodies recommending reforms were drawn from
experts sympathetic to the regime in power, and there was no comprehension
or consideration of the relationship between the system of production
and personnel administration. For example, the Administrative and Services
Reorganization Committee (1972) seemed eager to take steps consistent
with the ideology preached by the government, but there was no
attempt to implement the recommendations by the regime, which was not
sure of its ideological stand. Most of the other attempts at reform ended
in revision of pay scales, or other minor changes. The Committee for
Administrative Reform and Reorganization (1982) ended up with recommendations
for major changes in the area of local government, while
suggesting minor changes for public and personnel administration.
The issues raised in this article have their impact on particular
aspects of PPA in Bangladesh. Recruitment to the public service through
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
a central agency such as the Public Service Commission can be supported
in the interest of maintaining uniform standards, facilitating the tasks of
administering tests and evaluating applicants and, indeed, economy of
scale. But such an arrangement also bears the danger of overlooking the
needs of particular agencies and positions as well as the importance of
concentrating evaluation in the hands of a small number of examiners to
offset the variations that may occur among a large number of examiners.
Thus, it is necessary to reconsider the merits of recruitment by a central
agency against departmental authority over recruitment.
The area of training for public service is also affected. There are no
fixed rules for the assessment of training needs and for the identification
of personnel who must improve their skills or remedy their defects through
a systematic process of learning. Moreover, questions can be raised about
the relevance of training that is imparted to the public sevants, and how it
is utilized in the performance of their duties. Due to the nature of the
system, training opportunities are awarded selectively to individuals who
are favoured by the ruling group.
A similar situation prevails in the areas of promotion and transfer.
Promotions are not always consistent with performance and there are
frequent allegations that officials get promoted without possessing the
required qualifications or achieving an excellent record of performance on
the job. Similarly, transfers are made or viewed more as punishments and
rewards rather than as opportunities to broaden the horizon of knowledge
of the official or to place an individual in a position where he or she will
be more effective.
The nature of the state and the society is reflected in the area of pay
and compensation. Owing to the absence of a concrete manpower plan,
among other things, the government's control over the job market is
minimal. The unplanned growth of the public sector has resulted in a
situation where there are rampant discrepancies in pay and allowances
between the public and private sectors. Salaries for qualified personnel
are much higher in the private sector. Consequently, the government has
to settle for employees willing to take a chance to appear for public service
examinations. They are promised only a chance to sit for an examination
and, if successful, to be offered employment on an unknown date (since
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Public Personnel Administration
examinations are postponed) and at an unknown place (that is, the agency
and location of appointment) for a fixed salary, which cannot be raised to
attract the most deserving or extraordinary employee.19 Even at the end of
service, there are complications and delays in settling pension and other
claims.20 Thus, PPA in Bangladesh must operate from a disadvantageous
position in terms of attracting and retaining the best talents by offering
competitive terms and conditions of service.
The practice of collective bargaining can serve as an invaluable aid
to the process of PPA. It provides a channel for the presentation of the
demands of public employees to management. But the independence of
Bangladesh was followed, within a few years, by the adoption of a singleparty
system, and thereafter Bangladesh has remained essentially a singleparty
dominated system. The Bangladesh Awami League, the Bangladesh
Nationalist Party and the Jatiya Party have successively dominated the
political scene since independence, and have not allowed a second
political party to play a significant role during their rule. This has affected
the process of collective bargaining as the labour fronts of these political
parties have dominated the negotiations. Therefore, the political system is
not conducive to the execution of PPA functions in the most effective
manner. Collective bargaining in the public service is profoundly influenced
by political considerations and does not serve the interests of public
employees. Rather it seeks to protect the interests of a few powerful
people who have developed links with the ruling elites.
Thus, the issues of conflict and controversy prevailing in the area of
PPA in Bangladesh manifest themselves in the form of problems. Ramifications
become evident in such areas as recruitment, training, promotion
and transfer of public employees. Complications arise in the determination
of pay and compensation and even after retirement. It can be said that
the problems are multiplied due to the combined effect of historical,
cultural, political, social and environmental factors.
Observations
To sum up, PPA has suffered generally from neglect. It is an area which
has not been taken seriously by scholars, even though it is an essential
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Asian Journal of Public Administration
component of the system of public administration. This shortcoming is
reflected in the state of PPA. Although efforts are made to understand the
process by drawing upon knowledge in other areas of study, these are still
not adequate for the comprehension and development of an effective
process of PPA.
The situation in Bangladesh is even more complicated. The country
is confronted with problems in many areas including PPA. While some
problems stem from the non-development of theories on PPA, others are
related to the particular situation prevailing in Bangladesh. These can be
attributed to the history of long colonial rule, the nature of the postindependence
political system as well as social, economic and cultural
factors. The country has not been able to recover fully from the traumas
of the liberation war, nor from post-independence blows to the stability of
the system. The tradition of a group of personnel isolated from society
seems to appeal to the rulers who do not display preference for a change
in attitudes. The development of PPA in isolation from the society and its
needs has shaped the relationship between the public and the civil service.
The prime need seems to be a comprehensive rethinking on PPA in
Bangladesh. There must be an assessment of the needs of the time,
expectations of the public and civil servants and determination of priorities
on the part of the government. Most of the problems can be dealt with,
as a beginning, by developing a comprehensive, relevant and concrete
personnel policy for the country. Unless PPA is recognized as an important
element of the administrative system and a serious, result-oriented
personnel policy is formulated, the problems will continue to impede the
process of smooth public administration in Bangladesh.
NOTES
1. L. Megginson, Personnel and Human Resources Administration (Homewood, Illinois : R.D. Irwin,
1977), pp. 46-61.
2. W. Whitman, "Preface," in D.E. Klingner, Public Personnel Management: Contexts and Strategies
(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1980), p. ix.
3. M J Gannon, Management • An Integrated Framework (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977),
p. 8.
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Public Personnel Administration
4. See D. Wren, The Evolution of Management Thought, 3rd ed. (New York: Wiley, 1987).
5. F.E. Kast and J.E. Rosenzweig, Organization and Management, A Systems and Contingency
Approach (New York: McGraw Hill, 1979). pp. 32-36.
6. H. Addo et al., Development as Social Transformation' Reflection on the Global Problematique
(London: Hodder, 1985), p. 3.
7. Kast and Rosenzweig, Organization and Management.
8. J.M. Shafritz, A.C. Hyde and D.H. Rosenbloom, Personnel Management in Government: Politics and
Process (New York: Marcel Dekker, 1981), p. 8.
9. D. Klingner, Public Personnel Management, p. 5.
10. M. A. Chaudhuri, The Civil Service in Pakistan (Dhaka: National Institute of Public Administration,
1969), p. 20.
11. A. Ahmed, Role of Higher Civil Servants in Pakistan (Dhaka: National Institute of Public Administration,
1968), p. 44.
12. For details, see L.C.C. O'Malley, The IndianCivil Service (1601-1930) (London: Frank Cass, 1931).
13. M.M. Khan, Bureaucratic Self-Preservation • Failure of Major Administrative Reform Efforts in the
Civil Service of Pakistan (Dhaka: University of Dhaka, 1980), p. 86.
14. See M.M. Khan, "Politics of Administrative Reform and Reorganization in Bangladesh," Public
Administration and Development 7 (4, December 1987) : 351-62.
15. Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Constitution of the People's Republic of
Bangladesh (Dhaka: Bangladesh Government Press, 1972), Article 15B.
16. The Food-for-Works programme is basically a relief-oriented programme that became popular
following floods and famine in the early 1970s in Bangladesh. It provides the rural poor and unemployed with
the opportunity to take part in the construction of physical infrastructures that can be accomplished with
unskilled labour. The surplus labour is used to execute public works projects. The workers are compensated
with wheat. Through this programme, a largenumberofjobs are created in the rural areas forunskilled workers,
particularly agricultural workers in the season of high unemployment.
17. S.G. Ahmed, Public Personnel Administration in Bangladesh (Dhaka: University of Dhaka, 1986),
p. 172.
18. S.S. Islam, Bangladesh: State and Economic Strategy (Dhaka: University Press Limited, 1988), p.
164; and A.S. Huqueand M.Y. Akhter, "Militarisation and Opposition in Bangladesh: Parliamentary Approval
and Public Reaction," The Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 27 (2, July 1989), p. 175.
19. Examinations for recruitment to the public service have not been held regularly in Bangladesh. There
have been postponements of examinations and delays in the publication of results, as well as prolonged waits
before appointments could be made. It has not been possible to hold the examinations at regular intervals.
20. Such complaints are very common in Bangladesh. Letters to the editor are published in newspapers
frequently describing the plight of pensioners and asking for intervention by higher authorities. The final
settlement of the accounts of a retired public official may take a few years and, in some instances, much longer.
Meanwhile, the person has to suffer due to delay on the part of the administration which he or she has served
for years.
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