Administrative reform and good governance in Bangladesh
Saleh Ahmed: Admin-istrative reform is commonly described as solutions to problems or as means to change tedious situations and arguments based on these notions are often used when new reforms are introduced (Brunsson & Olsen, 1993). Furthermore, new solutions are often more striking than current practices (Forsell, 2002) and reforms have a propensity to imitate further reforms that become routines rather than actual breaks in organizational life (Brunsson, 1989). Therefore, reforms are not only attempts to change or to improve but also are the expressions of hopes for more rationalistic, idealistic, and truer public organizations (Brunsson, 2006). Good governance refers to an efficient, open, accountable and audited public service, to help design and implement appropriate policies and manage public sector (Leftwich, 1993). To achieve efficiency in public services, the World Bank, in particular, strongly encourages various kinds of competition in policies and market mechanisms to achieve good governance such as capacity building, privatizing public enterprises, decentralizing central administration, and encouraging greater participation of non-governmental organizations (Leftwich, 2000). Though, the meanings set out by various multilateral and international organizations appear to differ significantly but all those organizations set out some similar core ingredients of good governance such as: rule of law, accountability, transparency, participation, equity and responsiveness (WB, 1992 and 1994; UNDP, 1997; ADB, 1999). But good governance depends on good and efficient public administration, which is ultimately responsible for the implementation of government policy. Good and efficient public administration means such administration, which acts fair, accountable and transparent manner to assure effective delivery of public services to the citizens.
One of the key objectives of administrative reform is to improve organizational effectiveness and attaining national development goals, and without achieving these goals, good governance is a mere dream for any state.
In Bangladesh, the intentions of successive governments behind administrative reforms are followings: having a merit-based, efficient and service-oriented civil administration, creating an apex cadre –Senior Services Pool (SSP) — with talented, efficient and experienced officials drawn from all cadre services; ensuring equal scope for all cadre services for promotion and posting. There is a long history of administrative reform commissions in Bangladesh and almost every administration in Bangladesh has instituted administrative commissions since its independence. However, the work of these commissions often remains limited to keeping the basic structure unchanged. These commissions do not always delve deeper into the issues. Yet, the cumulative problems of poor administration have now become so apparent in Bangladesh that hardly anyone remains to be convinced that something of more fundamental nature needs to be done. All the successive governments made moves to bring administrative reforms in public service organizations but none of them could bring about the much-needed changes due to lack of political will and resistance from a section of bureaucrats. Since 1972, more than two dozen committees and commissions have been formed, and they made scores of recommendations for having a merit-based, efficient and service-oriented civil administration. But most of the recommendations are yet to be implemented.
It is my strong believe that governmental commitment is quite important to ensure good governance. Accountability and transparency are the fundamental features of good governance. Our government is politically committed to achieve SDGs and without ensuring accountability and transparency at the core, which are also essentials of good governance, it would not be possible to achieve SDGs. Hence, the Government is putting its best effort to ensure that that present administrative reform initiatives ensure accountability and transparency mechanism. We are really hopeful that the present administrative reform initiatives are aimed at ensuring accountability and transparency mechanism for ensuring good governance in Bangladesh. Combating corruption is another ingredient of good governance. However, the report of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) of 2018 says corruption in there in every sector that is rendering public services. Our Government has actively started working for defeating corruption from public service organizations.
A great majority of our people is still not aware about the necessity of practicing good governance model to survive in this modern world and hence, in my view; lack of awareness and transparency; corruption and unwillingness to adopt changes are the main challenges for administrative reforms to follow the characteristics of good governance.
Writer is a columnist