Monday, February 13, 2012

Can private executives change bureaucracy's image? Not really, says BoI survey

THE jury is finally out. And the verdict on whether Indian bureaucracy will be better off with bright private fellows joining directly, is equally divided. One third of respondents in a BoI online survey say Indian bureaucracy will have a better image if bright private sector executives are allowed to join it directly. But an equal number are opposed to the idea and say “not at all”. And the rest is unsure saying “not really” and “maybe”. The government's recruiter UPSC on its part has been resisting to an idea of a mass recruit of mid-career executives arguing that jugar may then take precedence over merit. The online survey was undertaken in the backdrop of a Hong Kong-based risk analysis firm PERC saying once again that Indian bureaucracy is the worst in Asia whereas bureaucracy in Singapore tops the chart.
As reported by BoI earlier, there were a few voices opposing that report, the most prominent being of outspoken ex-home secretary GK Pillai. He wrote in a national newspaper that the report deserves to be “consigned to the dustbin”. And a BoI reader showered praise on Pillai saying: “Thanks God, someone has a voice. Even hard working officers get demoralized by such reports. And it is good the comment came from a well respected and hard working senior officer (now retired).”
Yet, Indian bureaucracy has failed to come clean on several fronts including performance, propriety and innovation. Yes, there are a few exceptions whose out-of- box ideas have benefited a relatively slow, lethargic and rule books following sarkari apparatus. Though the government has made attempts to give meaningful performance bonus to performing babus, say 40% addition to basic salary as a variable payout, such ideas have not reached the cabinet as yet. Even Dr Prajapati Trivedi, the academic-turned secretary in cabinet secretariat pitching for introducing such a performance bonus, has now stopped making any noise.
Only recently, the government came out with a circular saying that there would be a performance review for every group A officer after first 15 years of service. And the one found to be non-performing will be asked to leave.
That’s a good idea, but has a negative connotation. The weeding out of non-performers is important, but what’s about giving incentives to outstanding officers? Is Prime Minister’s Award or President’s police medal enough to force an officer walk an extra mile? The cabinet needs to take up the case of introducing a cash incentive to the high performing bureaucrats. Indian tax-payers won’t mind taking the extra load if there is a highly improved service delivery. 
Team Pitroda Vs Team Nilekani


  1. "Even hard working officers get demoralized by such reports." - good point! But how we make a systemic change to eradicate tne nexus between Babus and Netas? The system needs dismantling and then adopting a system closer to that in our competitor nations!

  2. Why shouldn't public sector company payscales not be placed at par with private sector companies in order to attract the best and the brightest? The government has a fiduciary duty to ensure that tax payer owned companies are managed well. Clearly, this is not the case today with the payscales at public sector companies are laughable.