** People rescuing an injured passenger from inside a passenger bus hit by a truck on Dhaka-Mawa Expressway in Shologhar area of Shreenagar upazila in Munshiganj on Thursday. ** Motorcycles allowed on Padma Bridge after 10 months ** Commuters charge extra fare, passengers disappointed ** 78 people killed in Yemen stampede ** Moon sighting committee meets today to ascertain Eid day ** 9 killed in road accidents in 3 districts ** US announces new $325 m military aid package for Ukraine ** Eid-ul-Fitr in Saudi Arabia today ** Eid exodus begins ** LPG price cut illusive ** 15 hurt as bus overturns in capital ** New interbank cheque clearing timings set for Eid holidays ** Four women hit by a train die in Tangail ** 12.28 lakh SIM users left Dhaka on Tuesday ** Sylhet engineer threatened over power outage ** People rush to village homes to spend Eid holidays with their near and dear ones. This photo was taken from Sadarghat Launch Terminal on Tuesday. NN photo ** Surge in cases of dehydration, diarrhoea amid summer heat wave ** Padma Bridge construction cost increases by Tk 2,412cr ** PM gives Tk 90m to Bangabazar fire victims ** Textile workers block highway demanding wage, Eid bonus ** Attack on PM's motorcade Ex-BNP MP, 3 others get life term ** Load-shedding increases for demand of electricity during heat wave ** Motorbikes to be allowed on Padma bridge from Thursday ** 5-day Eid vacation begins from today ** Take Nangalkot train accident as a warning about negligence of govt functionaries **

Managing human resources

18 February 2014

Dr Jamal Khan :

(From previous issue)
The commission, however, needs to be careful in retaining a sufficient number of personnel with adequate control over the personnel management areas so that the freedom of action and the independence of the commission should continue to reside in the organization, with the chief personnel officer relating to it without interference from minister or ministry scrutiny in respect of those functions. An additional payoff is that it could be executed relatively quickly. Strategically, this is a feasible short-term modality.
The next critical reform area centres on the need for a much greater degree of decentralisation of the management authority and operational activities in respect of both the personnel and establishment functions. The value of decentralisation/delegation is manifold, viz. economical use of time, promptness in decision-making and implementation, personnel motivation and development, and managerial/supervisory control and authority. This is where resources and authority are commensurate with responsibility. For some time, ministry secretaries and other personnel put pressures periodically on central agencies, especially the commission, to extend the area of delegated authority. In countries with a strong decentralisation movement, line ministry secretaries periodically make representations to the commission about the need for extension of such authority, e.g. service-wide appointments up to an intermediate level, appointments to specialised occupational posts, temporary appointments, exercise of disciplinary authority up to an intermediate level and employee transfers. Fat too often, the outcomes of such representations remain unresolved due largely to reluctance on the part of the commission.
 The commission's reluctance stems from the unwillingness to share power and authority. On the other hand, the commission argues that few ministry secretaries, department heads and personnel officers in the operating ministries/departments have the required training, competence, capability, skill availability, professionalism, integrity and impartiality to carry out the functions of appointment, promotion, discipline, position classification and position grading competently and flawlessly even in respect of low-level employees. It is to give in to this negative approach, involving a circular argument. There is no doubt that serious attempts should be made to break the circle and to extend the scope of delegated authority. The real question centres on timing, time period and degree. Timing implies the need for lead time for employee training to be carried out. Such training, retraining and retooling involve should include personnel-related employees from a wide range of ministries and departments. It should involve ministry secretaries and department heads - not excluding some key ministers - in roundtabling/retreats and sensitising to the salience of human resource management. Nobody should deny that there are real problems associated with decentralisation/delegation, but that there are, at times and in some places, facetious, temporising, self-serving and frivolous rationalisations for not doing decentralising and delegating should not be denied either.
Normally, one expects delegation beginning at the lowest levels of organisations and extending upwards. One issue which merits consideration is the situation where a high incidence of unemployment and underemployment, a restive labour market, insecurity and instability of jobs and kinship structure build up pressure on politicians and personnel from job-seekers or sponsors, even for low-level jobs. In such cases, an independent commission tends to - not that it always succeeds - serve as a buffer, insulating both ministers and personnel. Compounding the situation is the fact that the commission has a broader and better perspective and knowledge of the pool of candidates available in various disciplines or required in various functions than would each ministry and department.
As regards position classification, the danger of classification creep needs to be anticipated by which an employee's position may be upgraded by the classification route rather than by normal promotion, thus defeating the merit and performance principles. This danger is possible with extensive delegation and classification routines. One possible recourse is to prepare a pool of classification personnel who would be employed by the public service ministry as the supervisory agency but would be assigned to ministries/departments as personnel answerable to ministry secretaries and department heads. Moreover, such employees should be trained in a range of related skills which would make them more generally useful and would also widen and lengthen their career diversification.
Consideration needs to be given to what the long-term objective is concerning the extent of delegation and what short-term objectives could be achieved within a period of one year or so. Delegation to ministries or departments are extendable almost immediately, or at least in the short run, to a number of areas, e.g. temporary appointments, transfers and general leave, and subsequently, to classification, appointments, promotions and discipline. In these exercise, it may be prudent to involve, in some intellectual but limited way, unions in discussions at some stage.
In relation to all of these, the ministry and the commission would set standards, fix priorities, set goals, establish procedures, streamline red-tape, conduct appraisal and evaluation, undertake measurement, and serve as a supervisory, monitoring, reviewing and appeal organisation. It is also assumable that the routine operations of the ministry and the commission would be integrated. Further, it implies an intensive training for personnel at the central and line levels and the compilation of standard operating procedure manual, the documentation of standards and criteria, the development of inspectorial staffers, the accent on problem-solving and customer service in the ministries and departments, and the inclusion of the desk officers in an advisory capacity from the central agency on these councils.
The experience of, to illustrate, Canada in respect of restructuring its human resource management and consequential decentralisation/delegation driven by its commission is informative. Among the problems faced were: pressures on personnel in PSOs to violate the merit principle and the difficulties faced by employees to withstand these pressures; inconsistencies in the applicant selection and promotion standards because of insufficient in-depth employee training; lack of faith expressed by the unions in the efficiency and impartiality of the monitoring system; lack of uniform and widely-enforced guidelines formulated by the Commission in appeal matters; and the need for greater emphasis on advice and counselling by the central agency to the line department before - rather than after - candidate appointment. We cannot in developing countries throw caution and professionalism in the wind - there is more reason than ever before to stay tenaciously with human resource planning, development and management, human capital and social capital when objectives are faltering, resources are shrinking, conflicts are intensifying, inequalities are widening, leadership is dwindling, employees are straying, morale is declining, performance is suffering, customers are chafing and people are despairing.
(Dr Jamal Khan was professor of public sector management at the University of the West Indies. [email protected])

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