Kill bureaucracy to convert Red tape toRed Carpet
On May 28th, I wrote the article in the ET; ‘Bureaucrat Mukt Bharat (http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/et-commentary/steel-frame-of-bureaucracy-is-an-obstacle-to-development-its-time-to-rehaul-it/).
On Independence day, we heard the Hon’ble PM saying that his Government’s motto is to reform, perform and transform. Also, on 01st September, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote, “India’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, but the country’s bureaucratic quality is widely perceived to be either stagnant or in decline”. A former PM had once said about the Indian Civil Service (ICS) , the earlier avatar of IAS; “as neither Indian, nor civil, nor a service.”
I think it is time to re-look at overhauling the bureaucracy, if we wish to realize the vision of Modi’s idea of India
We need speed, we need efficiency and we need effectiveness in our entire chain of command. This is the pre-requisite in realizing the vision of the greatest statesman – Modi.
We have had a mixed bag of experience with the bureaucracy in implementing some of the key announcements from the Hon’ble Prime Minister, and the commitment on budget announcements and schemes. I have the following suggestions;
The reason our bureaucracy fails is because of the following;
- Unlike the politician, who have to go to the electorate every five years seeking ‘votes’ as his ‘appraisal’ for the performance, bureaucrats come with a ‘seniority based promotion’ and a defined retirement age and hence, they are least bothered for their performance reviews and also that these ACRs (Annual Confidential Reports) for performance reviews can be ‘managed’.
- Also, since bureaucrats make the ACRs of these bureaucrats, the norm is ‘do no harm’, and they are generally rated between 8-10 in the ACRs and the chain continues year after year, badge after badge. Actually, now there is no merit in looking at these ACRs. Even the most corrupt and inefficient officers had the best of ACRs
- Most of the bureaucrats are there for ‘authority’ and ‘administration’, and not development. Their approach is to ‘control’ and ‘Govern’ and not – ‘work as a team’ for ‘development’.
- Also, if one gauges the real working of majority of these bureaucrats, they don’t work for anyone, but they work for themselves, and then, there are ego’s, differences, grudges and dislikes for other bureaucrats. So there is never a ‘team approach’ in whatever they do and this drags the performance of the Government.
- Bureaucrats are more ‘procedure driven’ than ‘Outcome driven’. They focus more on following procedures and not necessarily on the outcome or performance, and that is why files take months to travel from one desk to another. Famously, one of the best performing Minister, Sh. Nitin Gadkari said on 09th May 2016, that it took him a 9-month wait for an approval for an automated parking. This is when Sh. Nitin Gadkari ji is known for being really fast in getting things done within the bureaucracy, and hence we can imagine what other ministers must be facing!
So, the time has come when we think out of the box and overhaul this system. Else, in 2019, our biggest failure will be because of the inefficient and unaccountable bureaucracy who will fail to implement Government’s key schemes.
We need to focus on the team approach; ‘One India, One team, one Goal’, that touches and transforms life till the last man standing in the line.
Re-defining the Appraisal System: As of now, we have an appraisal system that looks at ACRs, which only counts for an individual’s performance. If the performance and payment of the bureaucrat was based besides his individual performance (50% weightage) , the performance of his department / ministry (25%weightage) and the overall performance of the Government (25% weightage) , then the bureaucrats would work as a team and give up the siloed approach . So the first change is;
Move from ACR to CPR (Comprehensive Performance Review), which includes
- Individual Performance Review (IPR). Based on the yearly goals/ deliverables assigned
- A) Secretary’s goal should be decided by the Minister of the department
- B) Deliverables of the Joint Secretary and above decided by the Secretary of the department and the chain follows down
- Department’s Performance Review (DPR). Overall departmental review be based on the goals set for the year for the department / Ministry
- Government Performance Review (GPR). This is the overall performance rating of the Government based on the
- a) facts / data based self assessment by the Ministry / department (10 % weightage)
- b) Annual online survey taken by the citizens, for all the departments / ministries at the central level (15 % weightage)
Weightage for each level of review for the Comprehensive Performance Review (CPR) :
- Individual Performance Review (IPR) should have 50 percent weightage
- Department’s Performance Review (DPR) should have 25 percent weightage
- Government Performance Review (GPR) should have 25 percent weightage
Increments, variable pay/ incentives and promotions of officials should be based on CPR
Implementation: Can be in a phased manner ;
- Option 1: We could start the IPR (Individual Performance Review) & DPR (Department’s Performance Review) from 2017 at the Joint Secretary level, and the CPR (which includes the overall Government review) can start from 2018
- Option 2: CPR (Comprehensive Performance Review) can start at the Secretary level from 2017
- Move to the Joint Secretary level from 2018
- From 2019, the same can applied to employees holding the post of director rank in the government – Central
- Option 3: Have CPR only for Secretaries in 2017, and rest can be in a phased manner
Parameters for IPR could be picked up from what is already defined under ACR, but it must be more specific like;
- For Defining / planning time bound quantifiable and measurable deliverables for the year (20 % weightage)
- Completion of targets within the time frame (20 % weightage)
- Completion of targets without increase in budgets (15 % weightage)
- Utilization of funds (15 % weightage)
- Disposal of files & Grievances (15 % weightage)
- Innovations (15 % weightage)
For any of the misses, the weightage be objectively apportioned.
Department’s Performance Review (DPR)
- Every department must define / plan its key yearly deliverables / priorities. This must be done by the TEAM – Minister in-charge and officers up to the rank of Joint Secretary (20 % weightage)
- Completion of targets within the time frame (25 % weightage)
- Completion of targets without increase in budgets (20 % weightage)
- Utilization of funds (20 % weightage)
- Disposal of grievances (15 % weightage)
For any of the misses, the weightage be objectively apportioned.
Government Performance Review (GPR)
A part for the GPR be based on actual data / facts, and must be done by an independent government agency (40 percent weightage) and the rest must be based on public perception (60%) ; or it can be made (50 %) of actual assessment by an independent agency and (50 %) by public voting ;
- Implementation of key schemes goals Vs. achievements (10 % weightage)
- Meeting the Inflation target (5 % weightage)
- Fiscal deficit (5 % weightage)
- GDP Growth (5 % weightage)
- Utilization of funds (5 % weightage)
- Disposal of grievances (10 % weightage)
The government works for the citizens, and finally it is the citizens who are the best judge of its performance. Parameters 1-6 above can be objectively judged with data / facts, and others can be subjectively judged by the citizens under Jan Bhagidhari Assessment (JBA) through online voting.
At the end, it is the Government ‘for the people’, so the people must rate the Government on overall performance through public voting, after Government presents its self- appraisals on the points mentioned from 1-6 above.
The voting should be open for 30 days for the public to vote by a missed call from their registered mobile number on a toll free number; (60 % weightage should be assigned to public perception / judgment on performance) and 40 % on self appraisal / independent assessment by the Government.
Major change in bureaucracy is about making it a ‘performance based contractual service’: Also, one reaches the rank of Joint Secretary after a minimum service of 17 years. Joint Secretary is the actual ‘official’ who runs the show for the Government on a day-to-day basis, but if one sees the performance of the Joint Secretary, in a real sense, s/he does not feel accountable to anyone. The reality is, that now they are more driven by authority and administration and less by duty and development.
The biggest bane of bureaucracy is their job security and on one can demote them or remove them. When politicians have to go every five years for their performance review and renewing their term before the electorate, why should the top officials not undergo a review and renew based on their performance? Let us give them job security, but for performers. The Government is serious about a ‘Big Change’, and has to go and seek appraisal from the voters in 2019, but most of the bureaucrats are not as serious. They have been used to seeing government after government for decades. For them, this is all routine office work but for the Government, it is an implementation emergency. This is the only way to bridge the divide and bring about a cultural change for performance, accountability and rewards. Today, only the politicians are accountable but not bureaucrats! And it is time to change and fix the accountability based transparent review process / system.
All officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above must be put on a 5-year contract, based on their performance review, with a performance based financial incentive for their outstanding work. So, the salary structure should have a fixed pay and a variable component . If they fail to live up to the performance standards (IPR) below 80 % for three years (out of five year term), they must be relieved. Let us not forget that the ‘Best are first to be hired and last to be fired’. So no worry for the best performers, rest should worry about themselves.
Even, Nirmal Kumar Mukarji, the last serving Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer in India who retired as Cabinet Secretary in 1980, as chief guest at the Indian Administrative Service’s 50th Anniversary celebrations 1997, had called for an end to the all-India tenured services.
Also, PS to the Minister is considered an important bureaucrat but he is a junior IAS. (below the rank of Joint Secretary), and hence s/he plays safe dealing with his seniors, as one day he might have to work under them, and the loser in this case always is the Minister. So, we need to consider that the PS to the Minister be a Special Secretary rank .
eOffice & eFile – Files are taking months to move from one table to another . e-Office / eFile concept must be implemented. No file should take more than three weeks and pass more than three levels. If there is a delay of more than a week, the note should be made on the file justifying the reasons for delay
Modi has the intent, the will and the vision and he is working really hard. Will his administrative system be able to catch up? There is a big difference in how the minister and the common man are handled by the bureaucrats. So the first impression here, should not be the last impression! Bureaucracy is slowly putting red tape to the red carpet !
Modi rightly said recently, “We cannot march through the twenty first century with the administrative systems of the nineteenth century”. If we see, we still have ‘Collectors’ in post British India, and this itself shows that the bureaucracy is still in 19th Century! A senior IAS wrote to me, ‘Modi is ahead of time’ and I said ‘ Yes, Modi is definitely ahead of time but unfortunately, the bureaucracy is still in the 19th century’. When Modi was thinking of Planning Commission, he made a profound statement, “Sometime it is better to build a new house than to repair the old one”. May be the same approach is needed for the ‘institution’ called bureaucracy. Do we repair the old house or / and build another one. The transition is critical and we have no time to lose. It needs to start soon and there should be a time bound plan to implement it
Rajendra Pratap Gupta