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Bureaucratic Inertia

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Bureaucratic Inertia is the tendency of bureaucratic organizations to perpetuate the established mode and procedures, even if they are counterproductive and/or directly opposite established organizational goals. First of all this is related to the growth which if unchecked continues  independently of the organization success or failure. 

Formal organizations tent to take on a life of their own beyond their formal objectives.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has offices in almost all U.S. counties, even though only one county in seven has working farms.

Bureaucratic Inertiais related to:

  1. Inefficiency -- the failure of an organization to carry out work that exists or more common tendency to substitute important tasks to unimportant, or related to survival and/or prosperity of bureaucrats.
  2. Incompetence related to effect known as Peter Principle  within any bureaucratic organization. This principle was put forth in the late 1960s by Dr. Laurence J. Peter, a psychologist and professor of education:

    "In a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence," or, as Dr. Peter went on to explain in simpler terms, "The cream rises until it sours."

  3. Bureaucratic ritualism  -- designate a preoccupation with rules and regulations to the point of thwarting an organizations goals. Red tape --  a  preoccupation with organizational routine and procedures that are detrimental to productivity is a most common from of Bureaucratic ritualism.
  4. Absurdity of bureaucracies

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[Sep 10, 2011] Information & bureaucratic ritualism by Yahya Ahmad

Pakistan Observer

The inefficiency of bureaucracy has always been blamed for all the ills which have been facing the country. Perhaps even rightly so, as the bureaucratic ritualism and red tape surrounding each and every activity of the public and government organization has deterred them from taking any firm initiative. In Pakistan the government machinery and its everyday working is run by bureaucracy and even we depend on them to manage everything. But over the years the civil servants and public officials have stepped away from the basic job description, of serving the public and have adopted the approach of applying their authority over the citizens, whom they have vowed to serve. This unchecked and most of the times unlawful use of authority, can be observed to have increased every time a democratic setup has been replaced by a dictatorial rule. This has also resulted in large scale corruption and nepotism, as they realize that they are answerable to no one.

Article 19-A introduced in the 18th Amendment of the 1973 Constitution presents a silver lining in the clouds. The article directs the public institutions to share the required information of public interest with the citizens. This has been called as the Right to Information (RTI). According to the Freedom of Information (FOI) law, which governs the rules and regulations of RTI, this information is not only to be shared on demand, but periodical publications are also required to disseminate information. This can be termed as the first step of truly empowering the people, in contributing towards the governance of the country. Unfortunately although almost everyone knows the political aspects of the 18th Amendment, but there is no awareness regarding RTI or FOI. Either the people have been deliberately kept in the dark over the subject or the aspect has been overshadowed by the political perception of the amendment.

Still there are citizens who are aware and there are organizations, who have been working on freedom of information in Pakistan since a long time. There have been information requests filed under the article, by certain individuals and organizations. Recently nine information requests have been filed with various departments in Baluchistan. These requests are queries on developmental work and other civic issues and demand no information on any sensitive issue. This has been initiated with the hope that once precedence has been set and a habit has been developed in the citizens, to engage and question the government machinery, perhaps there will be an improvement in the prevalent situation. But it has been observed that the filing of the information requests with the relevant departments has been ignored. Where the law clearly states that a response to the applicant should be given within 21 working days, the application seems to be lost somewhere in this complex bureaucratic setup. Although there is a way to file complaints over non-compliance of these requests by the public departments, but this process also takes a common citizen through a complex set of procedures. The complaints have been filed with the Provincial Mohtasib by the concerned citizens and it is hoped that as the office of Mohtasib is there to resolve the complaints of the public, it will also take concrete measures in this regard.

This withholding of information in the backdrop of bureaucratic ritualism and red tape is unacceptable. The public demands to know what is happening in the state apparatus, why there is so much corruption, where and how are the funds for various projects being utilized, why is there a shortage of resources and energy, who or what is responsible for the deteriorating security situation? It is understandable that this is a nascent democracy and of course it will take time to brush aside the mindset present in our institutions, nurtured by dictatorial regimes. In the end, it will all come down to the insistence of the citizens to hold accountable the public officials and pressurize them in giving the answers to the questions, which concern every Pakistani. Just as the state machinery has been forced to reveal the Kharotabad incident report, which had been initially decided to be kept a secret, but under considerable public outcry was released; the institutions will also have to be pursued into the habit of sharing information with the public.

The withholding of information, only points to the fact that there is something wrong and the picture that is being painted to the masses is not an accurate one. The mindset and perception present in our public sector departments has no place in a democratic setup. The lowest ranking official to the highest seat of power are answerable to the people. The institutions and officials have declared and vowed to serve the public and not their own vested interests. It has to be realized by the officials and the public also that, times have changed and democracy demands the active participation of the citizens in the governance of the country. The country is no longer run by a junta, where the citizens have been kept at the bottom of the pyramid. The concept of democracy values the opinion of each and every individual and these opinions will only be generated if proper information is available to them. Right to information is a tool which serves the purpose of not only disseminating information, but also strengthening the institutions in the long run.

[Sep 10, 2011] The main problem is bureaucratic inertia

2010-10-29 By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE

The planning and management problems in the public sector are a kind of inertia problems, instead of a capability problem of the public servants.

In fact, public servants are capable. For examples, after opinions are gathered through a round table meeting, the Education Minister has retained the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination and abolished the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination. The Education Ministry also agrees with the view of educational groups that under the new Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR), the Bahasa Malaysia lesson in Chinese primary schools will be increased to 300 minutes while the English Language lesson will be increased to 150 minutes. The two decisions are indeed reasonable.

The wild spending and over spending, crimes involving border officials and the fall in the Corruption Perception Index revealed in the Auditor-General Report are management negligence. They have also reflected that more and more people no longer comply with monitoring and reviewing procedures.

How serious are the problems? For an instance, when the government built the light rail system in the 1990s, the connection problem had not been taken into consideration and therefore, we had Star and Putra LRT, as well as the KL Monorail. The money has been spent but the traffic congestion remains chaotic.

When the previous Selangor state government decided to spend RM43.84mil to build the Shah Alam Royal Theatre, it did not consider whether there was a need to so do. As a result, the building has turned out to be a white elephant.

A total of RM2.47 million was spent to buy 17 official vehicles in Malacca but the maintenance fees had reached as high as RM5.12 million. They did not first form a panel to assess the quality of the vehicles and review the maintenance contract before making the purchase. It is indeed a major omission.

The government has responded quickly to the Auditor-General Report and the suggestions of the Transparency International, including giving instructions to government officials not to over spend and making the Corruption Perception Index a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). It shows that the government really takes criticism seriously and is willing to take actions to correct its mistakes. However, if it fails to make it 100% strict in administrative procedures, there is no guarantee that the mistake would not be repeated in the future.

I think that the government should adopt the International Standardization Organization's (ISO) management approach to standardize procedures with international standards and guidelines. For example, procurement must follow a set of standard procedures with layers of approval and review. Each expenditure must go through the Deming Cycle PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Action).

Although paper work will be increased and bureaucracy might also be worsened if the ISO practices are adopted, the operational procedures must still be standardised. It is because with the number of civil servants as huge as 1.29 million people, the mode of operation tends to based on sensibilities rather than rules. Also, the unclear approval process allows those who are suppose to be responsible for a mistake to easily pass the buck and resulted in many irregularities and illegal acts.

Humans are inertial. Forcing all civil servants to follow procedures can strengthen discipline and their sense of responsibility. For example, the discipline and law-abiding characteristics of the Germans are formed through daily training and cultural influence.

The government must straighten discipline and strengthen management if it wishes to successfully transform the government and economy.

Sin Chew Daily</< p>

Corruption Perceptions Index - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



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