Ministers upset babus will get to grade them

Prime minister constitutes a panel of bureaucrats to grade ministries' performance

GN Bureau | February 2, 2010


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing chief secretaries in New Delhi on Monday
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing chief secretaries in New Delhi on Monday

A score of union ministers are upset over the prime minister constituting a panel of bureaucrats to grade their ministries' performance and give "zero" to those not able to complete even 60 per cent of targets.

Those heading 59 ministries and departments were summoned, along with their secretaries, to the Prime Minister's office (PMO) in early December to sign a document of promise to deliver what many dubbed as a "memorandum of understanding". Each secretary signed a separate paper and the ministers countersigned, making both commit politically and administratively.

The cabinet secretary is chairing a committee of secretaries since then and calling one secretary at a time to lay before it  agreed objectives, policies and programmes and deadlines by which they will be implemented. Only 24 ministries and departments have been spared from this drill, coming under home, defence, finance and foreign ministers.

The ministries have to list the achievements they promise to make and put up them on their website by April 15 every year to let the people judge results at the end of the year in what Manmohan Singh envisaged as a performance monitoring system that will shift the ministries' focus from process orientation to result orientation.

The document that the ministers and their secretaries signed is: Results Framework Document (RFD). It has been prepared by a new Performance Management Division created in the cabinet secretariat. It is based on the recommendations of the second administrative reforms commission that laid stress on performance and accountability.

How the prime minister uses the people's verdict on the targets displayed on the ministries' websites is not clear, but the bureaucrats' committee will be giving marks by measuring progress in implementation of the targets. The marking system is: Excellent-100%, Very good-90%, Good-80%, Fair-70 and Poor-60%. For performance below 60%, the ministry will get a big zero.

The performance management division claims the state-of-the-art RFD has been readied after comprehensive review of the best international practices. The division, headed by a secretary-level bureaucrat, will also conduct briefing sessions and training programmes for officers of ministries. They say the idea is not to embarrass but to enhance systemic efficiency. Apart from the summary of most important works that a ministry expects to achieve during a financial year, the RFD also allows strategic plan for 5-10 years.

The ministers believe the institutionalised mechanism that the division has conceptualised will haul up the non-performing ministers as it is clear from its objective. Their worry is that some of the responsibilities like literacy, poverty elimination or food production are such that the targets cannot be achieved as in the case of responsibilities like opening a school, college, hospital. Those not able to achieve the targets will have blackened faces in public because everything would be put on the Internet.

Some ministers are already lobbying that the new system is unnecessary and duplication of work that a Delivery Monitoring Unit set up in the PMO last year is already doing. The unit oversees implementation of “flagship programmes, new initiatives and iconic projects.”
 

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