|Senior officials from Nabanna (top) will visit panchayat areas to flag off the 1km “all-weather” rural road project on January 7. Mamata Banerjee will be present at some of the inauguration programmes in West Midnapore (above). Some senior officials from the state secretariat are also expected to attend similar events in other parts of the district. While some officials said they did not want to visit the districts, a few others said it would be a “welcome break” from the drudgery of day-to-day office work. File pictures
Calcutta, Jan. 1: She has stopped the politics of bandhs and strikes in Bengal, she has taken away special privileges enjoyed by leaders of employees’ unions, she has given grades to ministers and bureaucrats on the basis of performance and now she wants to overhaul the administrative delivery system.
The administrative calendar — one of the most ambitious projects of chief minister Mamata Banerjee — will be launched tomorrow as part of the government’s initiative to ensure proper and timely delivery of services by the 61 departments. Governor M.K. Narayanan will release the calendar at a programme in Nabanna.
The calendar will list work to be undertaken every month by each department and set targets for completion.
“The concept is innovative as it puts in place a system to track development. If all departments fix their targets at the beginning of the year, it will be easy to push for achieving goals on time,” a senior official said.
While officials and ministers close to Mamata are upbeat about the initiative, the concept of the administrative calendar and its potential benefits are not clear to a large section of employees.
The Telegraph attempts to explain the details.
Mamata has always laid stress on timely completion of development projects to avoid cost overrun. To meet the objective, the chief minister holds regular review meetings with department heads and district magistrates.
Sources said Mamata had always considered developing an institutional mechanism through which the departments would deliver projects on time and their performance could be assessed any time of the year.
“Till now, the physical progress of projects could not be measured because of the absence of a proper mechanism. The administrative calendar is set to address the issue,” said a senior government official who was part of the team that monitored the preparation of the calendar.
Targets and timeline
All 61 departments will have to set targets on the progress of projects between January and December. This will create a transparent system of assessing progress at any given time.
For example, the technical education department will have to mention its monthly plan of setting up Industrial Training Institutes and operationalising them.
Similarly, PWD officials will have to mention their monthly targets of repairing roads with specifics such as stretches and deadlines.
“The setting of targets and the timeline will remove ambiguities in project delivery,” another official said.
If implemented according to the plan, the calendar is expected to fast-track projects as they will be divided into phases with monthly targets for each.
“This way, the government will find it easier to measure progress,” the official said.
According to him, as the calendar will help detect delays at each stage, senior officials and ministers can intervene anytime to ensure timely completion of projects.
Setting of targets will also help improve work culture as the departments themselves will set the goals.
The biggest benefit will be public awareness, the official said. As the calendars will be uploaded on departmental websites and published in booklets, officials will be under pressure because common people will be able to raise questions if projects are not completed on time.
Incentive & penalty
Departments that will deliver on time will be rewarded and those who will fail to meet deadlines will face action, said another senior official.
“The main objective of the administrative calendar is to ensure accountability and spot non-performers, who will be penalised,” the official said.
In keeping with the comprehensive incentive-and-penalty system, 60-odd employees and officials of the public works, health, women and social welfare departments will be rewarded at tomorrow’s programme for their contribution in achieving targets on time.
“This shows the government does not think twice before appreciating good work. The chief minister has already sent out a message on what is in store for those who will fail to deliver on time by removing her trusted lieutenant Partha Chatterjee from the commerce and industries department,” said a minister in Mamata’s cabinet.
Almost all experts The Telegraph spoke to hailed the move to introduce the administrative calendar, but they raised a few issues the government should address to make the system fool-proof.
“The calendar is being prepared in January, which means only ongoing projects will find place in it. But I am eager to know about the fate of projects that will be announced in the budgets,” said a retired IAS officer who had served as the director of the Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Calcutta.
Another IAS officer, who too had been the director of the ATI, said that as a significant number of projects are announced in central and state budgets, the government will have to work out a way to monitor them as they will not feature in the administrative calendar.
“What will be the fate of projects like the Indira Awas Yojana or the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, for which the Centre will allot funds in March? Will the departments focus on such projects as these won’t figure in the calendar?” he asked.