KARACHI - Empty parking lanes specified for top bureaucrats and other officials in the main building of the Sindh Secretariat at 9:00am –beginning of the working hours – are an enough evidence to prove that most of the provincial officials are latecomers.
It is pertinent to mention here that a 7,000 government employee-strength is working at the Sindh Secretariat buildings and barracks.
A protocol wing official of the Sindh secretariat told The Nation that only the protocol and security section of the secretariat work 24-hours a day in three shifts while the other staffers work 9:00am to 5:00pm.
“We open the gates of the secretariat half an hour before 9:00am and close them by 7:00pm,” he said adding that most of the staff at the secretariat is latecomer including top hierarchy.
He told that the secretaries of the departments and even some additional secretaries had designated car parking outside six-floor main secretariat building-where the chief secretary and other officials sit-besides in Tughlaq house, KDA building, finance and IT buildings within the secretariat premises.
Ghost employees, officials on ex-Pakistan leave without permission, latecomers and those bunking or skipping their office hours altogether could however, not be identified by just going and checking their designate parking slots and since this could not be applied to lower staff who could park their vehicle anywhere they find space.
Two attempts were made from the provincial governments to keep a check on the attendance of the provincial bureaucracy with one being initiated in 2011 and installed at the secretariat by next year and other just announced in 2016 by former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah but yet to be initiated.
According to a record obtained from question and answer session of the provincial assembly from 15 February 2012 proceedings, the phase-1 of Biometric Identification Electronic Card System (BIES) was outsourced at the cost of Rs 87 million and other than secretariat, the chief minister house and governor house also come under its ambit in order to monitor employees attendance during work hours and enforce the discipline, efficiency and security measures.
In another query at the floor of the house during a provincial assembly session on 14 November 2014, the IT minister in written reply said that 71 biometric devices were installed at different secretariat buildings and barracks of the Sindh secretariat including secretariat buildings 1 (SGA&CD), IT Building, KDA Building, Tughlaq House, Local government building no 5, barracks 4 A and B, Finance building, ombudsman house and board of revenue buildings.
The minister said that it was aimed at ensuring the attendance of Secretariat employees.
Outlining the reasons for the failure of the biometric system installed in 2012, a government official who wished to remain anonymous said that a large majority of the government employees- from top hierarchy of secretaries to lower cadre of peons- are oppose to installation of this system.
“It was planned to connect the attendance system with the payroll of the employees and if that happens then action could be taken against habitual latecomers and even those who remained absent for no reason,” he said.
The failure to install these systems at the provincial bureaucracy hub is attributed to technical faults in a system that was installed after 2011 but was never utilised.
PML-F lawmaker Nusrat Sehar Bano who was also a member of standing committee on Information Technology in previous assembly tenure said that the issue of bio metric system at the secretariat was raised in their meetings and it was told that the old system needed a maintenance overhaul after a specific tenure but it was costly.
“Since that maintenance process was not carried out due to lack of funds, the system encountered technical faults and is no longer be used,” she said. She also pointed out that even at the time when system was installed, only some secretaries were using it while the others refused to use it citing lame excuses.
“We also wrote on the issue to chief secretary and the chief minister to direct officials to ensure its utilization,” she said.
In March 2016, another bio-metric system was approved for the Sindh Secretariat and the then chief minister Qaim Ali Shah ordered Information Technology Department to install new system in Sindh Secretariat in order to identify the habitual absentees and latecomers.
The chief minister also approved Rs 24 million project for bio-metric installation in the secretariat buildings with two-months time during an IT department meeting and was informed by the then secretary IT Abdul Rahim Shaikh that 87 machines would be required that could register attendance through finger impression or any device.
However, the provincial IT department has denied having any such scheme under them and the incumbent Secretary Information and Technology Agha Zaheer uddin while talking to The Nation said that the department at present does not have any proposal from the government to install new bio-metric system in the Sindh Secretariat.
“Neither any scheme of this sort is announced or included in annual ADP from the government nor there is any funding available for it,” he said.
His claim was also seconded by the Nusrat Sehar Bano, a member of last assembly’s standing committee on IT and said they tried their best to include this project in the ADP but the treasury sides in the assembly refused it despite an announcement made by former CM Qaim Ali Shah to launch a new scheme.
She further said that the system was necessary in order to find out about the officials who go on ex-Pakistan leaves without approval and who were receiving salaries without joining duties.
Meanwhile, the PML-F lawmaker also demanded the government to not only install the new system but also initiate inquiry over loss of money from provincial exchequer over installing obsolete bio-metric system and take action against those responsible.