Recruitment in Bangladesh Civil Service: Do Meritorious Get Enough Representation?

Jannatul Ferdous's picture
Merit in employment in public service is a key element of excellence. A competent civil service is indispensable for the active execution of public policy and public service delivery. Government needs to confirm that brilliant, capable and devoted people are in employment in the arena of civil service to form a well-organized civil service system. A comprehensive recruitment plan contributes stress on merit rather than any other concern. However, merit has not given proper prominence in our recruitment rule. Most of the posts in the civil service are reserved for the desired groups through the system of quota. Owing to the gaps in the recruitment system, a great number of unskilled applicants have come into the civil service and creates stumbling block towards the way of representation of meritorious candidates. The consequence of such recruitment has been distressing for the country. The paper mentions some recommendations to become free of this condition so as to generate job opportunities to the meritorious and promising applicants with effectiveness for ensuring good governance in the state.
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Recruitment is considered as the cornerstone of the civil service. None is as generally vital as the quality of its personnel, of all the variables, impacts the performance of a bureaucracy of the government. A bureaucracy's operating proficiency is likely to be rigorously reduced if capable and devoted people are not recruited. So, the system of employing and the procedure of retaining such persons come to be a task of the top concern for all civil services (Khan & Ara, 2005). Today, one of the important issues in public administration concerns the resolution of 'merit' and 'equity' in the selection for civil service. This is a fact for administrative arrangements in both developed and developing countries. The difficulties of connecting the two ideas for attaining optimistic outcomes are complex and personnel experts are actually puzzled by the mission of formulating civil service arrangements which are 'meritorious' along with 'representative' (Zafarullah & Khan, 1983). However, it is so painful for the citizens of Bangladesh that despite the long period forty-three years of independence, we are not yet capable enough to develop a comprehensive recruitment policy for the civil service. The key difficulty in recruitment in our state has to unite the two issues of equality of opportunity with efficiency. This study is a modest attempt to discuss concisely the critical matters regarding the direct recruitment issue in the civil service through open competitive examination that is called the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) Examination and simultaneously recognizes the gaps in the recruitment system as they generate stumbling blocks towards the way of representation of meritorious candidates in Bangladesh Civil Service and propose some recommendations to mend the existing condition.
Conceptual Framework
Representation of merit in employment of public service is a key element of success in development activities. Before moving on to the discussion, it is essential to define some concepts, including that of civil service, cadre service, recruitment, selection, merit and representation.
Civil Service
The Civil Service of a country basically indicates all permanent functionaries of government excluding the defense service. According to Finer (1941), “Civil Service is a professional body of officials, permanent, paid and skilled. Policy formulation is the function of cabinet/ ministry, but policy implementation, the main aspect of development, is the function of the civil servants. Although the policy formulation is the jurisdiction of cabinet/ ministry, it depends largely on civil servants for data of policy formulation” (Quoted in Islam, 2013: 3).
Cadre Service
Cadre service is the group of civil servants in distinct sets, services or cadres (Wahhab, 2009). Cadre is the separate efficient subdivision of the state’s administration. Cadre services include those services that are created under the law with a quantity of posts or arrangement and staffing and upgradation rules (Morshed, 1997).
Recruitment is the course of penetrating for potential personnel and inspiring them to apply for employments in the institution (Flippo, 1984). Recruitment is the process by which organizations locate and attract individuals to fill job vacancies (Kleiman, 2005). Recruitment is the way of noticing prospective contestant for definite or projected positions. It is a networking function that communicates to getting organized those with employments to complete and those looking for employments.
Selection is a practice of picking a small number of and eliminating the unsolicited. Selection is the method through which companies choose who will be permitted or will not be permitted into organizations (Noe et al. , 2006). Jackson and Mathis (2005) pointed out that it ensures the person-job and person-organization fit. The aim of selection leads to best choice of the best applicant(s) who will fulfill the necessities of the employment and to the society’s welfare.
‘Merit’ should denote to qualifications that a specific person has attained – outer demonstrations of internal capabilities and talents. Educational status signifies the correctness for a specific role: extraordinary qualifications open the gates to high-level, practically significant social roles, and a deficiency of qualifications leaves the gates closed (Jackson, 2001). Merit opens the door of efficient performance. Meritorious candidates can do the right choice of getting things done and through this way better performance can be ensured.
Representation reflects a balance within a nation mainly concerned with gender and ethnic balance. Scholars of the world discussed on the matter of representativeness of bureaucracy and formation of the bureaucracy and the decision-making represents public interests. Donald Kingsley is the introducer of “representative bureaucracy” in 1944. Scholars strongly support the gender equality in public administration. One best way to bring an equal representation of male and female in public administration is a quota or a reservation system for female (Kabir, 2011).
It is highly necessary to focus on merit to ensure better performance in the civil service where representation is also necessary to make the bureaucracy repre-sentative. Balance between merit and representation must be maintained so that it may be able to serve both purposes.
Civil Service in Bangladesh
The civil service of Bangladesh is organized vertically into four classes, which is Class-I, Class-II, Class-III and Class-IV. This class varies depending on different variables such as levels of duty and responsibility, educational qualification and range of pay (Ahmed and Khan, 1990). The higher class, Class-I is considered as specialized and are a major class and the rest are responsible to carry out a variety of supportive roles. Entirely class-I and part of class-II employees are counted as ‘gazette’ officers and other are measured as ‘non-gazette’ employee (Ahmed, 2002). Cadre services are created under the law with a quantity of the position or arrangement and staffing and upgradation rules. In contrast, non-cadre services are generally centered at positions, with no certain arrangement of movement whether horizontal or vertical. In 1981, Cadre service in Bangladesh was first formally documented, as soon as Bangladesh Civil Service Recruitment Rules were framed. Bangladesh Civil Service more widely known by its abbreviation BCS is the exclusive service in the state (Ali, 2007). BCS originated from the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), which was the inheritance of the Indian Civil Service (ICS). It is the most renowned civil service in the world. At present, there are 28 cadres in the BCS (Wahhab, 2009).
Method of and Conditions of Eligibility for Recruitment
There are three methods presented in the existing recruitment policy of recruit-ment for the cadre services. First one is, Recruitment through open competitive examinations that is called direct appointment. Second one is appointment by promotion and third one is appointment by transfer or deputation (Ali, 2007). The present paper is concerned about the first one.
The age limit for freedom fighters and BCS (health) cadres is 21-32 years and other cadres are 21-30 years and BCS (general education) cadres applicable only for the tribal is 21 -32 years. The candidates must be a graduate and must be a citizen of Bangladesh (Khan & Ara, 2005).

Recruitment Agencies or Authorities
Ministry of Public Administration
The Ministry of Public Administration (MoPA) is playing the role of central personnel administration authority, which regulates the civil service of the nation, wheels and administers internal civil administration and handles the difficulties of broad public service administration in Bangladesh in keeping with the existing arrangement (Ahmed, 1990). It is liable for the staffing policy and additionally has a direct concern for a number of important HR and management of administrative tasks, mostly concerning officers of the Administrative cadre that encompasses the upper-level of the civil service. Broadly, the aim of the Ministry of Public Administration (MoPA) are to: (1) make sure that Ministers are maintained by properly trained and qualified secretariat of upper-level civil servants; (2) retain the broad public administration of Bangladesh grounded on a link of District and Divisional Commissioners, identified as the “field service”; (3) confirm that civil servants working in the Secretariat and in Service Directorates are properly skilled; and (4) to adopt and implement employment policy, methods, rules and guidelines for the Administrative cadre and the entire civil service (Kim & Monem, 2009).
In the matter of direct recruitment, usually, the relevant ministries, directorates, divisions and departments report to the PSC about the quantity of vacant posts through the Ministry of Public Administration (MoPA). The PSC through the state newspapers calls for applications for the vacant positions.
The Bangladesh Public Service Commission (PSC)
The Bangladesh Public Service Commission (PSC) is one of the most vital pillars of the National Integrity System devising a significant role in upholding brilliance and integrity in the public service and management of the state. The key purpose behind starting a PSC is to confirm that all decisions regarding recruitment, promotion, discipline, employee appeal and other important service matters are made firmly on merit and not on patronage or other grounds. The PSC has two important purposes: first, the abolition of patronage in the civil service arena; and another is selecting the top candidates existing in the state and their recruitment in the service. According to the existing structure, PSC has no executive authority in taking any judgment for regulating the civil service of the state and its influence is restricted to giving assistance and recommendations on recruitment, promotion, employee demand, and disciplinary matters of civil service in Bangladesh (TIB, 2007).
Recruitment in BCS
Bangladesh accepts a colonial inheritance in its full public administrative struc-ture (Jahan, 2006). Recruitment in the Bangladesh Civil Service is a lengthy process, which takes two to three years from the date of advertisement to the final appointment of the Government (Islam, 2013). In the matter of direct recruitment through competitive examination of the BCS, it consists of several steps, including the MCQ preliminary examination, which is a screening test of 200 marks. The candidates who meet the requirements of preliminary examination are asked to perform at a written examination of 1100 marks, together with 200 marks for viva and psychological test. If an applicant is unsuccessful in viva, he/she will not be taken into consideration for the final selection. On the basis of written and viva marks, the merit list is prepared. After that, police verification and medical check-up of the selected applicants, final appointment is given to the selected applicants through notification (GoB, 2014).
Figure: Recruitment Process in Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS)

On the basis of written and viva marks, the merit list is arranged. Then finishing the merit list, the applicants are selected for diverse types of quota. The role of PSC is essential to activate a quota scheme that gives appointment to class I posts for stated sets ( Jahan, 2012).
Quota System in BCS
After the liberation of Bangladesh, the constitution created the provision of equal opportunity for all citizens. It should be the main regulatory principle in recruitment of public service. Depending on the constitutional provisions, the government of Bangladesh also prepared distinct measures called “a quota system” to generate special prospects for underprivileged assemblages. In the matter of recruitment issue, the government follows the Bangladesh Civil Service Recruitment Rules of 1981. The quota in circulation in the Civil Service is shown in the following table:
Table 1: Quota system in Recruitment in Civil Service
SN Distribution of Quota Percentage
1 Merit 45%
2 Freedom Fighters/ Offspring of Freedom Fighters 30%
3 Women 10%
4 Tribal People 05%
5 Others (Common People of the Districts) 10%
Total 100%
(Source: Ministry of Public Administration, GOB, 2011)
According to this quota system, only 45 percent of the posts remain for recruit-ment to be occupied following a merit-based open competitive arrangement. This reservation system was presented in March 1997 (Jahan, 2007). Recently, one per cent quota has been added with fifty-five percent for people with disabilities. Consequently, only 44 per cent of the candidates are qualified to compete for government employment on the base of merit. This quota produced dissatisfaction within the large segment of common contestants who say that in spite of scoring higher marks, they are underprivileged of the jobs they deserve on the basis of their merit (Bilkis, 2013). However, quota is disseminated among the candidates on the ground of merit in their particular groups (Wahhab, 2009).
So, the selection of applicants to the different cadre services is currently made by an open competitive examination called the BCS examination. But, several times special BCS decision is taken for appointing quota candidates and particular cadres through various syllabus and steps.
Do Meritorious Get Enough Representation?
The validity of some of the part of the quota system existing in Bangladesh has been challenged taking into consideration the provisions of the Constitution that guarantees equal opportunity of employment for all inhabitants and avoids discrimination against "any backward section of citizens" and particularly women. No definite technique was specified by the constitution to attain the satisfactory representation of diverse groups in society in the civil service, whichever in positions of their entry-level recruitment or progression throughout their profession within it. Though, the formation of an appropriate plan to save the equality issue and representativeness was implicit in the constitution, but not obligatory upon the government (Zafarullah, 2013). The quota has been executed always without transparency. It is shocking that under the quota the appointments have not ever been made open by PSC or by MoPA. The annual reports of PSC do not deliver satisfactory statistics on the appointments in quota (Wahhab, 2009). The quota policy as cherished in the constitution is an exception for the improvement of backward segments in the society. Therefore, quota in no technique can succeed in safeguarding the general standard of merit for safeguarding equal prospects of employment for all the citizens devoid of any discrimination. As after independence in 1971 to the present date, most of theposts of the civil services have beenkept for the persons of desired groups in quota (Zafarullah, 2013).
Quota may be essential for the progression of the backward segments of the society; on the other hand, it can certainly not remain for an undefined period as is in the case of Bangladesh. Because of quota policy, comparatively poor competent officers get access into the civil service and long-term negative impact of quota arrangement is apparent in the civil service of Bangladesh (Wahhab, 2009).
The persistence of the quota for Freedom Fighters (FFs) is still the most contro-versial issue because of its highest percentage of 30%. Considering the equity and representation of desired groups are the major basis for affirmative action, there is hardly any cause to have such a vast proportionof posts reserved for FFs who are well past their fitness in terms of their professional life to start a job in the civil service. Though this quota at present, has taken into account the children of FFs, which is definitely an irrational arrangement, the total figure of FF families, including offspring must be a very small in comparison to the whole number of the population or other desired groups that this classification does not permit more than half a percent of quota arrangement (Khan and Ahmad, 2008).
The use of the population-biased district quota is actually much unreasonable and inaccurate. The 10 per cent district quota has been set bearing in mind the volume of residents of the district level. Applicants of over full districts acquire the opportunity of the district quota and persons who are from low populated districts are underprivileged. The total number of districts formerly was 17 but at present the has come to 64. Past PSC chairman Dr. Sadat Hossain, in a talk show on TV, entreated for suspension of the district quota as currently most of the districts have come to be more progressive than in the past. On the other hand, some specialists are in support of cutting down the district quota to five per cent with the aim of providing an equal chance to the meritorious applicants of every district (Bilkis, 2013). District quota is a great discrimination against the meritorious applicants and the Government of the state should instantly cancel the district quota.
Ten percent of the women quota has been declared to support the phrase ‘backward section of citizens’. It could be said that officers of the civil service are principally recruited from the graduate candidates of universities. For admission to the universities in Bangladesh, there is no female quota. Through open competition, students get the chance of admission to the universities on merit. A large number of female students get the opportunity for admission performing well in the university education as our experience indicates that. Respectively, there is no female quota in employment as university teachers. Equally male and female teachers are appointed on the basis of merit. So there we find no rationalization of female quota in civil service recruitment (Wahhab, 2009). However, there is difficulty in such kind of job. To inspire women, Quota can help to play the role of the promoter.
The government of the state has allocated 5% quota for the indigenous applicants for government jobs and also in the admission in various educational institutions have also been reserved under the quota for the indigenous students since 1985. According to the data of Fifth Population and Housing Census (2011), the enumerated population of the state is 144043697 within them indigenous people are 1586141only (GoB, 2014). So, the indigenous people represent only 1. 1 per cent of the state’s population, but they have the opportunity of 5 per cent quota in the public service field. Consequently, the situation provides a root for unemployment frustration to the common people. At that point, again for the disabled people 1 percent of the government jobs are kept who form 1. 4 percent of the total population (GoB, 2014). Overall, 56 per cent of government jobs are set aside under various categories of quotas. Lastly, their only we got 44 percent accessible for merit-centered recruitment (Islam, 2013). The emerging dissatisfaction among the biggest segment of candidates is emerging at a time when Bangladesh’s demographic window releases more and more young people gathering at the job fairs. However, given the governance limitations and official blockages, the economy’s employment generation rate is constantly dropping behind its personnel growth, leading to youth's joblessness and damage to state productivity.
Generally, quota appointees are unable to perform at the expected level and several times they are looked down upon by their superior (Zafarullah, 2013). Moreover, the training programs have been hardly able to improve their performance.
The growth of a market-centered economy does not undercut the contribution of the public service. It fairly stresses on a capable bureaucracy and a proficient state, in handling the market situation. Though affirmative action, perhaps aided the state’s interest in the previous, there is a strong need for reform in the arrangement to accommodate more meritorious candidates in the public service. This is the approach that may create a meritocratic society.
Immediate reform of the present quota system
Merit should be the sole determinant of recruitment rather than quotas. To support the clause of Article 29(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh “ensure equal opportunities” at least 85% of posts should be on merit base, while the other may be disseminated for favorable act on the source of gender, ethnic and religious character.
• A set of apparent rules are essential to be organized and publicly available consisting of the examination rules and recruitment process.
• It is essential that the Government of the state give proper attention to simplify the quota process.
• Regular research needs to be undertaken to develop the education sys-tem.
• Quota policy should be reviewed every three years.
For the less developed districts, the quota is not a proper solution; rather the government should take measures to improve the schools and colleges so that the students from these districts come out with capability to compete with the students from developed districts.
It is highly necessary to focus on providing education rather than giving jobs to the backward section on the basis of quota. “Political Will” is the most vital to bring positive amendment in recruitment and selection policy.
At present, Bangladesh has been involved with affirmative action in the public service for 43 years, but the platform is still being mended concerning various issues. Consecutive regimes have been unsuccessful to reform the negative elements of the arrangement and rationalize it for its effective functioning and for rendering desired facilities to the society. The affirmative action is based on quota rather than concentrating on statistical targets or schedules, as in many progressive nations, it generates more difficulties than it resolves. This has created a structure difficult to manage and leaves space for political and administrative influence. Without any hesitation, the quota scheme has produced an undesirable impression among the people as merit does not provide enough prominence in recruitment of the officers, and accordingly there is a weakening of the quality of service delivery. If the quota is unavoidable in BCS recruitment, we will never get the finest officers for the civil service.