The Nagaland Government has put its money where its mouth was with last week’s Home Department notification to link government salaries with biometric attendance records of employees. This however should only be the first step towards a larger approach to fix accountability.
Recently, the rhetoric from the State Government, through its political and administrative leadership, regarding the toll of salaries on the State’s coffers had increased. This culminated with the aforementioned notice stating that from this month (February) onwards, the salaries of all government servants posted at the Nagaland Civil Secretariat will be linked to their biometric attendance records.
The parameters for deciding satisfactory attendance, besides daily attendance, will also include maintenance of office timings, which is 9:30am to 4:00pm. The entire process by which attendance records will be assessed, if conducted in an unbiased and transparent manner, has the potential to make irresponsible government employees feel the brunt of their negligence.
The recent notice limits itself only to the Civil Secretariat Complex in the State Capital, which, according to the government, has 12 locations with biometric attendance devices. This is a good start, but the major chunk of employee absenteeism has always been recorded in the far flung areas of the State.
Over the years, several non governmental bodies, especially student organizations, have undertaken surveys of their respective districts and their findings have always included grievances of absent government officials. And these reports have been from areas little touched by full proof ways to assess attendance.
Despite the government’s efforts to push technology into the workspace, the attendance register book is a constant in most government establishments. Unless the government establishments which see the most absenteeism are also brought under such strict guidelines, a major chunk of the problem will persist.
The challenge is admittedly tremendous and will take a comprehensive and collaborative effort, headed by the IT Department, to cover all areas under the biometric attendance system. But the issue of government absenteeism demands urgency in action.
This issue is linked to a milieu of problems confronting Nagaland today—from the drain it has on the State’s coffers, the constantly harped on need to change the State’s salaried economy, to its unemployment problem and the widely accepted view of government jobs as cushy (they aren’t supposed to be). It also has a demoralizing effect on those many government officials who appreciate their roles as State officials and do their jobs diligently.
The sooner the Home Department’s directive is implemented in all areas of the State, the quicker will young people see serving the government not just as a means of livelihood but a calling.
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org