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Shortage of officials is hampering activities in government sectors as about 8,000 cadre service posts are vacant with no fresh recruitment in three years.

Against the huge number of vacant posts, the Public Service Commission (PSC) in the circular for 28th Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examinations sought applications for only 1,720 posts in 14 general and 13 technical-professional cadre services.

The PSC has failed to provide eligible candidates for the civil service since August 2005 thanks to different complications over BCS exams and apparent indifference of its staffs, insiders say.

"Yes, we have many vacant posts in different cadres. The activities in different government sectors are being affected for lack of civil servants. This problem has emerged due to delay in PSC recruitment process," said Establishment Secretary Abdus Salam Khan.

As many as 7,896 posts are vacant in 29 general, professional and technical cadres, say sources in the establishment ministry, adding that 2,561 posts are vacant in general cadres and 5,335 in professional and technical cadres.

Of the vacant posts in general cadres, 1,488 are in administration, 450 in police, 125 in information, 90 in taxation, 65 in economic, 63 in family planning, 55 in audit and accounts, 45 in ansar, 40 in cooperative, 35 in foreign service, 33 in food, 30 in customs, 28 in postal, and 14 in railway.

In professional cadres, 2,992 posts are vacant in medical, 1,489 in education, 326 in agriculture, 127 in veterinary, 85 in public works, 79 in fisheries, 74 in telecommunications, 57 in roads and highway, 40 in railway engineers, 29 in statistics, 22 in public health engineers, five in forestry, and 10 in others.

As the government has yet to increase the retirement age to 60 from 57, every day many officials go on LPR (leave preparatory to retirement), leaving more posts vacant.

At a secretary-level meeting on April 28 to review activities of the government, top bureaucrats expressed concern over lack of civil servants. They said stalemate in recruitment process is affecting government activities in various sectors.

Several secretaries pointed out that a civil servant has to perform many duties resulting in public suffering.

"Different sectors have already been burdened with huge workload. The government officials now bear the burden of overseeing the financial, development and administrative activities," a top official of the establishment ministry told The Daily Star.

The deputy commissioners at their meeting three months ago also raised the same problem saying posts at district and upazila levels are vacant. They identified the shortage of officials as the main cause for low performance in the service.

At the meeting of deputy commissioners three month ago also pointed the same problem and said many civil servant posts in upazila and district levels are vacant which is the main cause for low performance in providing service to the people.

The DCs asked the establishment ministry to recruit fresh officials more rapidly, especially before the next general elections.

However, recruitment of officials through the 27th BCS has been stalled due to a case pending in the court.

A writ was filed on behalf of 110 candidates of the 27th BCS examinations after the authorities cancelled the final results on May 30 last year due to alleged irregularities.

The High Court stayed the publication of fresh results until the case is dissolved. The viva ended recently but PSC could not publish the result.

Sources in PSC say it will take at least two years to complete the recruitment through the 28th BCS.

Candidates, government officials, and PSC officials suggest increasing the posts, as the preliminary test, first step of the process, has yet to start.

"The caretaker government should increase the number of posts in 28th BCS and the circular of 29th BCS should be issued immediately to fill up the vacant posts in the different cadre service," said Mosharaf Hossain, a BCS candidate who recently completed master's degree from Dhaka University.

PSC Member Suraiya Begum said the number of posts in 28th BCS can be increased anytime if government takes a decision to that end.

"We have a plan to issue BCS circular every year and complete all recruitment process in one year," she told The Daily Star.

After former cabinet secretary Saadat Hussain took over as the PSC chairman, many expected that recruitment process would now be transparent and quick.

But PSC could not recruit a single official in over one year of service by the Saadat Hussain-led body.

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