Bugged by rampant absenteeism and lack of punctuality in various government departments, the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) has stepped up surprise checks to fix such employees. For a start, a four-member watchdog team has been set up to sniff out errant staff.

Employee absenteeism in government departments in the State is 30 per cent, on an average. It used to be much higher, around 70 per cent, until last year. Continuous inspections have reduced absenteeism, said DPAR Principal Secretary Shalini Rajneesh.

During a surprise inspection at the Directorate of Agriculture Department a month ago, DPAR officials found that 83 personnel, including an Additional Director, turned up for work more than 30 minutes late. The reasons they gave included traffic jam, illness of parents and children, visit to High Court/courts, Vidhana Soudha, other departments, banks, etc.

“Officers and staff report for duty much after 10 a.m. which is not acceptable,” she said.

Global institutions, including the World Bank, have expressed concern over absenteeism among Karnataka government employees, particularly healthcare workers and teachers.

“Since absentee staff are on the payroll, public money does not translate into better outcome,” the bank had observed. The State administration has received numerous complaints. “Lack of punctuality is the root cause of many delays in implementation of development projects costing not only the State exchequer but also adding to people’s inconvenience,” said a senior official.

Unlike in the Secretariat where the biometric system was introduced to monitor attendance, employees in other departments come and go as they wish, typically late for work and early for home. The DPAR inspection team now conducts daily surprise checks at 10 a.m. and 4.30 p.m.

“Officials randomly visit departments. We are targeting habitual offenders. Our objective is to reduce absenteeism to zero,” Ms. Rajneesh told The Hindu.

Where such employees are caught, a show-cause notice is issued seeking an explanation. Where the staff come late for work, half day leave is marked against their names, she said.

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