Vacancies in top posts, late budget may affect government's performance

A series of factors seem to suggest that 2011-12 is going to be a year of little performance for the United Democratic Front (UDF) government unless Oommen Chandy and his team show extra vigilance on many fronts.

One factor is the decision taken by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government last year to unify the retirement age of government employees. As per the decision, employees attaining 55 years, the retirement age in Kerala, any day during the financial year can continue in service till the end of the year and need bow out of service only on March 31. It led to the retirement of government employees, including those who held key posts, en masse on the last day of financial year 2010-11.

The situation was compounded by two factors. One was the unpreparedness or the inability of the government machinery to fill these vacancies through promotions and fresh recruitment. And the other was the announcement of Assembly elections on March 1. In fact, the announcement of the elections and the model code of conduct may have prevented the government from filling the vacancies, especially those at the top levels through promotions.

When the situation came to the Chief Electoral Officer's attention, she issued a note saying that the code of conduct need not stand in the way of routine promotions and postings. Promotions and postings to some lower and middle level posts took place following that. But the top-level posts, which required the Cabinet's approval, remained unfilled. Some of these posts are still remaining unfilled with some of the top officials holding charge of two or three posts. Such arrangements affect the quality of work and have led to delays.

It is during the last quarter of the financial year, especially the last month, that much work gets done. The pace of the year-end works was on a low key this time because of the election and the mass retirement of government employees. The flurry of activity that marks the commencement of a new financial year is also absent this time because of these factors. The situation should have improved and at least the routine day-to-day work should have been taken up with the counting of votes and announcement of results on May 13, completion of the election process on May 18, first phase of the swearing-in of Ministers on May 18, completion of the Ministry-making exercise on May 23, and allocation of portfolios. But it has not. One of the reasons is the new government's decision to come out with a fresh budget. The UDF government cannot — for obvious reasons — implement the LDF's budget. The policies, programmes and electoral promises of the two coalitions are totally different.

The new government proposes to hold the budget session of the Assembly from June 24 to July 20. There are indications that it may go in for a vote-on-account for defraying the expenses of the government till the adoption of the full budget. The vote-on-account is normally for four months. It means that the full budget will be passed only by October. The implementation of the budget can start only in November. It will reduce this year's budget to an exercise for just five months. Even though the situation is grim and bleak, Oommen Chandy is known for driving the administration at top speed. K.M. Mani is also known for his rich experience, pragmatism, and resourcefulness.

  • Vote-on-account may result in losing precious time

  • Polls compounded year-end retirement problems