The Ministry of Public Administration has decided to spend more money on cars for government officials that have been bought through interest-free loans at a time when the government is thinking about saving costs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All deputy secretaries and higher level officials of the government have been allocated Tk50,000 per month as maintenance cost for their cars before their post-retirement leave (PRL) starts. From now on, they will receive the money even during the PRL period.
At present, officials enjoy the PRL period for 18 months, which is subject to the leave that they are entitled to.
The benefits have been increased by amending interest-free loans and car services cashing policy for authorised government officials. On Wednesday, the amended policy, signed by Md Parvez Hasan, deputy secretary (car services) of the Ministry of Public Administration, was made public.
The new policy includes the provision of loan waivers for officials who die after buying the cars if their heirs appeal for them.
"The authorised officials will get car maintenance costs during their PRL period. The secretaries of the government will get other car-related facilities according to their rankings," the policy states.
Earlier, only secretaries got car maintenance costs for one year after their PRL period.
The amended policy recommends providing loans to officials taking preparations for retirement on a priority basis.
"The loans should be granted to the officials based on their seniority from the time they have been authorised for it. But, in this case, among the officials who were authorised on the same date, whose PRL period is close at hand, would get the priority," it said.
According to the government policy, from deputy secretaries to senior secretaries, joint chiefs or higher officials of the BCS economic cadres and from joint secretaries of the ministry of law (drafting) to higher officials, loans of Tk30 lakh to buy cars can be taken on interest-free facilities. Every year, the officials have to pay a maximum of Tk10 lakh, excluding 10 percent depreciation. On the other hand, they get Tk50,000 per month as maintenance cost from the government.
So far, officials could take the loan as soon as they were promoted as deputy secretaries. But according to the amended policy, to get the loan an official has to wait for at least three years after getting promoted as a deputy secretary on the recommendation of the Superior Selection Board (SSB).
Shaikh Yusuf Harun, secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration, told The Business Standard that not giving the interest-free car loan facility to deputy secretaries until they complete at least three years in the post will save costs. The decision has been taken as part of the government's austerity measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials get all kinds of facilities during the post-retirement leave period. Therefore, they will receive car maintenance costs too during the time, he added.
"Earlier, we could not take actions against many officials who use their respective ministry's vehicles despite having cars brought through interest-free loans. A provision has been incorporated in the amended policy to take strict disciplinary actions against such officials," he also said.
Seeking anonymity, a former finance secretary told The Business Standard that the decision to give the car loan facility to deputy secretaries was not logical. Earlier, from joint secretaries to higher level officials of the government would get the round-the-clock official car facility. At that time, their numbers were small too. But, there are now so many joint secretaries and deputy secretaries.
"When the economy is not doing well at this time of the pandemic, not giving car loans to deputy secretaries for three years will save public money. However, the decision to pay for car maintenance during the PRL period does not make sense," he added.
The President of the republic has a 10 percent quota for the promotions of the officials who do not get promotions through the recommendation of the SSB. The previous policies did not mention whether they would get the facilities or not.
The newly amended policy says officials promoted under the President's quota would not get the car facilities. But anyone among them already enjoying all-time car facilities will be eligible for them.
The previous policies did not mention clearly whether officials posted abroad would get the loan facility. Now, it has been mentioned that in terms of foreign, lien or contractual job appointments during the time of the issuance of the grant order no official would get the facility.
It has also been mentioned that an official with special charge would get 50 percent of the car maintenance cost if he is studying abroad or if he is working in a mission or organisation of the Bangladesh government in a foreign country.
Officials recruited on deputation will get full car maintenance costs if they do not have all time car facilities. Earlier, there was a ban on the use of official cars for them, which has been lifted now.
In case of the death of an official, if there is any debt left after a realization of the loans from his or her pension gratuity, the remaining amount was supposed to be collected from the heirs. But this provision has been done away with through a loan waiver facility.
According to the new policy, "The heirs of the dead officials or incapable officials who retire in misery or their representative can apply via proper authorities for waiving the remaining loan with mentioning a logical economic reason."
According to the current policy, depreciation facilities were provided from the first year in case of reconditioned cars. This facility was not applicable to brand new cars. From now on, it will be applicable to all cars.
The government had nothing to do when many officials bought cars at a price of around one crore taka after taking loans of Tk30 lakh. The new policy stipulates that anybody who wants to buy a car at a price 20 percent more than the loan sanctioned must have the approval of the public administration ministry.