Introduction of e-filing alone is not enough in curtailing bureaucratic red tape or ensuring quality decision making in government's field-level offices, it was observed Sunday at a conference on ways of achieving economic development.
"Despite the introduction of e-filing, the content of the decision making remains complex," said Prime Minister's Adviser Dr. Mashiur Rahman, attributing the hurdles to bureaucratic process.
"There are also layers of bureaucratic authority through which everything has to pass before a decision is taken," he added.
"The real problem is not the mechanised efficiency of transmission of information but determining the authority to take a decision and to intervene if someone takes a wrong decision", said Dr. Mashiur, who himself was a career bureaucrat and a former secretary of the government.
His views based on experiences gathered from a close range came at the "Development Economics Conference" jointly arranged at a city hotel by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development and International Growth Center.
The government started introducing the electronic filing systems in Deputy Commissioner (DC) offices back in 2013. An e-filing system allows the local administrators to digitize files and letters and also enables them to move within the system digitally.
The Deputy Commissioners can also observe how a certain file moves along the systems, identify where a file is located, and how many days it has been there from the system dashboard on his computer.
It also enables them to monitor the performance of each officer working under him or her - who is holding how many files at the end of the day or month and how many days it takes an officer to process a file.
Focusing on this initiative, Dr. Mashiur said, "If you define the disposal not as a process of transferring file from one place to another but look at what service the citizens want, who has the legal authority to deliver that service, is that service being granted within a reasonable amount of time and after taking proper evidence, that would give us a proper understanding of how e-filing system is working."
"What we have tended to do is that in order to avoid the wrong decision being taken, we have distributed the duty. So, nobody knows when and how the decision will be taken," the PM adviser added.
Earlier during the daylong conference, national and international experts focused on infrastructural development, agriculture, rural-to-urban migration as well as the effects of climate change on migration.
Based on a research carried out on the garment workers of Bangladesh, Emily Breza of Harvard University said introducing electronic payment of workers' wages through banking channels tends to show substantial increase in their savings while increasing financial inclusion.
"Such uptake of banking facilities is higher among the women," she added.
Focusing on the reason for seasonal migration of rural people in Bangladesh, Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University noted that during September-to-November period each year, there is usually a substantial fall in the demand for labour and wages in rural areas of northern Bangladesh while the price of essentials go up.
"This creates a seasonal poverty in those rural areas, which is the driving force behind seasonal migration," he added.
Highlighting the general equilibrium effects of emigration on rural labour market, he noted that people can be three and a half times more productive in urban areas than rural areas.
Focusing the correlation between employment generation, mass wellbeing and infrastructural development, Minjaj Mahmud of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies said in the first 10 years after the construction of Jamuna Bridge, there had been a substantial increase in the number of nonagricultural employments in the surrounding areas and total employment in Sirajganj had actually increased by 4 percent in-between 1998 and 2008.
"Infrastructural development helps market integration which ultimately feeds the national growth and boosts industrialization process," said Member of the Planning Commission Professor Dr. Shamsul Alam, who chaired the first two sessions of the conference.
Eminent economist Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud also spoke on the occasion.