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Fearing zero, ministers upset with PM's grading system

February 01, 2010 21:45 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's novel scheme of grading each ministry's performance and giving a 'zero' to those ministries who have failed to achieve even 60 per cent of their targets has understandably not gone down well with the ministers in his Cabinet.

The PM had constituted a panel of bureaucrats for the job.

In early December, 59 ministers, along with their secretaries, were summoned to the Prime Minister's Office and made to sign a document of promise to deliver on their targets. The document has been dubbed a 'memorandum of understanding' in Delhi's corridors of power.

The document, called the Results Framework Document, has been drawn up by a new Performance Management Division created in the Cabinet Secretariat. It is based on the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission
that emphasises on performance and accountability.

Each secretary signed a separate document and the ministers countersigned after them, making both commit to their targets politically and administratively.

The Cabinet secretary has asked each secretary to lay out the objectives, policies, programmes and the deadlines by which they will be implemented by the concerned ministry. Only 24 ministries and departments, including the crucial portfolios of home, defence, finance and external affairs, have been spared by the PM.

The ministries have to list the achievements they have pledged to and put them up on their website by April 15 every year, to let the people judge the ministry's performance at the end of the year. Dr Manmohan Singh envisaged this exercise as a performance monitoring system that will shift the ministries' focus from process orientation to result orientation.

How Dr Singh plans to follow up on the people's verdict on the ministries' performance is not clear, but the bureaucrats' committee will grade each ministry by measuring progress in terms of implementation of targets. The marking system is: Excellent-100 per cent achievement of target, Very good - 90 per cent, Good - 80 per cent, Fair - 70 per cent and poor - 60 per cent. And ministries which have not even achieved 60 per cent of their targets will receive an embarrassing zero.

The Performance Management Division claims the state-of-the-art RFD has been readied after comprehensive review of the best international practices. The division, headed by a secretary-level senior bureaucrat, will also conduct briefing sessions and training programmes for ministry officers.

According to sources, the PM wants to enhance systemic efficiency, not embarrass his colleagues. The institutionalised mechanism that the division has conceptualised will be a wake-up call for non-performing ministers, they said.

Each ministry is also allowed to present its strategic plan for the next 5-10 years, not only the targets within the financial year, in the RFD.

Ministers upset with the grading system point out that certain objectives like spreading literacy, poverty elimination or food production cannot be achieved easily. The exercise might turn out be shameful for non-performing ministers, as the objectives and results will be put up on the internet.

Some ministers are already lobbying against the system, claiming that the Delivery Monitoring Unit set up by the PMO last year has a similar objective. The unit oversees the implementation of "flagship programmes, new initiatives and iconic projects."

From our correspondent In New Delhi