Cabinet Division

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Cabinet Division high power policy management division in the Secretariat which works in close proximity to the Prime Minister in implementing important decisions made by the cabinet as well as in effecting inter-ministerial coordination, especially in matters when cooperation and joint actions by more than one ministry/division are necessary. There was no such division in the provincial secretariat in former East Pakistan. But the government-in-exile at Mujibnagar did constitute such a division in keeping with the principles of the functioning of a national government. It was then a constituent unit of the ministry of cabinet affairs of the government-in-exile. This set-up was retained almost intact in Bangladesh after liberation. Initially it was under the control of the Prime Minister, but was placed under the President in 1975 when the form of government was changed. However, since 1991 when the system of government reverted to parliamentary, this important division has again been placed under the Prime Minister.

The main functions of the cabinet division are (i) to convene meetings of the cabinet and of its various committees, and to draw up their agendas according to the directives of the Prime Minister; (ii) to ensure proper submission of policy papers and supporting information to the cabinet/committee by the various sponsoring ministries/divisions; (iii) to record minutes and decisions of the cabinet/committee meetings and circulate them to all concerned; (iv) to follow up the implementation of decisions and policy directives and report to the Prime Minister, the cabinet and to its various committees; (v) to obtain periodic reports on the activities of various ministries/divisions and their attached departments/offices, as well as to scrutinise those reports and place relevant information before the Prime Minister/cabinet. In addition, the cabinet division provides secretarial services to the President, Prime Minister and all other ministers, including all the committees constituted from time to time by the Prime Minister/cabinet. It also deals with matters relating to the remuneration and privileges of the President, Prime Minister and ministers. The responsibility for framing the rules of business and for allocation of functions among various ministries/ divisions also rests with the cabinet division.

The rules of business specify in clear terms that no ministry/division shall, without previous consultation with the cabinet division, issue or authorise any order which involves (i) interpretation of the rules of business; (ii) reorganisation of a ministry/division; (iii) a change in the existing allocation of business among different ministries/divisions; and (iv) remuneration and privileges of the President, Prime Minister, and other ministers.

The cabinet secretary is the official head of the cabinet division. He is selected from among the senior-most civil servants. His status is four steps above that of the other secretaries in the warrant of precedence. He heads several secretary level committees on matters of inter-ministerial consultations. He is the chairman of the secretaries'; committee on administrative improvements and of the superior selection board (ssb). In fact, the cabinet secretary acts as the principal adviser to the Prime Minister/cabinet. His position is somewhat akin to that of the head of the civil service and of the permanent bureaucracy in as much as all the secretaries look to him for advice and guidance.

The cabinet secretary and his senior aides attend almost every meeting of the cabinet and prepare a brief record of discussions in an impersonal manner and submit it to the Prime Minister for approval. He circulates to each minister a copy of the minutes of cabinet meeting as approved by the Prime Minister, and sends extracts of the relevant cabinet decision(s) for implementation to the secretary of the concerned ministry. He is responsible as well to keep a constant watch on the implementation of such decisions.

The cabinet division is responsible for looking after the general administration of the thanas/upazilas, districts and divisions. The cabinet division directly controls the Upazila Nirbhahi Officers, Deputy Commissioners and Divisional Commissioners.

The cabinet division is responsible for the preparation of a monthly report in the form of a resume on the activities of all ministries/divisions and its submission to cabinet meetings. It also prepares an annual report on the activities of different ministries/divisions for its submission to the cabinet. Thus the cabinet division plays a vital role in the overall coordination of all governmental activities. [Mohammad Ayub Miah]