Secretariat Instructions

Secretariat Instructions procedures for the transaction of governmental business circulated among the state functionaries in an officially compiled document. This document has a long history. It goes as far back as in May 1899 when lord curzon, the then Governor General of British India, in a memorandum pointed out the dilatory process of excessive noting on the files in the secretariat, including the built-in inefficient method of keeping and circulating papers and inter-departmental references. Lord Curzon himself made some suggestions to improve the situation; his suggestions and the modifications thereto by the various departments were finally incorporated into a document called 'Secretariat Instructions'. The main emphasis of Secretariat Instructions was to reduce excessive noting and encourage personal communications and discussions on intra- and inter-departmental cases. Between the years 1919 and 1947, a number of committees were set up to suggest improvement on the existing secretariat procedure of work, with consequent changes into the Secretariat Instructions. The basic structure and content of the procedure for transaction of business, however, remained more or less unaltered.

In 1963, the then provincial government of East Pakistan issued its own Secretariat Instructions based on the central government's Secretariat Instructions which were issued in a reformulated form in 1962. The instructions in the document were by and large related to (i) departmental organisations and distribution of work in the Secretariat; (ii) mode of disposal of business; (iii) recording of notes and preparation of drafts; (iv) consultation with other departments; (v) reference to and from officers outside the departments; (vi) reference from heads of directorates attached to the departments in the Secretariat; (vii) correspondence with foreign governments; (viii) cautions for check on delays; (ix) inspection; (x) meetings; (xi) security arrangements and handling of classified documents; (xii) detailed office procedure on the manner of dealing with proposals for legislation; (xiii) list of acts to be administered by the departments; and so on.

After the emergence of Bangladesh, initiatives were taken in August 1975 to prepare new Secretariat Instructions. To that end a four-member committee was constituted by the then cabinet secretary, which completed its task in October 1975. The draft of Secretariat Instructions was circulated to all the secretaries for their views. Thereafter, it was submitted to the Secretaries' Committee on Administrative Improvement; the draft as such was finalised by this Committee in January 1976. Later, it was decided to translate the Secretariat Instructions into Bengali and accordingly a committee of seven experts was constituted to complete the task. The Bengali version of the Secretariat Instructions was finally issued in October 1978.

As with all previous efforts, the Bengali version of the Secretariat Instructions, in character and content, has remained much the same as that of the English version issued in 1963. In fact, this Bengali version is now widely in use both in the secretariat and the offices outside the secretariat. The preface of Secretariat Instructions states clearly that the instructions in it are being issued pursuant to rule of 4(10) of the rules of business. However, it seems that some of the instructions have overlaps and duplications with those in the Rules of Business. [AMM Shawkat Ali]