THE Bangladesh Civil Services (BCS) examinations are the gateway to the coveted civil services of the country. The examinations are competitive in nature and are participated in by many thousands of the country's young persons who have degrees at the graduation level -- the minimum qualification for entry to these examinations. Understandably, countrymen look up at the examinees and have traditionally considered them as among the brightest or finest young people who would lend dignity and efficiency to the civil services by their pressure.
The various BCS cadre civil servants can look back to a proud tradition and claim themselves to be the successors of the reputed Indian Civil Services (ICS) or Civil Services of Pakistan (CSP). But notwithstanding the colonial times, the erstwhile ICS and CSP officials discharged their functions reasonably well and the selection process of the civil servants in those periods was considered to be a rigorous one. Besides, much stress was put on the pre-job training of these officers and on their morality and integrity. Therefore, there were bright sides to their efficiency and character that are remembered to even this day by senior citizens.
The BCS civil servants can hardly claim the respect or superiority of character of their predecessors. They have been earning a bad name for themselves through their involvement in corruption and other forms of immorality. Successive findings of the Berlin-based Transparency International (TR) that branded Bangladesh as the most corrupt country, identified the civil services of this country as among the most corrupt ones. Therefore, the BCS officials have lost much of their public image in recent years. Furthermore, their image in the public conception was lowered even more by leakages of question papers prior to the holding of the BCS examinations to recruit new civil servants. Credible allegations have been made about leakage of question papers of the 27th BCS preliminary examinations that was held Friday last. Similar allegations also surfaced during the holding of the 25th and 26th BCS examinations. The 24th BCS examinations had to be cancelled in the face of irrefutable proof of such question paper leakage. Thus, it appears that such scandalous practices have become a regular affair in which the Public Service Commission (PSC) which is the guardian institution -- regulating and conducting these examinations -- is failing very poorly to discharge its minimum responsibilities. This is as shocking as it is totally unacceptable.
The country's civil services already stand much degraded. If, on top of these malaises, opportunities are created for unscrupulous persons to gate-crash into the civil services through cheating, then it requires no stretch of the imagination to realise how much more the civil services will decline in quality in the future. Individuals who enter into a profession at the outset by taking advantage of unfairness and irregularity are not expected to become automatically conscionable and improve their behaviour or character later on. They can be only expected to turn more self seeking and aggressive at breaking the rules as they progress in their careers with attendant implications of the same for the country's administration.
The civil services of the country are rotting away for many reasons and their deep cleansing through tough reform activities have been overdue. Indeed, the imperative for such reforms remains very strong. But what needs to be done immediately is to at least completely check the unceasing practice of polluting the country's potential civil servants. They must not get an experience in cheating at the probable starting point of their career. That is vital for facilitating the induction of talented persons of integrity and probity through a rigorous process for scrutinising their merit and traits of character, into the country's civil service.