HYDERABAD: With the provincial government floundering to rid the public sector education system of a plethora of problems, undermanned administrative machinery in Sindh's school education department stands as yet another impediment to reforms.
The official sources claim that an overwhelming number of positions in the administration and those of the drawing and disbursing officers (DDOs) are vacant in the province. "There are around 4,700 administrative posts of BPS-17 to BPS-20 officers [in Sindh], however, an astounding number of about 4,000 [of these posts] are vacant," an education official, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune.
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Similar is the case of a shortage in the department's cost centres, which are responsible for processing expenditures for schools, pensions of the retired staff and salaries of new employees. They are functioning with only one-third of the required strength of the DDOs, whose powers are given to the headmasters or principals.
In some 2,041 cost centres in the province, only 718 DDOs are working. Many DDOs have been given multiple charges, with some having over a dozen additional charges at a time. "[We] have accorded the highest priority to this challenge of the shortage of DDOs in school education department and are in the final stages of hiring headmasters," said Sindh Education Secretary Abdul Aziz Uqaili.
He said the department will soon review the situation with the help of regional and district administrations. Uqaili further said that the departmental promotion committees will be held from April 17 at the divisional level to fill the vacant posts through promotions. However, he did not share the number of posts which are expected to be filled. "At this stage, we can say that a maximum number of posts will be filled," Uqaili added.
According to the source, there are 12 sanctioned posts of BPS-20 senior principals and 347 posts of BPS-19 principals for secondary and higher secondary schools in the province. However, 11 BPS-20 and 309 BPS-19 posts are vacant. Similarly, only 188 posts of BPS-18 senior headmasters are working against the sanctioned posts of 353 for the elementary schools.
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The vacancy is even higher on the BPS-17 posts of headmasters, with only around 600 working against the 4,000 posts. In 2015, the department took tests for recruitment of 1,000 headmasters for contractual employment. As many as 1,039 applicants passed the tests but are still awaiting appointments. Hundreds of positions of BPS-17 taluka education officer to BPS-20 director are also lying vacant.
"Every year we see billions of rupees in development, repair and maintenance budget lapse. One of the reasons is the shortage of the DDOs," said Irshad Brohi, president of the Gazetted Officers Association.
He argued that the multiple charges prevent a DDO from adequate budget utilisation. "A DDO has to go through the troublesome process of audit before their retirement. Now, who will like to hold himself or herself accountable for a dozen or more cost centres in a lengthy process of the audit?" he questioned.
According to the details shared with The Express Tribune, Karachi region has 547 cost centres, Hyderabad region has 522, 297 in Larkana, Mirpurkhas has 258, 255 in Sukkur while Benazirabad region has 162. With some 168 DDOs, the Karachi region is working with slightly over 30% of the sanctioned strength and Hyderabad region, with its 190 DDOs, 37%.
The number of officers allotted the DDO positions in Larkana region is 138, Mirpurkhas region 74, Sukkur region 78 and Benazirabad region 70. Brohi said the association has been pursuing the case of filling these posts with the provincial government for many years but so far to no avail.
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