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Science ministry posts its targets online

Science ministry posts its targets online
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First Published: Wed, Jan 13 2010. 09 42 PM IST

Aiming results: The South Block in New Delhi. Beginning April, all the ministries will have to set yearly targets with mid-term reviews. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Aiming results: The South Block in New Delhi. Beginning April, all the ministries will have to set yearly targets with mid-term reviews. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Updated: Wed, Jan 13 2010. 09 42 PM IST
New Delhi: The science and technology ministry may have become the first to publicize its policy targets on its website, under a new system that aims to make Union government departments more accountable and offers performance-linked incentives for officials.
The ministry’s online document lists its objectives for January to March and assigns a relative weight to each target.
Aiming results: The South Block in New Delhi. Beginning April, all the ministries will have to set yearly targets with mid-term reviews. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Eventually, all Union government departments will have to post their targets online under the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation System (PMES). The system was approved in September.
The performance of each department will be measured against the self-assigned targets and will form the basis of a reward system for government officials.
All 59 government departments currently covered by PMES have submitted their target documents and are in the process of posting these online, said Prajapati Trivedi, coordinator for the exercise.
Trivedi, who is secretary (performance management) at the cabinet secretariat, said the remaining 25 departments still outside the purview of the scheme will be included later.
Making the government workforce more accountable and incentivizing performance on the lines of similar schemes in the private sector has been a key policy thrust of the government. The Sixth Pay Commission, which recommends pay scales for Union government employees, approved a performance-based incentive scheme in 2008.
The science ministry’s performance document, called the Results-Framework Document, assigns a percentage rating and a time frame for each of the major objectives. (www.dst.gov.in/whats_new/Results-Framework_Document__2009-10_.pdf )
A key initiative of the ministry, called INSPIRE (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research), proposes to disburse Rs1,980 crore by 2012, largely as scholarships to school and college students to glue them to basic science research.
The initiative comes under the science and technology ministry’s broader objective of “strengthening the country’s research and development base”—one of its five key objectives and one that has been assigned a 20% priority.
Within this, the INSPIRE programme has 60% weight. If ministry officials disburse 40,000 scholarships by 15 March, it will be marked “excellent” in the score sheet. But 5,000 or fewer disbursals would qualify as “poor”.
These PMES markings would be totalled and each ministry’s performance reflected by a number.
“That number can be used to rank and arrange every department in an ascending or descending order. Moreover, it would be an objective way of assessing if, say, the tourism ministry is better than the science ministry at delivering its promised results,” said Trivedi.
Although the ministries set their targets themselves, their performances will be evaluated by a panel of independent experts.
The performance management criteria and the method of setting targets were prepared in consultation with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Trivedi added.
Beginning April, the departments will have to set yearly targets with mid-term reviews every October.
Non-compliance with targets are unlikely to be punitive. But those involved in the exercise said when better performing departments and officers begin to earn rewards, the slackers would be compelled to buck up.
“When objectives are spelt out and put up on a public forum, it’s also possible to assign individual responsibility to officers who are in charge,” said a science ministry official who did not want to be identified. “That’s a great stick to increase accountability.”
Independent experts are cautiously optimistic.
“It’s a great plan, provided the incentives are good enough to propel officers into action,” said A.S. Rao, former adviser at the department of science and technology. “Key to the success of this plan is in its implementation, else it will be no better than the present system.”
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First Published: Wed, Jan 13 2010. 09 42 PM IST