Interview by Harun-Al-Rashid
In keeping pace with the initiative of the government to digitalize Bangladesh, the CGA office has digitalized its major functions in recent times and since the joining of the present CGA, the CGA office has been trying to expand digitalization process, setting motto is to improve service delivery by using innovative ideas and to make their activities open, accountable and transparent, said Md. Abul Kashem, Controller General of Accounts (CGA), in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.
In this context, the CGA mentioned that their future plan is to have paperless office in CGA and they are confident that in near future, CGA will be a paperless office. He then added that CGA office is devoted to make Bangladesh a Digital Bangladesh in entire accounting arena and urged all to support them in their journey to Digital Bangladesh.
In reply to a particular question, the CGA informed that since their bill processing system is online based up to district level, the latest bill disposal status of all CAOs, DCAs and DAOs is made open for public in Internet and anybody can see his bill position using Internet from anywhere of the world.
In reply to another question, the CGA said that alongside the digitalization progress, they have introduced other new initiatives. Among those, improving healthy office environment is ensured in initial days of present CGA administration. Now all the rooms, corridors, sections of CGA main building are made neat and cleanl; beautification is done in CGA corridors with placing wall hangings; natural flower pots are placed in all blocks and all floors of CGA building; purified water is made available in each floor of CGA office, including in divisional and district accounts offices; and CGA staff members now have got more comfortable healthy office environment to serve the nation well.
When asked to focus on problems, he said that their limitations are their main concerns, especially their IT wing needs necessary reforms. He realized that at least every officer should have computer in his desk and they need to be trained in IT. He also emphasized that their staff members need more IT related training and orientation and these are specially needed to extend their EFT and online bill passing. He also added that Logistics are also a major issue to be addressed.
In an exclusive interview, a high-profile accountant of Bangladesh, Mr. Kahsem replied to several questions, covering entire activities, problems, potentials, achievements and future plans of the office of CGA across the country. His deliberations are quite excellent, smart, outstanding, informative and educative as well. The excerpts of his valuable interview are presented here for The guardian readers at home and abroad:
The Guardian: More than one and half years have passed since you joined as CGA. What is new in CGA office?
Controller General of Accounts (CGA): CGA office has a long history. Since its inception, this office has been serving as the paying office of government employees in respect of their salary and pension along with making payments to service providers to government. At the same time, this office is entrusted with the task of preparing annual finance accounts and appropriation accounts of the government. Under Ministry of Finance, this office has digitalized its major functions in recent times. Since my joining as CGA, we have been trying to expand digitalization process and our motto is to improve our service delivery by using innovative ideas and making our activities open, accountable and transparent.
The Guardian: More than one and half year have passed since you joined as CGA. What is new in CGA office?
CGA: CGA office has a long history. Since its inception, this office has been serving as the paying office of government employees in respect of their salary and pension along with making payments to service providers to government. At the same time, this office is entrusted with the task of preparing annual finance accounts and appropriation accounts of the government. Under Ministry of Finance, this office has digitalized its major functions in recent times. Since my joining as CGA, we have been trying to expand digitalization process and our motto is to improve our service delivery by using innovative ideas and making our activities open, accountable and transparent.
Moreover, on line pay fixation on new pay scale declared by govt. in December, 2015 is a long standing reform. All govt. officers/staff members have to fix his/her pay on line using Internet. This on line pay fixation is automatically reaches to accounts offices. Our accounts offices, after checking it with our books of accounts, verify it on line. As soon as verification is effected by accounts offices, SMS message is sent to all govt. officers/staff members indicating how much amount is fixed in new pay scale. This is a great innovative reform. By now, more than eight lacs on line pay fixation are effected. It is a continuous process. In addition, on line pension fixation is also progressing.
The Guardian: Can you cite some examples?
CGA: Yes, it is very important to bring to light our recent new initiatives. First, we have introduced digital office attendance of CAOs by using Microsoft Outlook Messenger. We have 49 offices of Chief Accounts Officers (CAO) in Dhaka. These are Ministry wise functional. All CAOs are linked in computerized system with CGA Head Office. CAOs, on their arrival at offices, have to login in this system and their attendance is digitally recorded with the actual login time. This login of CAOs are recorded by our system analyst and placed before CGA at the end of the month.
The Guardian: This is very transparent system. Very few govt. offices have introduced such system. But attendance is not enough to improve service delivery.
CGA: Yes, digital attendance is only the first step. We have introduced other new initiatives. Let us share with you one by one. Improving healthy office environment was ensured in initial days of present CGA administration. All the rooms, corridors, sections of CGA main building were inspected. Neat and cleanliness was ensured. Beautification was done in CGA corridors with placing wall hangings. Natural flower pots are placed in all blocks and all floors of CGA building. Purified water is made available in each floor of CGA office as in divisional and district accounts offices. CGA staff members now have more comfortable healthy office environment.
The Guardian: Good attempts in new direction. What about expansion of digitalization in accounts?
CGA: Yes, that is the real value addition. We have made all our accounting functions transparent and accountable. Strict close supervision and monitoring from CGA management and its ICU unit have resulted in tremendous service delivery improvement in all accounts offices.
The Guardian: Can you explain more?
CGA: Yes, it needs clarification. You may know the bill processing system in CGA office where actually we do the pre-audit means primary auditing of all claims. We have 49 chief accounts offices (CAO) in Dhaka city, 6 divisional accounts offices (DCA), 58 district accounts offices (DAO) and 420 upazilla accounts offices (UAO). Except upazilla accounts offices, bill processing is under on line system in Dhaka, in divisions and district level. Bill submission process is computerized in all CAOs, DCAs, and DAOs. As soon as one bill is submitted in these three accounts offices, it has to be recorded by a computerized token entry where a token number with date is auto-generated. This entry is done with the recording of net amount of the bill, name of claimant and respective budget heads where money was allotted and this token number is handed over to the bill submitting staff of the respective office. As soon this token entry is finished, the bill enters in our accounting software called-iBAS-integrated budgeting and accounting system.
In second phase the bill with token number is sent to respective section for necessary verification with our books of accounts. If found correct, the bill is passed by section officer (AAG/AAO) and he/she signs it and makes second entry in computer. CGA accounting manager now can see that the bill is passed and ready for issuing cheque/EFT.
Again, as soon as the signed cheque is ready for issue, respective cash officer gives another entry in computerized system thus indicating that the whole bill passing process is completed with signing of the cheque. In Dhaka, Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) is used in case of normal monthly pay bills of officials. As soon as the EFT is transmitted to Bangladesh Bank, instantly the official is informed of the amount of money tranfered to his personal bank account through SMS message.
By now, more than thirty five thousand officers are paid by EFT. This is really a digitalized system. It is very transparent process and everybody in accounts offices is accountable for each stage of job he/she is responsible. EFT arrangement is now extended from February, 2016 in Rajshahi Divisional Controller Office and from April, 2016, it is in operationalised in Chittagong. By phase it will be implemented in all other divisional and district level.
Moreover, CGA accounting managers can watch all the stages required for this bill passing process, and finally issuing cheques or Electronic Fund Transfer.CGA ICU unit keeps its vigilant eyes on all working days in this digitalized system and through their constant monitoring and supervision, no entrered bill can be kept unparsed for indefinite period.
At the same time, digital online bill clearing status system is another unique initiative of present CGA management.
The Guardian: This seems to be interesting. What is that?
CGA: This is a recent innovation. This has added real value in making accounts offices accountable and their actions transparent. Since our bill processing system is on line based upto district level, the latest bill disposal status of all CAOs, DCAs and DAOs is made open for public in Internet. Anybody can see his date wise bill position using Internet from anywhere of the world. He/she has to login CGA website. The address is:
Here in CGA web site home page, there is online bill clearing status icon. Here all 49 CAOs name are there. Anybody wants to see the latest bill clearing status of any CAO, he can see it by clicking it. Similarly all DAOs are listed there. Anybody wants to see his district accounts office and its latest position by clicking it.
Here date wise bill disposal position is shown. By clicking it, anybody can see his or his office’s bill position. This online bill clearing status is shown in main three gates in LED screen in CGA office. This digital LED screen is operational in DCA offices in Divisional town. All district accounts offices will arrange such display shortly.
The Guardian: What are your internal control system? How report is generated?
CGA: Yes, internal control is very vital. We have various reporting system on accounting performance of our offices, even the attendance. We have daily bill passing supervision and monitoring mechanism established. One interesting feature is pension tracking system. We monitor all pension-gratuity cases from CGA ICU. No office can keep any pension gratuity case pending.
All CAO offices send their daily bill passing status at 10.00 am to CGA. CGA ICU monitors such bill passing status. Those who are lagging behind in bill disposal, telephonic instructions are given to expedite such bills.CGA himself and DCGA ICU every day, monitor bill clearing status and gives necessary instructions to concerned offices. All such monitoring and supervision have resulted in quick bill disposal. It not possible to keep any bill unattended for indefinite period. Internal control system have resulted in improving service delivery in CGA office.
In addition, regular inspections at divisional offices, district offices and even in upazilla level by CGA himself and by his other officers have produced better working conditions, improved bill disposal and better service delivery.
Co-ordination meeting with CGA and his officers with Executive offices is a regular feature of our management system. Such meetings are held in Dhaka, divisional level and in district level at regular intervals.
The Guardian: What about informing your efforts to general people/executives?
CGA: Yes, we publish CGA news half yearly. In such publication, we bring out the news of our initiatives and actions that are taken to focus our offices, our innovative ideas. We have put bill passing checklist- a simple booklet in our CGA website wherein any body can see and learn the requirements needed for any type of bill passing, and general rules for pay, pension and for supply and services. This is a very helpfull document. More recently, after the new pay scale gazette is issued by govt., we introduced on line pay fixation of all govt. employees using Internet. As soon as it is verified by accounts offices, SMS message is sent to all concerned indicating newly fixed pay. It is a big jump on our digitalization process. On 17th April, 2016, We have fixed pay in new scale of 8,36,638 govt. employees. And pension fixation of pensioners based on new pay scale is completed for 1,32,041 on 17th of April, 2016. The whole process will be completed shortly.
Recently from 4th of April, 2016, we have been conducting familiarization sessions daily with all Ministries and Divisions on the latest digitalization process. Here practical demonstration of ibas -by which we have digitalized our system, is explained to all. On line pay fixation, on line pension fixation and TR verification are shown using Internet. Comments, concerns and suggestions are noted for future improvements. This is appreciated by all.
The Guardian: What challenges you face?
CGA: Very important issue. Yes, we have done a lot. But we have to do more. Our limitations are our main concerns. Our IT wing needs necessary reforms. At least every officer will have to have computer in his desk. They have to be trained in IT. Our staff members need more IT related training and orientation. These are specially needed to extend our EFT and on line bill passing. Limited logistics are also a major issue.
The Guardian: What is your future plan?
CGA: Our future plan is to have paperless office in CGA. We are confident that in near future, CGA will be a paperless office. To that move, we plan to introduce on line pay bill submission of officers in Dhaka first and in phases, in divisional and district level and lastly in upazilla level. In phases, employees will be included in this system through drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO). Moreover, on line transfer of LPC and GPF balance and service particulars of all govt. employees will be in near future.
We want to make Bangladesh a Digital Bangladesh in accounting arena. We expect everybody to support us in our journey to Digital Bangladesh.
The Guardian: Thank you for giving us time.
Profile of Md. Abul Kashem
Md. Abul Kashem, a member of BCS Audit & Accounts service of 1982 batch joined on 4th June 2014 as Controller General of Accounts (CGA) of Bangladesh. Before his joining here, he was Additional Director General (Finance), Bangladesh Railway.
He was born in Chittagong in 1957. He passed SSC, standing first in Humanities Group from Comilla Board in 1972 and HSC in 1974, securing second position from Chittagong College. He had his BSS (Hons) and Master’s degree in Political Science, University of Dhaka, securing second position in both the Exams.
During his long service career, he served in different capacities in Audit and Accounts Department. He served as Chief Accounts Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director, Audit and Accounts (RHD), Senior Finance Controller (Army and Navy), Director General, Local and Revenue Audit, Controller General Defense Finance and Director General, Financial Management Academy (FIMA).
He travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and America including USA, UK, Japan, Germany, Italy, Norway, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Vietnam, Libya, Kenya etc. for conducting Audit in different Bangladesh Missions and Biman offices abroad.
Mr. Kashem is an ASOSAI Training Specialist and conducted training courses in many countries on audit issues. He is married and blessed with one son and one daughter. He is a writer and has two publications on travelling experience to his credit.