Pakistan News

Biometric attendance system bearing fruit

Biometric attendance system bearing fruit

PESHAWAR: It was around 7:45am - the time of day when most workers arrive to start labour.

As workers enter Khalid Bin Walid Park in Peshawar cantonment area, they rush towards a huge tree under which a biometric attendance system (BAS) device lies at a desk.

Sanitation staff, gardeners and other daily-wagers of the Cantonment Board Peshawar (CBP), the civic agency of the capital city’s garrison area, put rough thumbs on BAS device to mark attendance.

They all are supposed to mark attendance by 8:30am otherwise they’re declared absent from duty.

The exercise is repeated thrice daily in all offices to ensure attendance of around 1,500 regular and contractual CBP employees. The BAS has also been installed in CBP offices and a hospital and two schools run by the board.

All employees are required to mark attendance in the morning, noon and afternoon. The BAS has been introduced in CBP around one year ago to address the issue of low attendance and unauthorised absence.

Officials said several ghost employees had been detected through the system.

“The BAS is used as a deterrence, which has produced positive results. The number of ghost employees has reduced and attendance has improved after installation of the system in the CBP-run bodies,” said Saleem Hassan Wattoo, the board’s chief executive.

He said the post of supervisor, who had to maintain attendance of workers on a daily basis, had been abolished after the BAS introduction.

“BAS installed in schools, hospital and Khalid Bin Walid Park has been connected with the system in our main offices through Internet. I get attendance data of registered employees daily,” he said.

Low attendance and unauthorised absence are chronic issues in government departments mostly those related to education and healthcare in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in rural areas.

The provincial government spends millions of rupees every year on the establishment of special monitoring units to address the issue of low attendance and unauthorised absence from offices, especially schools and hospitals, but has failed to get the desired results.

In most cases, the government employees, especially teachers, remain absent from duty for a long period without leave with someone else signing daily attendance register on their behalf.

Recently, the education department sacked 23 teachers in remote Batagram district for remaining absent from duty for years.

The government-owned independent monitoring unit (IMU) in its report said percentage of absent teachers in public sector schools was 30 per cent in March 2014, showing almost 40,000 of the total of 140,000 teachers remained absent from duty in one month.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government in the province has opted for using electronic devices to overcome absenteeism and ensure presence of employees in offices and hospitals across the province.

An official said the department of elementary and secondary education had installed BAS equipment has been installed in central education offices of 23 of the total of 26 districts in the province to monitor attendance of the district education officer and subordinate staff.

He said the system had not been installed in remote districts like Torghar and Kohistan due to unavailability of Internet service.

“Response of the BAS is encouraging because the chief minister, education minister, education secretary and other relevant officers can check attendance of all employees on a daily basis,” said an official in the education department.

Another official, who works in a remote district, said the situation had improved after installation of the new system at the district level.

“Before installation of BAS, I myself left office in the morning on Saturday and went to home in Peshawar but now I can’t go because I know that the chief minister, minister and other officers in main secretariat in Peshawar can check me anytime in the office,” he said.

Elementary and secondary education minister Mohammad Atif told Dawn that after district education offices, BAS would be introduced in higher secondary schools, high and then middle schools across the province to check attendance of teachers and students.

He said his ministry had yet to evaluate the impact of BAS.

The system was recently installed in five major teaching hospitals of the province to improve patient care and will be extended to hospitals at district level.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2015

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