Backgrounder to Deputy Minister

This pilot project was launched on January 7, 2007. Taking into consideration the relentless criticism in important newspapers, magazines and TV channels, about the alarming increase in the drug demand level among both male and female high school students, a Committee was appointed by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry to initiate the modalities of Awareness Campaign with the active co-operation of School Managements.

The Ministry, instead of taking direct responsibility for implementation of the project, created a special fund with an initial contribution $ 50,000 for contingent grants and selected two NGOs for implementation of the project. The issue presented before the NGOs was simple and direct. “Can the Awareness Campaigns deliver tangible results in the area of drug demand reduction? ” The problem and the scenario: This is the first of its kind familiarization program conducted for the benefit of the representatives of the NGOs.

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The objective is to train the traianers from the point of view of this Awareness Campaign. The NGOs selected have the experience and expertise of working among the drug addicts, for over a decade. Five representatives from each NGO attended the session, one of them was the Chief Coordinator, and the rest were field level personnel. The guideline /handouts specially drafted by the Implementation Committee constituted by the Ministry for the training course were given to them. There are twenty four High schools in the District “A” selected for the program.
Each NGO was allotted 12 Schools. The above initiative was in response to the directions of the Cabinet to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. This time-bound program is directed to be completed within a period of three months. The Deputy Minister of the Department was asked to personally monitor the program and present the report within the time stipulated. The strong reason for associating NGOs is: By experience it is observed that drug demand reduction is mainly a socio-spiritual initiative.
The typical government approach bogged down to procedures, did not deliver the results in the past. a) Making the Deputy Minister take direct responsibility of this important social issue: According to the inputs before the Cabinet, the situation relating to the drug scenario in the schools has been alarming. Very inconvenient questions were raised in the Parliament about Government’s lethargy in not properly addressing the issue. The need for a sense of destination and direction to the combustible school-going generation in this age group was felt by the members of the Parliament.
On a careful study of the scenario, the following reasons were cited by a Committee specially constituted by the Ministry to send the report to the Cabinet. What are the reasons for such moral collapse of the youngsters at the formative stage of their life? Five major issues were cited: a) Economic prosperity. The children get more than required pocket money. The reasons and sources for children having more cash than is necessary for their normal needs however could not be ascertained. The students were not willing to share this information with the counseling team.
b) The friendship-net of the drug-addicts is fast expanding. The teachers are afraid to take strong action against the students lest they will be charged under the various provisions of the Child Abuse Act. c) The same was the issue with the parents. In a few cases the children had initiated legal action against the parents under the above Act. d) With the divorce rate touching 55%, every second family was a broken family. Denied of love in the house and in the absence of a happy social interaction with the immediate family members, children looked out for other sources of enjoyment.
e) The peer-pressure of the senior students was too much to resist. In some cases, the senior students did not hesitate to take recourse to coercive methods to drag the unwilling friends to the drug joints. Deputy Minister’s accountability: “Deputy ministers are accountable to their Ministers, and to the Prime Minister through the Clerk of the Privy Council. (4) Deputy ministers are also accountable to the Public Service Commission and the Treasury Board for authorities directly delegated or assigned to them relating to financial and human resource management.
(5) One of the Deputy Minister’s fundamental responsibilities is to support the Minister’s accountability to Parliament. Deputy Ministers and other departmental officials appear before parliamentary committees on behalf of their minister by answering questions and providing information, but they explain rather than defend or debate policies. Public servants do not have a public voice, or identity, distinct from their minister; they are anonymous. ”(The Accountability…. ) The Deputy Minister has the dual responsibility in implementing the program.
Even though the initial grant of $50,000 was made available by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (the Deputy Minister’s own Ministry), further grants totaling to $ 5,000,000, for the broad implementation of the project all over the State were due shortly from the Finance Ministry, to be disbursed in two monthly installments. “As noted earlier, Deputy Ministers are assigned specific powers directly or through the Treasury Board under certain provisions of key acts of public administration without reference to their Minister.
Specifically, the Financial Administration Act confers directly on Deputy Minister’s responsibility for the prudent management of resources allocated to their department, in compliance with certain Treasury Board policies, regulations, standards, and periodic audits. Responsibility relating to personnel management, including appointment, employer-employee relations, and the organization of the department, are assigned to deputy ministers directly by a number of acts…” (Review of…)
Therefore, the Deputy Ministers have multiple accountabilities. To their Minister and the various Statutory Commissions constituted by the Government for controlling. But the Minister of the Department is the immediate and legal boss and he is answerable to the Minister, as for the general Management of the Department. The Deputy Minister needs to control and ensure that appropriate systems, management processes and instruments are maintained properly so that the performance monitoring goes on smoothly.
The role of the Internal audit system for inspection and evaluation is very important and the surprise element of deployment of the staff designated for the purpose helps for a neat and clean administration. Irregularities and malpractices in the disbursement of financial allocations/grants need to be reported to the Deputy Minister well in time, for timely action. In the present case…. The Awareness Campaign conducted by the two NGOs had salutary effect on the students. Stunning facts came to the light that about 45-50% of the girl students, smoked, took alcohol and drugs. The percentage among the boys was about 70%.
Mostly it was peer pressure, and as found during the Campaign, secret drug joints functioned in the vicinity of the educational institutions. Some peddlers visited the students at conspicuous places nearby on fixed days of the week. But the contents of the Awareness Campaign, lectures on the harmful effects of drugs, practical demonstration through slides/video/audio etc. had desired effects on majority of the students. Many openly declared that they were quite ignorant about the drastically damaging effects on health, by intoxication. Some students volunteered to attend counseling classes at the offices of the NGOs on regular basis.
Such awareness campaigns have created highly positive effects on the impressionist minds of the youth. The above observations will place the Deputy Minister in a strong position to recommend to the Finance Minister for release of the intended grant of $ 5,000,000 for conduction of such Awareness Campaigns as a matter of policy, all over the State. For one round of Awareness Campaign consisting of two lectures on two altenative dates, expenses devolved are $ 1000, per day. An ad-hoc department is created in the Ministry by transferring suitable senior personnel on deputation basis and junior staff by fresh appointment.
A skeleton Section has been formed to look after the immediate administrative needs. The priority of this Ministry is to build up diligent cadres who have a high sense of responsibility in relation to ethical morality. To involve in Awareness Campaigns related to drug demand reduction, one needs to develop missionary zeal. One needs to have a vision, not the legal government-employee relationship only. By saving one individual from deep drug addiction, an entire generation is rehabilitated. Conclusion: Can the Awareness Campaigns deliver tangible results in the area of drug demand reduction?
The answer is in the positive. In view of the social conditions obtaining today, when the children are not assured the love they desire and deserve from the parents, due to reasons mentioned above, the School seems to be the place where they can get life-building exercises and lessons. Some of the reformed students have volunteered to actively participate and don the role of reformers, for the benefit of children in other schools. This is a highly positive development. It is now proved beyond doubt that holistic approach to cure drug addicts gives permanent results and the chances of relapse are minimal.
So, the intended policy of the Government to associate NGOs that have the socio-spiritual approach, seems to be sound and adoption of this system is throughy recommended. ————— References Cited: Article: The Accountability of Deputy Ministers before Parliament (PRB-05-48E). www. parl. gc. ca/information/library/PRBpubs/prb0548-e. htm – 29k Article: Review of the Responsibilities and Accountabilities of Ministers … This is the general accountability of deputy ministers to the Treasury Board… www. tbs-sct. gc. ca/report/rev-exa/ar-er04_e. asp – 21k

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