Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit (Paper -
Union Government and Administration: Attached offices
The manual of office procedure defines these offices as where
the execution of the policy of the Government requires decentralisation of
executive direction and the establishment of field agencies, a Ministry has
under it subsidiary offices which are called attached and subordinate offices.
Attached offices are responsible for providing executive direction required in
the implementation of the policies laid down by the ministry to which they are
attached. They also serve as repository of technical information and advice to
the ministry on technical aspects of questions dealt with by them. The
subordinate offices function as field establishment or the agencies responsible
for the detailed execution of the decisions of Government. They generally
function under the direction of an attached office, or in cases where the volume
of executive direction involved, is not considerable, directly under the
Organisation of Attached Offices
The organisation of these offices differs from that of
ministries and departments, usually the head of such an office is a technical
officer called Registrar, Director General or Chief Engineer, etc. Below him
there are a few technical or nontechnical officers who help him in his duties.
The proportion of technical and non-technical Secretariat Officers differ from
office to office. There is, no common pattern of organisation of attached
offices. The status of heads of these offices is also not same. Some of them are
headed by an Additional Secretary or Joint Secretary while some others are
headed by a Deputy Secretary or Director.
The staff of these offices come from the General Secretariat Service upto the
rank of Section Officers.
The attached office have dual function. They provide
technical information for the policy formulation as well an executive direction
for its implementation. They are considered field organisations because they not
only issue executive directions to the subordinate offices, but are also
responsible for its implementation. They have to coordinate the activities of
the subordinate offices and keep the Secretariat informed about the various
problems faced in the implementation of the policies. The attached offices,
thus, could be considered as the headquarters of the field organisation rather
than an extension of the Secretariat.
Relationship between the Attached and Subordinate Offices
The Manual of Office Procedure does attempt to demarcate the
spheres of activity of the two categories of offices. According to it, the
attached offices “are responsible for providing executive direction required in
the implementation of the policies laid down by the Ministry to which they are
attached.” In other words, such an office plays dual role, that of directing the
subordinate offices below and submitting proposals to the secretariat
above. On the other hand, a subordinate office is a mere field agency
“responsible for the detailed execution of the decisions of the Government.”
Such a role is by no means unimportant. In fact, being at “the delivering of
goods end,” its role can be very crucial. In actual practice, however, we find
no such clear-cut distinction of functions as between the two categories of
offices. At best such distinction is blurred. Even the Manual recognises that
though the subordinate offices generally function under the direction of the
attached offices, in some cases they may function directly under the ministry.
This makes confusion worse confounded. As early as 1945-46, Tottenham exclaimed
in exasperation, “No one has ever been able to arrive at a really satisfactory
definition of an Attached Office.” The only justification for such a distinction
seems to be to justify lower scales of pay for the ministerial staff in
subordinate than in attached offices. Tottenham, therefore, recommended the
abolition of distinction between the two categories of offices. The First Pay
Commission, 1950 also found such distinction “artificial” and recommended its
abolition. It recommended the regrouping of offices into three categories: (i)
policy-making organization, that is, secretariat proper; (ii) offices of the
executive heads and advisory organizations; and (iii) offices subordinate to the
above two categories. The Second Pay Commission, 1959 also suggested a
functional classification based upon two criteria, namely, that offices which
were associated with the shaping of policy by furnishing technical data and
advice and by giving executive directions to the field agencies and which were
responsible for implementing the policies of the government, should be
designated as Attached Offices; while offices mainly responsible for the
execution of government policies and programmes, should be called Subordinate
offices. The Administrative Reforms Commission examined the problem in the wider
context of secretariat and non-secretariat organizations and their relationship
and made certain recommendations. However, despite all the above recommendations
the older pattern still continues. But, while the attached offices have been
able to better the conditions of service of their employees and achieve a higher
status almost co-equal to that of the secretariat, the subordinate offices
continue to slog in their subordinate status.
The Secretariat formulates policies and operative directions
to ensure the implementation of policies while implementation of policies takes
place at the field level, hence, the organisation of the field office is of
great importance. Generally, the field office is organised on a geographical
basis in India and each Ministry of the Government of India has its field
offices covering a local area within a State. India is a very vast country,
therefore, for each department of the Government of India it is not, possible to
deal directly with all field offices. Hence, most of the departments have state
level or regional level (including more than one State) offices in an area.
The functions of the Government have become increasingly
complex and multifarious. Therefore, in addition to the traditional departmental
organisations a number of other forms like company, corporations. etc., have
come up to perform the governmental functions. The expansion of the business
activities of the government has given birth to two new forms of organisations
Government Company and Statutory Corporations. Likewise, many Registered
Societies have been established to handle research’ and training activities.
The number of executive agencies or field agencies of the Government may be
classified into the following categories:
(i) An attached office, for example, Central Public Works Department,
Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and storage etc.
(ii) A subordinate office, e.g., Sardar Patel National Police Academy,
Hyderabad, Inspector of Explosives, Nagpur, etc.
(iii) Departmental Undertakings, e.g., ordinance factories,
(iv) A Company registered under the Companies Act, e.g., Hindustan Steels Ltd.
(v) A Corporation or Board set up under a Special Statute e.g. Damodar Valley
Corporation, Tea Board, Coffe Board, Tobacco Board, etc.
(vi) A Society registered under the Societies Registration Act e.g., Indian
Institute of Foreign Trade.
Pattern of Relationship between the Secretariat and the Field Office
In actual working of the Secretariat and the field offices,
different kind of relationships between the two agencies have developed in
different organisations. Therefore, it would be pertinent here to discuss these
The first pattern, is a complete merger between the Ministry
and the attached offices. The examples are the Railway Board and the Ministry of
Railways ; Posts and Telegraphs Board and the Ministry of Communication. This
pattern suits to the organizations which are dealing with operation and
commercial functions. The problems arising, are of emergent nature, therefore,
merger of policy making and executive functions leads to efficiency. Second, the
senior officer of the Ministry along with his position in the Ministry. is
appointed as Head of the Attached office. In this way he becomes responsible for
the formulation and implementation of the policy; with the assistance of common
office staff located in the Ministry. Examples are: The Joint Secretary in the
Department of Labour and Employment who is also the Director-General of
Employment and Training. Similarly, the Additional Secretary in the Department
of Food is also the Director General of Food.
The merit of the system is that it eliminates the distance
between the Secretariat and the attached office. The demerit is that it blurs,
the distinction between the Secretariat and the head of the executive
department. Therefore, it is not suitable for general application.
Third, the Ministry and the executive department have
separate offices but common files and a single file bureau or records cell.
located in the organisation of the executive department. The attached office
submits proposals on its own files and refers the Ministry along with the papers
complete in all respects. After the proposal is disposed off by the Ministry,
the file is returned to the executive head. The single file system has been
adopted by many ministries and attached offices. The example is the Ministry of
Defence and the Air-Force Headquarters. The advantages of this system is that it
avoids duplication of files, saves lot of time and decisions are taken quickly.
Fourth, in this pattern, the Ministry and the executive department both have a
common office, common files and a common file bureau, under the control of the
executive department. The common office serves the Secretariat and attached
office and the clerical staff puts up papers for both the sets of officers. At
the secretariat level all noting is done by the officers of and above the rank
of under Secretary. Such a system was in
operation in the Directorate-General of Posts and Telegraphs before the
formation of the Posts and Telegraph Board.
This pattern was recommended by the Second Pay Commission and
Estimates Committee of the Lok Sabha. The advantage is that in this system a
proposal is examined only once which results in quick disposal of business and
saves lot of money.
Fifth, in this pattern the Ministry and the executive
department (attach office) have separate offices and separate files but the head
of the attach office is given an ex-officio Secretariat status. The example is
that of textile Commissioner who is ex-officio Joint Secretary in the Ministry
of Textiles. The merits of the system are, that the head of the attached office
brought in closer contact with the Ministry’s office. gets more closely involved
in policy making and gets certain powers to take decisions on some matters. The
system saves lot of time and makes field experience available to the Secretariat
in a greater measure to enable it to take decisions. The demerit of the system
is that it violates the principle of separation of policy making and
implementation on which the Secretariat is based.
Sixth, in this pattern both the Ministry and the executive
department have distinct and separate offices and files of their own.
Consultation between them takes place through self-contained communications. The
pattern is based on the difference between staff and line. The Ministry is staff
and the attached office is line. The examples are the office of the Chief
Engineer. Central Public Works Department in relation to the Ministry of Works
and Housing. and the Director-General of All India Radio in relation to the
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The merits of the system are claimed as it scrutinizes the
proposals in wider perspective, controls the enthusiastic specialist by
scrutinizing his proposals and provides for the division of work between the
Secretariat and the attached office. On the other hand the demerits of the
scheme are that it involves duplication of work being processed in two offices,
proposals of the head of the department are examined by the clerical staff level
in the Ministry and the Secretary’s views are hardly detached and objective but
full of political considerations.
The above patterns of organisation represent the attempts at
bridging the gulf between Secretariat and non-Secretariat organisations through
devices such as giving of ex-officio Secretariat status to the heads of the
executive agencies; introduction of the single file system, placement of
executive agencies, etc. Recently, some other measures were also taken to remove
the deficiencies in the system. Important among them are, giving them greater
autonomy by liberal delegation of authority from the Secretariat to them.
Frequent consultation can solve lot of problems, therefore, proposals should be
formulated after consultation with each other and the most radical suggestion is
the abolition of distinction between the Secretariat and non- Secretariat
organisations. The Study Team of the Administrative Reforms Commission on the
Machinery of the Government of India, recommended in February 1968, the
abolition of distinction between the two.
The ARC in its report (September 1968), however, opposed to
the general abolition of the distinction between the Secretariat and its
executive agencies, even though the Commission was emphatically of the opinion
“that there should be no duplication of functions between its Secretariat
organisation and the executive agencies of a Ministry or Department.” The
Commission analysed the work of attached and subordinate offices and found that
broadly speaking it could be divided into the following six categories.