The Administrative Procedure actually means Office Procedure which everybody in the Government is required to follow. It is collected in a form called “Manual Office Procedure”. The office machinery starts functioning when some letter or application from outside reaches the department.
That letter or application is received by a clerk known as Receipt Clerk. The clerk registers that in the Receipt Register and the Receipt number is put on that.
The Receipt Clerk sends it to appropriate operating section. At this stage it enters in the File. It is sent to the Section Assistant who forwards it to the Section Officer with his note. The Section Officer puts his note upon it and sends it up to the Branch Officer who further forwards it to the Deputy Secretary. The Deputy Secretary passes it on to the Secretary or Joint Secretary.
Finally it reaches the Minister, Prime Minister and eventually to the President. This seems to be a simple procedure, though actually it is not so simple. The long and cumbrous office procedure has been well portrayed by Charles Dickens in his famous novel ‘Little Dorrit’.
He terms it the circumlocution office which had to go through “half a score of memoranda, half a bushal of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda and a family vault—full of ungrammatical correspondence…” Even then the case had not reached the decision stage because the “great art taught in that office and by the method of circumlocution, was how not to do it.”
He further says, “The Prime Minister, Minor Minister, Civil servants of all grades learn this art. All kinds of people—mechanicals, neutral philosophers, soldiers, sailors, petitioners, memorializes—and all kinds of subjects—wrongs, projects for the general welfare, all the business of the country went through the Circumlocution Office and method—except the business that never came out of it and its name was legion.”
There is no denying the fact that in between the receipt clerk and the minister or the President, there might be many coming-backs and going-ups. Each officer would add his own note, memorandum or minute. Old records would be looked into, precedents would be discovered, and information from various sources would be gathered.
The case may require consultation and discussion with another Department, Ministry or State Government or even a foreign government or even private associations, groups or individuals.
Thus the file by this time becomes a file of correspondence, notes, minutes and memoranda. At long last, a stage for decision reaches. Thereafter, there begins the final downwards journey of the file. The return journey will not be so protracted if it does not fall in the hands of a sluggish officer.
Ultimately, the file reaches the Assistant who dispatches the draft to the typist. The typist types it, sends it to the examiner who passes it on to the section officer for signature. After his signatures are obtained the draft goes to the registry Office for dispatch and thereafter the file goes to the record office for record.
In this procedure, the File System and Records System require more elaboration:
(A) File System:
The entire office procedure revolves round the Filing System. The dictionary meaning of the term ‘File’ is a “line or wire on which papers are placed.” In the office terminology, it connotes a device for holding papers arranged for reference. It means the collection of papers pertaining to a question which is confronting the government for decision and action.
All papers are kept in two categories, viz., notes and correspondence. Correspondence comprises all communication received and office copies of outgoing communication. ‘Notes’ contain notes recorded on a paper under consideration of a Fresh Receipt. They are arranged chronologically those reaching first kept at the bottom under separate covers. All communications are assigned serial numbers.
The material collected for the sake of understanding is given in the Appendix of correspondence. Likewise statements and information elucidating the points in notes are arranged, separately under separate covers and are appended to Notes. The papers are thus ‘docketed’.
The whole set is then placed in a large folder with a folio sized cardboard to serve as the bed and the whole collection held by tape knotted on the top, correspondence being placed on the bottom and notes upon it. This makes a file. All files are registered in a File Register. One such Register is found in each department.
Recording means ‘the process of closing a file after action on all the issues under consideration has been completed. When action on the file is taken, it comes back to the Assistant who with the approval of the Section Officer classifies the file. Three classes of Files exist— Class A, Class B and Class C.
Class A comprises those files in which important questions have been discussed or which contain orders establishing important precedents or general instructions or ruling of a permanent importance and will be frequently needed by the Government for reference.
Class B comprises those files which contain orders and instructions of permanent importance. They are not so often required for reference.
Class C includes files of ephemeral nature.
Further Class A means ‘keep and print’. Class B signifies ‘keep, but do not print’. Class C indicates—’Destroy after a specified number of years’.
After the classification of files, the Assistant sends them to the Indexing Clerk who indexes them. That makes the finding out of a file easy. Thereafter the Daftary of the section, after stitching it neatly, keeps it in the bundle of recorded files.
The File remains in the section for not more than three years. Thereafter, the File will be kept in the record room of the Ministry concerned. It will remain here for not more than five years. Later on, it will be dispatched to the Central Secretariat record room. Henceforth, it will become a permanent treasure of the National Archives.
It may also be relevant to describe the functions of various grades of officers working in the department:
The administrative head of a Ministry or Department is Secretary to the Government. He acts as principal adviser of the Minister on all matters of policy and administration concerning the department. His responsibility is indivisible and his responsibility is complete.
2. Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary/Special Secretary:
If the work of a Ministry is voluminous and beyond the manageable limits of a single individual one or more wings are created with Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary/Special Secretary as in-charge of the wings.-He is equipped with the maximum measure of independent functioning and is entrusted with responsibility in respect of the business falling within the purview of the wing.
However, overall responsibility of the Secretary for the administration of the wing persists.
3. Director/Deputy Secretary:
The Deputy Secretary or the Director acts on behalf of the Secretary. He is made in-charge of a Secretarial division and is responsible for the disposal of Government business conducted within the division. Ordinarily he disposes of the majority of the cases under his own responsibility. It is his discretion to seek directions or orders of the higher officers on more important cases verbally or in writing.
4. Under Secretary:
An Under Secretary holds a Branch in a Ministry which comprises two or more sections. He exercises control over the Branch as regards despatch of business and maintenance of discipline. The sections under him send the work direct to him. He disposes of as many cases as possible on his own responsibility. However, on important cases he gets orders of the Deputy Secretary or other higher officers.
5. Section Officer:
He is quite a pivotal officer. His duties are multifarious as given below:
(i) He is concerned with maintenance of discipline in the section.
(ii) He is to coordinate the work of the section.
(iii) He is responsible for assigning work to the assistants as evenly as possible.
(iv) He is to assist, advise and train the staff
(v) He is to maintain list of residential addresses of the staff.
(b) To Attend to Dak:
(i) He is to attend to the daily correspondence.
(ii) He is to pursue as to which receipts (Dak deliveries) are to be communicated to the Branch Officer and which are to be sent to the higher officers.
(iii) He is to see to the prompt movement of Dak and check any hold up.
(iv) He scrutinizes the diary of the section once a week and sees to its proper maintenance.
(c) Issue of Drafts:
(i) He is to see that drafts prepared are in perfect order and all corrections are duly effected before submission to higher authorities.
(ii) To see whether or not all relevant documents are attached with the draft (shown as enclosures).
(iii) To indicate priorities on the draft.
(iv) To explain mode of dispatch.
(v) To suggest number of spare copies required.
(d) To See to Expeditious Disposal of Work:
(i) He is to see that cases are not held up at any stage.
(ii) He is to see that arrears of work and other returns are submitted in time.
(iii) He is to appraise periodical returns every week and take prompt action on items necessitating attention next week.
(iv) To inspect Assistants’ tables to ensure that no paper or file have been overlooked.
(v) He is to maintain a note of important receipts and keep a regular watch on progress of action.
(e) Independent Function-Ship:
(i) He is to take independent steps regarding procuring or supplying of factual information of a non-classified nature.
(ii) He is to issue reminders to negligent officials under him.
(iii) The government can authorize him to take any independent action.
(f) Recording and Indexing:
(i) To ratify the recording of files and their classification.
(ii) To supervise periodic weeding of unwanted spare copies
(iii) To ensure proper maintenance of registers in the section.
(iv) To review the file which is to be destroyed.
(i) To deal with important and complicated cases personally
(ii) To ensure neatness and tidiness in the section.
(iii) To see to the strict compliance with Departmental security instructions.
6. Private Secretary/Personal Assistant:
(i) He is to keep the officer free from the worries of a routine nature by:
(a) Mailing correspondence
(b) Filing papers
(c) Fixing appointments with his boss
(d) Arranging meeting and collecting information.
(ii) He takes dictation in short hand and transcripts it.
(iii) He is to screen the telephone calls and the visitors tactfully
(iv) He is to maintain an accurate list of engagement and meetings and keep his officer duly informed.
(v) He is p keep a note of the movement of files passed by his officer and other officers if necessary.
(vi) He carries out the corrections to the officers reference books.
(vii) He is to relieve the boss of much of his routine duties and assist him in a manner directed by him.
(i) He prepares a draft without unnecessary noting where line of action in a case is clear or where the section officer has given clear-instructions.
(ii) In other cases he puts up a note keeping in view as to whether all facts have been correctly stated.
(iii) He points out any mistakes or misstatements of the facts.
(iv) He draws attention to precedents or rules on the subject.