March 06, 2012

Fingerprint-based attendance at West Bengal

 Government employees can no longer sneak a French leave or walk out before 5.30pm. The Mamata Banerjee government is installing fingerprint readers that will record the time an employee logs in and logs out of office.
Attendance has always been a prickly issue with government employees. Many staff walk in late by simply signing in. Those who sneak out before closing time have evolved any number of smart tricks, including leaving their spectacles or bag on their table to feign that they are around and would return any time. Last week, on the day of the bandh, there was a tampering of the attendance register in the agriculture directorate at Writers’ Buildings. Some staff were absent in spite of the threat of break in service but when a headcount was ordered, the page for February28 went missing.

Once the biometric system is introduced, attendance registers will be redundant, officers said. The previous Left Front government had tried to implement it but failed. But the Mamata Banerjee administration is rolling it out with the Swasthya Bhavan (health department HQ) in April. Last week, the health department completed installing four fingerprint terminals in the lounge. The employees won’t have any card to swipe. Each terminal has a ‘reader’ to scan the fingerprint and match it to a databank.
Earlier attempts to improve attendance at government offices had a lukewarm response, but this time, officials hope to achieve success by introducing the fingerprint system in all government offices.
Generally, secretariat staff start leaving around 3.30pm and after 4.30pm there is a great rush to leave when the official check-out time is still an hour away.
Health secretary Sanjay Mitra had earlier tried to use SMS-based technology to get information about functioning of out patient departments (OPD) in government hospitals. But it was found that many hospital superintendents were sending SMSes to show that the OPDs were functioning from 9am without verifying whether there were any doctors present. In reality, many OPDs were not operating. Health officials want to install the biometric attendance system at all hospitals and health centres.
A recent survey by the health department found that staff would often indulge in ‘mini-shifts’ and instead of work far less than the mandatory 48 hours a week. Many teaching doctors were also found absent from medical college hospitals, say sources.
“The fingerprint system will help keep a tab on the doctors and staff. There will be special system for those who work in shifts,” said an official. Sources say staff of colleges and universities will also have to clock in with a biometric system.



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