Secretary BALANANDA PAUDEL joined civil service in 1988 as a section officer. Paudel was promoted to under secretary in 1994. He became a joint secretary in 1995 through an open competition. The young government officer worked his way up to become a secretary four years ago. He served at the Ministry of Education before his transfer to the Ministry of General Administration. As Nepal is celebrating the Civil Service Day, secretary Paudel spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues related to general administration. Excerpts:
As the country has been passing through an unstable political phase, how do you see the role of civil service, which is regarded as the permanent government?
We are feeling the heat of unstable politics too. Civil service is encountering difficulties as the country is in a transition from one system to another. It is natural to see changes in institutions, processes and methods. The civil service faces challenges in internalizing such changes.
How do you see political intervention?
Of course, we also see certain trend among civil servants to invite political interventions. However, the role of civil service is to work within the laws and regulations. There are certain norms and values. Efforts have seldom been made to interpret such laws, regulations and norms to suit the personal interest. It is true that expectation of people is high.
What are the challenges?
At this stage, there is a great challenge in front of civil service. When the country has been going through transition, civil service cannot be an exception. Even in such a difficult stage, civil service is delivering its service. We must take this into account. Had it not worked properly, the situation would have gone much worse. We may not be able to function as expected by the people but civil service is delivering something to them. Despite all hostile situations, bureaucracy has been working. From village development committees to district administration offices, all government institutions are working. This is important to note. We need to change so many things, including behavior, working patterns and procedures. We need to recognize this.
Whatever civil service may have done in this period, nobody is treating it with civility. Instead, political parties, people within civil service, common people, and civil society members criticize it as if it was an evil? How do you look at this?
The role and responsibility of civil service is not just to fulfill the wishes of political parties. Civil service should not work under influence of political parties. Rather it should work under the policy of the state. Whoever may lead the state, we have to abide and follow their policies and guidelines. In this way, civil service might defy the pressure of political parties. So far as the implementation of the national policy is concerned, I don’t think any civil servant can defy it. There are problems related to the enhancement of efficiency, effectiveness, and job, but civil servants have been working properly in their jobs. As human beings, civil servants have certain weaknesses. There used to surface issues related to corruption, transparency, disloyalty to job, and so on. But I don’t think there is any justification in looking at civil service as an evil service. If individuals think this way, the civil service will be ruined.
Recently you have decided something on the secretaries system?
It seems that you are pointing to two secretary system. Earlier, it was introduced without any proper study. At the implementation stage, two secretary system created a number of problems. Basically, we have seen a number of problems. When they created a position for secretary without clearly designating corresponding role, conflict of role as well as conflict of goal appeared. This way the position of secretary became defunct as well as weak. Due to this, the secretary was unable to play the leadership role. This is the reason the government has decided to remove the dual secretary system in the bureaucracy.
How many secretaries are there?
Out of 80000 civil servants, there are 64 secretaries right now.
You represent the younger generation as a secretary. How do you balance the seniority versus competitiveness aspects in bureaucracy?
In the promotion of a civil servant, seniority should be a criterion along with competiveness. Seniority is also something important as a person who is promoted on the basis of seniority is experienced and rich in his own job. A bureaucrat needs to have knowledge, experience and expertise.
How many systems of promotion are there now?
In our promotional systems, there are three or four ladders. Firstly, the later entry point under which a bureaucrat is promoted in the shortest period of time is through open competition. I was promoted to joint secretary through this ladder. Along with internal competition, seniority, the recent one is under the clause 24 (d) of Nepal Civil Service Act. Another provision is one layer promotion at the time of retirement. One can use different ladders for promotion according to the capability of a person.
Although the new clause 24 (d) of Nepal Civil Service Act, which was added in the 2nd amendment, guarantees the promotion for those who complete 15 years’ tenure, this is reportedly creating the problems in civil service as a whole lot of people are promoted to senior posts. How do you look at this?
Many civil servants, who were not promoted to higher positions for a long period, are now promoted to upper position under the clause 24 (d) of Civil Service Act. They are working in the same position despite promotion. This situation is creating a lot of problems in civil service. The clause introduced to settle the problems has generated other problems. There are more than 15,000 civil servants who are promoted under this provision. If this continues, it will destroy our civil service.
Will you see the change in the present situation?
I am very happy that there is a realization among all of us about this grave situation. Along with promotion, there come four things. A person who is promoted gets new position with a new name. He or she will get a higher pay scale. However, they remain in same position. There is a wide psychological gap between the civil servants who are promoted under clause 24 (d) and promoted through other regular process. In real sense, the employees who are promoted under 24 (d) are yet to feel that they are promoted.
Since the promulgation of the first Civil Service Act in 1957 and Civil Service Regulations 1965 and current civil service act and civil service regulations, almost all amendments are taking place in the clause related to promotion. Why is it so?
I agree with you that such amendment should not have been made on the clause related to promotion. If you see the last 50 years’ history, during Panchayat period of 29 years, the clause related to promotion was amendment 34 times. Even after the restoration of democracy, the target is again the clause related to promotion. No one can deny the fact that there is something wrong before making several of those amendments.
If that is so, why you are proposing amendment to the clause related to promotion again?
This is not our wish but a compulsion. There is no way other than to amend the clause to adjust and rehabilitate the persons who are promoted under the clause 24 (d). Otherwise, it will create a lot of problems in future. We are also proposing new amendment keeping in mind as to how to strengthen hiring and firing system where the right person is appointed and the person who does wrong is penalized. We want to make the system work.
At a time when Nepal’s development partners have been stressing the need to have efficient, capable and transparent civil service, how do see they have played their role in supporting civil service?
You cannot improve the situation in civil service just by accusing the civil servants. Of course, Nepal’s donor partners have been providing some support to civil service in the areas of training. Frankly speaking, we are unable to use it systematically and on a timely basis. There are lapses in government’s part as well as on part of development partners. One thing is certain that you need to have an efficient, capable and transparent civil service to effectively carry out development works. One must realize this. There is the need to impart program and plan specific training.