Morale Question

Civil servants are celebrating the civil service day in the midst of new uncertainties following the formation of the new Maoist and Madheshi coalition government<br>KESHAB POUDEL

Sept. 9, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-06 Sept. 09-2011 (Bhadra 23,2068)<br>

With an aim to appease his coalition partners, Maoist ideologue, prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, who is projected as ‘Mr. Clean’, reportedly agreed to split two ministries into four.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry will be split into two and Housing and Physical Planning will be separated into Ministries of Urban Development and Physical Planning.

“Prime minister Dr. Bhattarai has already agreed to split these two ministries to accommodate coalition partners,” said Laxman Lal Karna, leader of Nepal Sadbhvana Party.

This is the indication about the extent to which the new government led by Maoist ideologue Dr. Bhattarai will go to please its partners.

His logical next move will be to transfer senior bureaucrats up to joint secretary level as per the demands of the ministers.

Dr. Bhattarai is not alone in taking such a decision. This is the practice in Nepal that the bureaucracy is shaken up by every new government and the ministers that it brings to power. In the past, these things were done with certain level of secrecy and this time the intervention might be naked.

Although there are institutional mechanisms, laws and regulations to manage the civil service, politicians often ignore values when the issues of transferring the civil servants come before them. Politicized within through various party affiliated civil service unions, civil service often sees ministers and other politicians getting involved in further destabilizing it.

If Public Service Commission, chief secretary and Ministry of General Administration are given their institutional role in matters related to transfer, posting and promotion of civil servants, Nepal’s civil service would have maintained its neutrality and impartiality.

Although there is a legally binding provision about civil service jobs, nobody knows when he or she will be transferred. In just over two months, the government had badly shaken the civil service by transferring large numbers of employees.

Although the Civil Service Act and Civil Service Regulation lay down the criteria and conditions for transfer of civil servants, this is rarely abided by the ministers. “The era of rule of law seems to have gone,” said a senior retired secretary on condition of anonymity.

Role of Public Service Commission

At a time when the bureaucracy has been politicized too much due to the failure of other institutions like Ministry of General Administration, the constitutional body like the Public Service Commission can play its role more effectively. Although it cannot intervene in the day to day administrative matters of the executive, it can suggest measures to improve the state of affairs for the government.

Established in Nepal on 15 June 1951 A.D, the Commission is involved in selecting meritorious candidates required by Government of Nepal for various vacant posts of the civil service. The continuity of PSC has never been hindered since its establishment. Present Constitution of Nepal 2007(2063 BS) has designated the Public Service Commission as an independent constitutional body.

There are several functions, duties and powers of PSC for which the government of Nepal is required to consult it. They pertain to the following subjects such as matters concerning the laws relating to the conditions of service of the civil servants, matters concerning the suitability of any candidate for transfer or promotion from one service to another within the civil service or any other government service to the civil service; matters concerning the permanent transfer or promotion of any employee, and matters relating to departmental actions proposed against any civil servant.

With the strength of about 80,000, Nepal’s civil service has been delivering the service to the public. Of course, there are certain weaknesses but the civil service has continued to remain as an important constant in all kinds of political changes.

“External dividing factors have also done some harms to the civil service. The civil service act permits formation of trade unions. Though it is a democratic practice, the privilege is limited to position holders from lower up to third class levels. On the surface, the provision is politically neutral but it has divided the civil servants in different ideological factions. Political parties encourage civil servants to form unions close to them and the unions, in return, seek to advance their affiliation with the political parties. Forming unions is only helping to divide people. As a result, in posting, transfer and nomination, personnel are favored or excluded on the basis of their political loyalties,” said former member of Public Service Commission Madhunidhi Tiwari.

Along with bringing political turmoil, the democratic movements of 1990 and 2006 continued to rock Nepal’s civil service.  “The transition witnessed painful political turbulence emanating from inter-party conflicts and intra-party feuds which has been reflective in the administrative efficiency. Frequent changes in the government and the political instability have affected the reform endeavors,” said Tiwari.

Since the political change of 1990, Nepal’s civil service has been passing through a painful and prolonged political transition. It seems that it will continue to do so for a long while.

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