Having served in Nepal’s Civil Service for more than three decades, secretary of Public Service Commission SHYAM PRASAD MAINALI is a known expert in the sector. As the nation is celebrating the Civil Service Day, secretary Mainali took time out from his busy schedule to talk to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:
How do you take the Civil Service Day in relation to enhancing the effectiveness of Civil Service in Nepal?
The convention of celebrating the Civil Service Day has strongly stressed the identity of the Civil Service in the country. On the auspicious occasion of this day, every year, some of the civil servants, showing outstanding performance, are honored with Civil Service Awards as provisioned in the Civil Service Rules. Likewise, this celebration not only motivates but also inspires the civil servants to perform their duties and responsibilities better. This is also the Day, when every civil servant re-internalizes his/her promises for serving the people efficiently and honestly. In addition, this is the Day when the civil employees enjoy the opportunities to display their talents, and interests in various disciplines and fields, that are always directly or indirectly contributing in enriching their professional capabilities.
It is often reported that political interventions in Civil Service is making the Civil Service unstable. What measures do you suggest for making it a more stable institution?
It is a well known truism that for the effective operation of any organization, it requires visionary leadership, professionalism, well motivated employees, harmonious relationship with its customers and work-friendly environment. Among the environmental factors, political stability is the most significant. An organization cannot accelerate its productivity to the desired extent when it lacks amicable political surroundings. Various dimensions of the Nepalese Civil Service have been affected by political instability. For reducing political interference in the Civil Service, there must be political consensus among all the major political parties to allow the Civil Service to run in accordance with the legal provisions by accepting the neutrality and fairness of the Civil Service. All the steps of the career development of the employees must be determined by the legally defined indicators. The prevailing environment of searching for the political support by an employee for any dimension of his / her career development must be eliminated in practical scenario too.
Having served in the Civil Service for such a long time, what shortcomings do you see in it?
As mentioned earlier, political interference in the process of administrative decision making is the most de-motivating factor for employees, especially working in higher echelons. Likewise, low opportunity for developing professionalism, lack of measuring indicators for assessing the performance of the employees, low salary, etc, are the major shortcomings of our Civil Service.
What is the state of Civil Service after introduction of 24 (gha)? Do you think this kind of system is justifiable?
In order to raise the level of motivation and uplift the morale of the employees, the present provision of the article 24 (gha-1) should be amended and simultaneously an enabling environment must be created.
When there is politicization at all the levels, what role can the Public Service Commission play to shield Civil Service from influences of politics?
Since the Public Service Commission has been a reliable guardian of the civil servants and it has been successful to win the trust of the people till now, civil servants expect its significant role in making the Civil Service politically neutral.
How do you see the scenario developing in the process of making Civil Service more inclusive in terms of ethnicity, gender and caste?
Various laws related to the Civil Service have made various provisions to make the Civil Service inclusive. Due to these provisions, the representation of the women, ethnic groups and the people from socially and economically backward areas is increasing in the Civil Service. However, some more provisions and arrangements seem necessary to make it more inclusive and functional. For example, it would me much more effective if the affirmative action in the Civil Service be defined on the basis of human development index, and other equitable measures be added for enabling the youths, especially belonging to the ultra poor of concerned groups as mentioned above.
What are the major challenges in the Civil Service now?
Professionalism, political neutrality, higher level of motivation and morale, effective service delivery and gaining the trust of the people are the major prevailing challenges of the Civil Service. Moreover, satisfying the rising expectations of the people with limited resources is another big challenge. Likewise, achieving international standards and global competitiveness is also an alarming challenge.
What is needed to make Civil Service an apolitical institution?
A higher level political consensus is the utmost need of the hour for making Civil Service apolitical. The trade unions of the civil servants should focus on developing professionalism and ensuring civil servants for their overall career development on the basis of their level of performance. I think these are the basic measures to make the Civil Service an apolitical institution.
Are you satisfied with the role of the Public Service Commission?
We must be proud of the success of the Public Service Commission in maintaining people's trust even in the state of transition. Nevertheless, it has to make much more efforts to develop it into an apolitical institution. Following the spirit of the current constitution, the Government of Nepal is making vigorous efforts to ensure inclusive governance. In this context, some affirmative action has been provisioned in the Civil Service Act too. To materialize the spirit of inclusive governance, the Public Service Commission is making a study to broaden its mechanism so that the candidates, especially from the remote places, can have a convenient place for appearing in competitions conducted by the Public Service Commission near their home-towns.
Do you think amendment to the Civil Service Act is necessary now?
It is a popular saying that law is never perfect. Considering this fact, there are many avenues for amendments in the Civil Service Act also. But before amending the Act, there must be an intensive study and homework as well as effective interaction among the stakeholders so that it can be much more functional and effective in the changed context.