Following wide debates, finally LEELA MANI PAUDYAL, is appointed as the chief secretary of the government of Nepal, succeeding his predecessor Madhav Prasad Ghimire, who formally retired recently. A man known for his hot temperament, Paudyal, who also worked as the consulate general in Lhasa, was appointed to the top bureaucratic job, creating some ripples in the civil service. Some secretaries tendered resignation following Paudyal's appointment. As Nepal has been passing through a very unstable political situation, the challenges before Paudyal are how to translate high expectations into reality.
As some secretaries tendered resignation after your appointment as the chief secretary, how do you look at this?
I don't see any point in such resignations. The Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Regulation provide clear basis for promotion of secretary from joint secretary and chief secretary from secretary. According to the act and regulations, the promotion will be made on the basis of working capability and seniority. We all 27 joint secretaries were promoted on the same day in 2007, on October 11. We all were promoted as joint secretaries between 1996 to 2002. Some are joint secretaries since 1992; they retired without being promoted as secretary. They were senior to us and retired not on any ground or charges. Some retied joint secretaries were more capable than us. They even worked under us as joint secretaries. Those who are now raising the voices about seniority were not seen at that time.
Don't you think your promotion violated seniority criteria?
I have already told you about the criteria for promotion of secretary. Had seniority been the only provision for the promotion, Trilochan Uprety would have been promoted and all 12 of us would have gone home. All 13 of us tried to become the chief secretary and those who are raising the issue of seniority were in the forefront of the race. There is no reason now to start the foul cry.
What steps would you take for administrative reforms?
Sometimes, I feel anxious when I see so many bad precedents and practices prevailing in the civil service. I don't know from when and where to start. If I get involved in petty issues, I will lose momentum for broader reforms. My aim is to go for broader reforms with long term implications and not to run behind actions and reactions which will ruin my creativeness.
What reforms do you expect?
The time has come now to make civil servants responsible to the service seekers rather than certain individuals. If one wants to make drastic changes in the civil service, there is the need to revamp the present act, but that is not possible in the present circumstances. Don't raise expectations high in present context.
How do you contain indiscipline in the civil service?
Our system is not different than previous favoritism of the Panchayat days. There is no scientific hire and fire system. After 1990, we have made a provision under which we cannot fire any employee. This secure situation has turned our civil service into lethargic, incompetent and undisciplined lot.
How do you control irresponsible acts of unions?
I individually cannot do it alone. It is not true that everything is bad in trade unions. There is the need to move ahead by agreeing on common agenda. Elections are mandatory for trade unions and secretary of General Administrator is creating some point of agreement.
How do you control the corruption in civil service?
The more you are accountable, the less the possibilities of corruption. We need to strengthen the system to make civil servants accountable to service providers. The government has already announced anti-corruption strategy recently. If it is implemented properly, corruption will decline.
Is it possible to work independently in the present context when the society and the civil society has been polarized in a big way?
We have to learn to work within the limitations. Nobody can enjoy or exercise absolute independence. In this context, it is important to exercise the individual independence in the context.
It is reported that you were promoted to secretary and chief secretary under some influences. How can you establish your independent posture?
I can tear my chest to show Ram in my heart. However, my promotion is based on my efficiency. I can challenge anybody to prove that I have taken any decision favoring the Maoist Party. I am not promoted to the chief secretary as a party loyalist. I am promoted to chief secretary because I was secretary. Had not I been a senior secretary, nobody would have promoted me. I am promoted to chief secretary on the basis of my seniority and work performance. I will work under the rule of law and it will not make any difference whoever is in the power.
(Based on Nepal and BBC)