Chief Secretary Dr. Som Lal Subedi is retiring next week to join the Asian Development Bank as an alternative Executive Member. Although he spent just two years of his tenure in the top job in bureaucracy, he got to work with four different prime ministers and three different governments. As Dr. Subedi is leaving, he spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT at his office. Excerpts:
How do you see your tenure on the top civil service job?
During my two years, the new constitution was promulgated and the governments were set up as per the new constitution. Most important part is the local level elections. Territorial reforms and elections of new structures took place at the same time. This is a rare incident of reform. I encountered the issues of reconstruction and blockade. The country has moved from a unitary to a federal state. The process has been really challenging. There was no preparation at all for the change. We started from zero. When I am leaving now, everything is moving smoothly. This is itself a major achievement. Although the job was very difficult, I handled it smoothly. Whether it is an issue of NCELL tax or other decisions, I always worked by putting the country’s interest first. I did not budge before any decision against the existing law and constitution.
Are you satisfied with your performance?
I don’t have any reason to be dissatisfied. I always keep in my mind the country's interest all the time. No matter who pressured me, I always followed the constitution and law.
What steps have you taken to reform administration?
Just a few days after my appointment, I initiated certain reform programs by announcing the Administrative Reform Plan. Since the focus of politicians is on the transitional management, they have not found much time to implement it to make civil service more effective in service delivery. One of the achievements is the Electricity Management. The transition has been more easily managed. With two bills, including the Local Level Bill and Civil Service Bill, we have already transferred the civil servants with interim arrangements. All the ministries have already transferred their employees and some of them are still doing the work. What I can say is that the process of adjustment of civil servants in the interim period is nearly complete.
How do you see the problem then?
There is a dispute of mindset. As per our management, work responsibility, human resources, financial resources need to go together. Under this principle, we have already started the transfer of employees. If all follow the principle as per the constitution, I don’t see there is any problem. If all employees work by putting themselves first, problems appear. We have very cautiously arranged the deputation of civil servants at the local level. This will work. This will be balanced.
What kinds of relations do you want to see between politician and bureaucrats?
Since the promulgation of the constitution, we have implemented many things with support from the politicians. If politicians also work proactively like civil servants, the situation will be much better. As the politicians have the people’s mandate, it is easier for them to take decisions than for bureaucrats. After the promulgation of the new constitution, the challenges are also in the management of civil service. Had we done it a decade ago, the country would not have to see the present situation.
What is required is the vision and proactive nature among the politicians. They need to have strong commitments to implement the programs.
After the elections of local level, do you think any change in the delivery system is happening?
Following the elections, representatives have a bigger responsibility. They need to mobilize more revenues at the local level. They have to launch programs with little investments and big results. The local level can levy the service tax. For this, they need to promote the local activities.
What are the challenges?
The big challenges are our mindset. Despite the fact that the present constitution is a federal system, we still hold the view of a centralized government. All of us need to have the commitment to work as per the constitution. Even the local level leaders should utilize the local budget for the benefit of the people.
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