Administrative Reform & Good Governance
National seminar organized by Administrative
Reform Recommendation Committee
07 June 2013
Ritu Raj Subedi
Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal
Like country's shambolic politics, our
bureaucracy seems to have also creaked under the strain. Stuck
in a time warp, it has been unable to embrace the values of modern
civil service - accountability, transparency, sincerity, efficiency
and result-oriented performance. Nepali civil service witnessed
many ups and downs at both political and administrative levels.
It successfully rode out the political upheavals but it could
not pass through transformative changes as per the need of the
time. Myriad initiatives were taken in the past to bring about
drastic administrative reform but they are still far from realization.
Its unresponsive nature and propensity to stick to procedural
complexities and bureaucratic jargons has deprived itself from
becoming a darling of the people. The modern approach has it that
the public servants should not only deliver customer services;
they should also deliver democracy to the people. Therefore, the
Nepalese bureaucracy has to shoulder multiple responsibilities
to live up to the public expectations in the changed context.
With the nation ushering in the federal system,
its must undergo a radical shake-up and restructuring for converting
it into an efficient and inclusive entity so that it will be
able to provide better services to the people. Keeping it away
from the political intervention and overbearing influence of
the trade unions is another big challenge for it. Against this
backdrop, Administration Reform Recommendation Committee (ARRC)
convened a gathering of senior politicians, top bureaucrats
and related stakeholders to collect their insightful ideas to
prepare a document on administrative reform. The FES-Nepal joined
hand with the ARRC for a brainstorming session on the 'Constitutional
Accountability and Administrative Reform in the Context of Good
Governance' that saw the presentation of three thematic papers
and comments on them by a wide range of participants. Besides,
leaders from major parties put forth their opinions on good
governance and other aspects of administrative reforms on the
occasion. The national seminar was divided into two parts -
opening and paper presentation sessions.
Call for radical shake-up of bureaucracy
Former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal observed
that the administration system demanded a radical overhaul to
make it accountable to the people.
The leaders and the bureaucrats should learn
to manage time, which is the precondition for the administrative
reforms, he said, added, "We are in the slow lane in every
sector because we could not manage time well. Time is money
and should not be wasted. "
There has been dilatory tendency while dealing
with the official works and complaints of the customers, he
noted. He said that the government should hunt for talents and
bring them in the civil service. "The practices of promoting
favoritism, greasing the palm and offering bribery behind the
table should be ended," he said and called for developing
bureaucracy as an apolitical body.
He said that the political stability, non-corrupt
government and law-abiding leadership were necessary to ensure
good governance in the country. "Meritocracy and capability
should be given priority and age and seniority should not be
dominant when it comes to the starred promotion of the civil
servants," he added.
Terming the overbearing influence of trade
unions as chronic problem, he called for ending anarchism in
the civil service.
As we have already adopted federalism, we
need to devise a plan about the structure of bureaucracy and
number of ministries under new political system, he said, and
added that the size of the parliament at the centre should be
Recalling his tenure as a PM, Nepal said that
he tried to gather the ex-PMs together to gauge how well they
performed and what they did to bring reform in the bureaucracy
during their respective terms but it was difficult to convene
them and efforts could not bear fruit.
Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety
said that administrative reforms were possible only when political
and legal reforms were carried out successfully.
"Elements of impartiality and morality
must be imbued into the civil servants to make them responsible
towards the people," he said.
"However, political reform is impossible
without electoral reform. So, we decided to keep one per cent
threshold provision for the political parties to get seats under
the proportional representation system.
Likewise, the candidates should submit the
details of their expenditures made during the poll to make sure
that the financial activities of the parties would be transparent,
Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudel said
that there was the need of promoting modern culture of bureaucracy,
which put emphasis on timely monitoring, professionalism, transparency,
accountability and result-oriented performance.
"In the old bureaucracy, there is a tendency
to execute works behind the veil of secrecy and civil servants
have a propensity to be obedient to the orders of higher-ups,
and as our civil service has inherited such an old culture,
it must change with the pace of time. We are working our fingers
to the bone to change it," he said.
Poudel expressed his concern that the bureaucracy
was losing its unified characteristic and heading towards fragmentation
after it came under the heat of ethnic politics.
He was critical of political leadership and
the 'highhandedness' of trade unions.
"There is the need of drawing a borderline
between the right and duty of trade unions, and a definition
of collective bargaining," he said, adding that the trade
unions' influence on the bureaucracy should be kept at bay if
impartiality and neutrality are to be maintained.
He said that the idea of collective barging
came into existence with the industrial development. There workers
sought more wages and other facilities through collective bargaining
but this could not be exactly replicated in the civil service
where the white-collar people work."
Chief Secretary also hauled the joint-secretaries
and secretaries over the coals for being too submissive before
their higher authorities.
"They are not outspoken and dynamic.
The joint-secretaries act just as a handmaiden of the chief
secretary, and the joint-secretaries to secretaries," he
"There is a vicious nexus between the
police, smugglers and politicians, and this must be broken,"
He said that the administration has been in
tight spot - on one hand it has not institutional capacity to
deliver, on the other, there is soaring public demand to provide
services to them.
On the deteriorating conditions of the public
enterprises, Poudel said that the political intervention had
destroyed them and they lacked the ability to settle internal
conflicts within office as the employees go to knock the door
of the court to solve minor disputes between the management
and the employees.
Nepali Congress leader Dr. Narayan Khadka
said that the dynamic, capable and efficient bureaucracy was
the need of the time.
"The civil servants should first change
their old mindset to make effective and timely delivery of goods
and services," he added.
Khadka admitted that the administration had
been bristled with many paradoxes owing to its heavy politicization,
so, it must be de-politicized to ensure impartiality and accountability.
The bureaucracy should act upon the decisions
made at the top political level but it must be detached from
the political interferences.
The political parties must forge consensus
on some vital matters such as the number of ministries, hydropower
development, education and land reform policy as the country
was heading toward implementing the federal set-up.
ARRC coordinator Kashi Raj Dahal said that
there was the need to instill a sense of professionalism in
bureaucracy and moral values in the politics.
"Value-based politics is dwindling, resulting
into the rise of mass disenchantment in the public about the
political system," he said.
The bureaucracy is also witnessing the erosion
of professionalism and ethical values. He also asked the participants
to review the provisions of inclusiveness asking them whether
it has weakened meritocracy in the civil service.
"In the name of inclusiveness, only a
handful of people have benefited from this provision,"
Dahal said that the state had been emasculated
with the international elements increasing their role in the
internal affairs of the country.
He sought the opinions of participants on the number of ministries,
the role of trade unions, inclusiveness and civil service acts
related to age limit during the seminar.
Dahal mooted that a local service commission
should be formed and the political parties should displayed
their will power to strengthen the security organs.
Foster centripetal forces: Dahal
Head of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Dev
Raj Dahal said that good governance called for a judicious balance
in the demands of citizens and the supply of the production
and provision of public goods and service by the state, private
sectors and civil society across the social classes and geographic
"Governance-effectiveness rests on fostering
the centripetal forces of society and establishing state-society
coherence through national self-determination of politics, constitutional
laws and development policies without being prejudiced to humanitarian
codes and meeting essential, freedom-enhancing and transformational
Dahal noted that constitutional bodies are macro institutions
engaged in defining broad parameters of governance goals - national
security, rule o flaw, voice, civic participation, service delivery
and non-violent resolution of conflict and offering its normative
compass for accountability, transparency and equity. "The
state needs to stand above parliamentary-executive-judicial
nexus and work together with feedback receiving and demand-converting
institutions, such as political parties, interests groups, civil
society and media."
Dahal quoted the report of the Administrative
Reforms Recommendation Committee 2013 to mention main obstacles
to professional development of bureaucracy- the direct interference
by the ministers and political leaders, opaque donation to political
parties, poor implementation of Civil Service Act, delayed adoption
of new information technology and lack of timely investment
in priority planning.
"The political system requires establishing
the unified application of law in the entire society through
the strengthening of its national integrity system to restore
democratic equilibrium and outlaw lethal agents of the system
- corruption, nepotism, discretionary authority and impunity,"
He further observed that is necessary to build
a system that protects citizens from the risks of poverty, design
public policy and program to reach out to them to avert the
global system assessment of Nepal's fragile context and muddle
through a hopeful future cobbling together right policies and
increasing the confidence of citizens.
Paper Presentation Session
The one-day seminar saw three working papers-
'Administrative Reform in the Context of Good Governance: The
Areas of Challenges and Reforms' by Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary
at the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers; The
Challenges of Civil Service and the Ways of Reforms by Umesh
Mainali, former secretary of government of Nepal and The Reforms
in the Public Administration for the Flow of Result-Oriented
Service by professor Dr. Shree Krishna Shrestha, head of Central
Public Administration Department, Jamal, TU.
The gist of Krishna Hari Baskota's paper:
The Nepalese bureaucracy is oriented towards
delivering a hassle-free service to the people. For this, e-service
needs to be developed and modern equipments should be brought
into use. We should reform the ways the services are provided
to the customers by identifying the problems. We have promoted
the policy of providing the services by turning up on the doorsteps
of the service seekers through the integrated mobile services
such as the distribution of citizenship certificates, conduction
of health camps and collection of public suggestions and advices.
The desire and enthusiasm of opening up the
model government offices are rising. A variety of measures have
been pursued. The decentralization of administrative federalism
is now a burning issue. It is natural that the people fail to
get service when all rights are concentrated at the centre.
Likewise, they have to pass through various difficulties in
getting services in the absence of all concerned offices in
the districts. The idea that the existing four thousands VDCs
should be reduced into one thousand with one officer level employee
designated at every VDC has also come to the fore. This is for
restructuring the local bodies into enhanced and effective institutions.
The measures suggested for the administrative
- The administrative reform is a continuous
process, which should be pursued by formulating standard operation
procedure that will also help attain total quality management,
- The concept of ombudsman should be applied
in every government office by forming a quality circle, and
an administrative court should be formed to review the decisions
of the administrative sector. A Whistleblower Act is also
necessary to be applied, at the same time there is the need
to strike a balance between right to information and right
to privacy acts wherein lies the vibrancy, activeness and
popularity of the bureaucracy,
- The function of the bureaucracy is to facilitate,
enable, regulate, protect, coordinate, mobilize resource,
monitor and evaluate. For the effective of which, directory
and standards are to be devised. The principle of right man
in right place should be implemented,
- In essence, the bureaucracy should run
on the basis of principal agent theory. The services provided
by it should be time-bound. It should be client-centric, not
the boss-centric. The civil service needs to be divided into
two categories - professional and executive groups based on
H3 principle and hierarchy system should b revived to strengthen
- Effective, efficient, quality, transparent,
impartial and complaint-free services should be given to the
customers, which is also the final destination of good governance.
gist of Umesh Mainali's paper
Irrespective of the nature of the government,
the bureaucracy is a mechanism to impose the government's will
and deliver the regime's values. It is also described as the
cutting edge of the government, the government on the spot and
the government in action. The state's laws are not implemented
by themselves. So are the government's policies and the concept
of good governance. For this, it requires a capable and disciplined
mechanism, and the civil service is its very engine to execute
its policies and programmes. The civil service provides impartial
counseling to the political leadership through the neutral expertise;
it implements approved policies and distributes public services
through the implementation of laws. Besides, it is a messenger
to distribute the values of loktantra to the people. It is not
just a group of professionals appointed by the government to
run its administration. It differs from other services by virtue
of its distinct characteristics - its formal procedures, its
selection criteria, meritocracy, impartiality, neutrality and
The Nepalese bureaucracy has often drawn flak
because of its unreceptive culture, slow working style and unfriendly
conduct it has developed over the years. Such a criticism leveled
against it is not unnatural given that it has to work with different
interest groups. Politicians say that the civil servants infringe
upon their domain; the businessmen gripe that they exercise
more control; the intellectuals chastise them for having little
intelligence; citizens accuse them of restricting their freedom
and service-recipient grouse that they promote red tape. These
anomalies have grown within the bureaucracy owing to the internal
weaknesses and lack of external favour. As a result, they have
no longer become 'people's darling'. The strength of civil service
lies in its expertise, experience, knowledge and access to secrecy.
But, the tendency of depriving the people from their access
to information under the cloak of secrecy, treating the people
as a phantom public and preferring the participation experts
to the citizens is high in the bureaucracy. The employees' unions
formed for their professional rights and job security have been
morphed into the sister organizations of the political parties.
They are preoccupied with the managerial works such as transfer
and starred promotion, inviting conflict with the people in
the leadership. This has brought two anomalies in the sector:
firstly, it has destroyed a command of unity; and secondly,
even the service sector has been politicized. Following suggestions
could be useful to carry out reforms in the sector:
- Balancing the loktantrik and administrative
- Transforming the civil service into multicultural
entity from monoculture body,
- Turning it into federal model from unitary
- Checking the de-professionalisation of
- Managing diversity,
- Developing pro-people culture within bureaucracy,
- Making it accountable to the people,
- Managing the trade unions,
- And converting it into an organization
of high moral values,
The gist of Professor Dr. Shree Krishna
Shrestha's working papers:
Administrative reforms, which are a continual
process, are driven by the need of the change in the surroundings
and innovative researches being carried out in the field. The
existing administrative system, mechanism and behaviour might
not suit the changing circumstances. It should be goal-oriented.
If the reforms are carried out by concentrating only on present
problems, such an approach might bump up against even bigger
challenges and be costly in the future. In the past, public
administrative reform initiatives were confined only to the
internal consolidation. The result-oriented service always attaches
a greater importance to the target group. Therefore, this working
paper argues that administrative reforms should be always citizen
centric. It offers following measures for the administrative
- Building a citizen-centric structure: The
flow of the service could be effective if the existing 'program-oriented,'
'work-oriented,' 'procedure-oriented' structure is converted
into 'customer-oriented' one. The hierarchical structure could
pose as a big challenge. The people-centric structure gives
emphasis on developing a mechanism to enquire about the citizens'
needs, acting on the information received from the people,
and formulating the service standards. It will be appropriate
to apply the concept of the collaborative and connected government
for the purpose.
- Optimal use of technology: There should
be optimal use of technology to simplify and make credible
the process of the flow of the service
- Effective management: An effective delivery
of service requires an effective management. Human resource
development, starred promotion, career development, financial
incentive and evaluation are some important elements to make
the management strong and efficient.
- The participation of citizens: The citizens'
participation in the service delivery is important in building
the citizen-centric structures. It helps in framing the standard
of service and implementing and monitoring of the service
- Collaboration and networking with other
agencies: The networking and collaboration with the private
sector and civil society will further benefit the service
seekers. This creates environment for further reform in the
- Human resource development: The capacity
building of the service providers is very important to bring
about changes in their institutional culture and conduct.
The human resources should be highly motivated and committed,
and equipped with managerial skill and IT knowledge.
- Political will and commitment: The political
will and commitment is a first step towards bringing about
administrative reforms. It is the political leadership that
provides necessary resources, rights and term of references
to the public administration. The efficient and objective
monitoring of the public administration by the political leadership
makes it dynamic and accountable.
Comments from the floor
Bimal Koirala, former chief secretary
Good governance is a broader concept and should
not be confined only to the administrative reform. It requires
the optimal use of available resources to ensure good governance.
The bureaucrats should change their mindset and try to replicate
the idea of inclusiveness in the administrative system. The
lack of political will has hampered to bring about administrative
reforms. In a clash between traditional and modern forces, it
is the traditional forces that have always prevailed over the
latter. The people's participation is a must to design the administrative
service. Unless electoral, political, judiciary and police reforms
are carried out, the administrative reforms are unlikely. Almost
all institutions in the country are in decrepit condition and
they need to be revamped. We have to develop a responsive bureaucracy.
An ad hoc and patchy formula are unlikely to shake it up.
Bhoj Raj Pokharel, secretary
We should speak few and do more. We should
develop the habit of implementing what is said instead of making
voluminous promises. Change in the attitude is necessary.
Sambhu Sharan Kayastha, former secretary
A political reform is the key to the administrative
reform. Political commitment has not so far been implemented.
The partisan interests are dominant. The provision of civil
service needs to be mentioned in the constitution. The political
interference must be stopped. The permanent status the civil
servants enjoy has been abused. As per the existing Civil Service
Act, the employees are not bound to obey the unreasonable orders
of the ministers. The maximum degree of action the secretaries
face from the minister is their transfer. Not more than this.
So, they should stand firm in their decision. The bureaucrats
need to be responsive and focus on the supply side of the service.
The people have not realized the reforms in
the administrative sector. The market is chaotic and behaves
rudely towards the consumers while the private sector and the
trade unions are pampered. This should be checked. No research
has been carried out for reforms. Police's campaign to control
the drunk-driving is praiseworthy. The people are terrorized
when the election approaches because with election, the prices
of essential commodities reach stratosphere.
Balananda Sharma, former retired general
When the predecessors fail to carry out timely
reforms, their successors have to face a lot of problems. The
women representation in the bureaucracy is scanty and their
participation needs to be increased. Without a political will,
the good governance is just a far cry. The bureaucracy should
honestly take up the matters raised in this seminar and move
to materialize them.
Bhimdev Bhatta, administration expert
Decentralization should be promoted by empowering
of the local bodies. For this, minimum budget should be allocated.
The experiment of federalism has begun and the bureaucracy should
be restructured accordingly.
Som Lal Subedi, secretary
A sense of highhandedness is deeply ingrained
in the bureaucracy with the trade unions exhibiting their overbearing
manner. The secretaries face political interferences. Our hands
and feet are tied by the de facto power of somebody. If the
top down approach is taken, the reforms from the below will
naturally take place. The existing laws should be implemented
instead of formulating the new ones.
Krishna Gyawali, secretary
Forward-looking conclusions need to be adopted.
The contexts and contents are interrelated. We should take into
account as to in which context the reforms are feasible - during
the time of transition or in the period of political stability.
A reform implementation committee should be formed to translate
the recommendations made for the promotion of good governance
Lila Mani Poudel, chief secretary
In order to bring about timely changes in
the bureaucracy, the senior bureaucrats should assume the risk-taking
culture, not the risk-averse one. One cannot be innovative and
risk-averse at the same time. The efforts should be made to
make bureaucracy inclusive. The trade union members should not
be the members of any political party.
- Civil servants should adopt modern culture
- They should be ready to adopt risk-culture,
- Secretaries should not suck up to chief
- People's participation is necessary to
- A balance between right to information
and right to secrecy is necessary,
- Political interference and highhandedness
of trade unions need to be discouraged,
- Bureaucracy is a vehicle to deliver democratic
values to the people,
- It should be citizen-centric to provide
enhanced services to the customers,
- Civil servants must be accountable to the