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Administrative Reform Consultative meet

Organised by the Administrative Reform Recommendation Committee (ADRC)

22 December 2013, Kathmandu

Report Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi


With the nation set to be restructured into the new federal set-up, its administrative body is waiting for to be shaped into similar composition. So, the reasoned deliberations on the issue are highly imperative to this end. Its effectiveness, accountability and professionalism have been always high on the agenda of the administrative reform commissions formed in the past. Like the new political system, Nepal's administrative sector is also beset with multiple challenges. Making the service delivery effective and hold the civil servants accountable to the people is a must if it is to sail smoothly in the federal republic journey of the country. The bureaucrats often complain of being the victim of the chronic political intervention. Drawing a clear boundary between the politics and bureaucracy is necessary to professionalize it and ensure its integrity. With the change of time, the civil servants should also change their attitudes and behaviours. They must realise that they are the servants of the people, not order-imposing agents of the leviathan of government bureaucracy.

In order to diagnose its problems and recommend their practical solution, the government had constituted the Administrative Reform Recommendation Committee (ADRC)some time ago. The committee has reached a final stage to prepare its report. As the part of final deliberation, the committee organized a seminar 'the Administrative Reform Consultative Programme' in Kathmandu to solicit the ideas of ex and incumbent secretaries on the administrative reforms. The incumbent and ex-bureaucrats put forth their opinions frankly on the management of civil servants under the new federal set-up, the role of Office of Prime Minister and implementation of the reports prepared so far for the administrative reform.

Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudel: Reform measures could be implemented at any time and any place wherever they are needed. It is naivety to say that the administrative measures should be applied only if there is a stable government in the country. We should not hunt for ideal bureaucracy. Even small changes send a positive message to the public. The provision of sending the civil servants abroad for training and other programmes is not bearing fruit. The employees are least concerned about knowledge and skill they are supposed to obtain from the visits. They are concerned only about the monetary benefits. There is tendency of same officers going foreign countries repeatedly. Some employees say that the visit does not incur financial burden on the government. I do not understand this logic. Since the government has invested million of rupees on them, how could there not be economic burden on the government?

There is the need for the flexibility when it comes to providing resources to the secretaries so that they perform well. The procedural sanctity must not be compromised. We should introduce a provision that before being appointed secretary, s/he must have worked in financial institutions or have knowledge on economic issues and planning. Taking a departmental action against any employee has become not effective as his/her job is secure. The big punishment they face is a transfer. The provision of job guarantee had affected their efficiency. There should be the assessment of the performance of secretaries so that the bureaucracy would be result-oriented and responsive to the service seekers. The government is setting up a research institute to utilize the expertise and experiences for former bureaucrats. The tradition of letting the ministries carry out research and study the project must be brought to an end. The management should be research-oriented. The PM office is alert whether it is involved in the micro-management of other ministries. The government will attempt to implement the report.

Kashi Raj Dahal, Chairman of Administrative Court and Administrative Reform Recommendation Committee: The ADRC has reached a final stage to submit its report to the government. The report that contains 23 chapters will recommend the government for making bureaucracy effective, efficient and accountable to the public. The report will not recommend any ambitious suggestions but the modest ones that can be implemented to make our administrative procedures pragmatic and efficient. The committee has consulted with the concerned stakeholders while preparing the report.

The constitution should clearly spell out about the norms of bureaucracy and contents of democracy. It must have provisions specifying the foreign and security policy, local government and the number of the ministries. The executive parliament should have the right to decide the number of the ministries.

Our bureaucracy has faced various problems that have posed obstacles to achieve the goal of good governance. They can be put forth in following points-

1. To change the number of ministries and portfolios without any basis and relevance,
2. The tendency to create new administrative structures without need and ground,
3. Not giving attention to the basic requirements needed to sustain the administrative organizations/structures after they are formed,
4. There is the politicization of the administration and tendency to escape from the responsibility owing to the lack of clear boundary line between the politics and administration,
5. It has become difficult to maintain professionalism and impartiality in the administration as the trade unions are active in the backing of the political parties,
6. There is not proper use of the provisions of inclusiveness in the absence of objective and scientific criteria although it needs to be enforced in the public administration,
7. The responsible persons of the service provider agencies have shown more interests in the foreign junket than providing services to the people,
8. The service delivery has not become effective and efficient owing to several factors,
9. There is lacking strong willpower to prevent and control corruption and irregularities though the legal provisions and mechanisms were created to that end.

The report has attempted to include the suggestions aimed at solving the aforementioned problems. In the similar manner, the consolidation of the constitutional and local bodies is equally necessary. There is the need for reviewing the existing Acts and laws in order to attract competent and able persons into the public administration. For this, the government should address the different aspects of civil service such as service condition, transfer and promotion, career development, capacity building, scheme for successor grooming, service after retirement and implement code of conduct to set the behavioural values of employees. Likewise, we need to search for necessary measures to adopt the e-governance in the public administration. To maintain fiscal discipline, the Acts and Regulations related to the economic administration and their implementation should be reviewed. We should identity the reform areas in the field of education and health that are directly related to the people's life. Effective measures should be pursued to protect the consumers' interest in addition to bringing uniformity in the opportunity for workforce and facilities under the public service sector. Special measures need to be applied to strengthen service delivery in the remote areas. In the similar manner, the country foreign and security policies require reforms. There should not be delay in introducing the new strategies to revamp the management of the public enterprises. The report has attempted to address these and other issues. It is not prepared by reading only books but soliciting the ideas from the ministries. Loktantra becomes robust and vibrant only if the parliament is strong. The lawmakers should be honest and competent. Likewise, the judiciary should be able to maintain its impartiality and integrity.

Surya Nath Upadhyay, former chief commissioner of the Commission of the Investigation of Abuse of Authority: The PM office should focus on devising the foreign and security policies. It should appoint specialists for the purpose. The new statute should mention the federal structure of the administration so that it will be easily implemented in the future. A powerful mechanism needs to be formed to address the problems that are likely to arise during the transition. The reports of the committee should match the reality; it should not be unrealistic. It seems to be unknown on how to manage the resources and manpower. Until there is third party's monitoring, the national projects are not effectively implemented. To make the administration accountable to the public is a challenging task. The research institutes are not equipped with resources. The government does not spend a single penny in the researches in the trade and hydropower sector. There should be clarity the kind of research the government wants.

Tirtha Man Shakya, former chairman of Public Service Commission: The issue of transfer and promotion of the employees has been a key problem in the administration sector. The concerned ministries should be authorized to deal with the matters relating to the transfer and promotion. The federal structure of the administration should be manageable and workable. There should be necessary groundwork before adopting the federal structure. The tendency to seek instructions from the higher authorities should discontinue. The employees themselves must face the challenges.

Surya Prasad Shrestha, Former chief Election Commissioner: The political will, stability and strong leadership were prerequisites to carry out administrative reforms. We should also evaluate the implementation of the past reports on the administrative reforms. Many reports were prepared in this regard. We must get rid of the bad practise of reshuffling the secretaries with the formation of the new government. The number of the ministries must be fixed. The intervention of the PM office has both the positive and negative impacts on the implementation of the projects.

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office:

It seems that the territory of new federal structure is caved out vertically. The centre must be strong enough for the effective service delivery. When the centrifugal forces become active, it becomes difficult to ensure law and order. The service delivery must be productive. The bureaucracy should be nationalistic. We have instances in which democracy can be regained if it lost but nationality cannot be retaken if we lose it. There should be dialogue for policy formulation. Nepal has not chalked out its policies since 2007 BS. The political parties think in part but the bureaucracy should think in whole. Therefore, the onus of strengthening democracy and nationality lies with bureaucracy. The PM office should mediate between bureaucracy and the politicians.

Bimal Wagle: The change in the mindset of the employees is necessary. The bureaucrats and politicians are engaged in the blame game. All ministries should be treated equally. The morale of bureaucracy has further gone down owing to the structural problem. We concentrated on the petty issues. Reforms should be carried out in a package, not in isolation. There should be tough exercise while creating new vacancies. The country is running by remittance sent by the migrant workers but the state is apathetic towards their plight. We need a policy making institution. The National Planning Commission should set programmes one year earlier.

Umesh Mainali: Bureaucracy is a non-elected senate. The civil servants are the product of the society and they should not live in ivory tower. There is conflict between the politics and the bureaucracy. A balance and mutual cooperation is necessary between the two. The PM office should focus on the policy formation. It should be active but not intervene in the works of other ministries. The procedural complexity needs to be simplified and shortened. The new CA should discuss on how to adjust the civil servants to the new federal set-up. It is imperative for the civil servants to learn the local language, which will be used in the local offices following the implementation of federalism. The new federal model should be based on the diversity model. The provinces should hire the civil servants on contract basis. The process of service delivery should be ethnic friendly. The delivery democracy is in vogue these days.

Govinda Kusum Shrestha: Corruption is rife. Reforms should start from the change of mindset of the civil servants. Security needs to be linked with development. The internal security policy should be framed. The PM office should act as the integrative body and should play the role of regulator, monitor and facilitator. The boundary line between the politics and bureaucracy must be drawn. There should not be interference in the time of the policy implementation. Those, who assume the mantle of secretary, must have worked in districts at least for four years and have developed capacity to deal with different problems. The civil servants must have developed a sense of nationality and dignity, and be accountable to the people. Otherwise, they could not take positive decisions.

Madhuraman Acharya: The government should implement the recommendations of the Committee by unveiling an action plan within a year. The PM office should monitor the activities of other ministries. The service delivery should be effective. The dual system must be ended. The practice of favouritism must be discouraged. Likewise, the practice of middleman, particularly in the Labour Department should be rooted out.

Tana Gautam: Without administrative reforms, there is unlikely the effective service delivery. The political parties should also realise that the administrative reform is also their agenda. The prime minister should chair the Committee. The introduction of e-governance can minimise the costs of service delivery. The employees must change their behaviours and attitudes. Federalism is a system that brings bureaucracy closer to the people. It is not good if the PM office to have a finger in every pie. The local bodies should be made active. The federal government should take the employees up to under secretary level. Creating a federal structure is a difficult task and also a time-consuming.

Bharat Thapa: The administrative reform agenda has not gone beyond the Singha Durbar. The political interference in the bureaucracy has crossed the limit. The service delivery is so poor that it makes use feel ashamed. It takes almost six months for the foreign job aspirants to get passport. The country is not sensitive to those on whose money it is surviving. Are there no managers in the national pride projects? We should share experiences related to federal structure of administration with the neighbouring country. The PM office is doing well and it should facilitate other ministries and form a mechanism for monitoring. There is the need for making consultants accountable to the government.

Khem Raj Regmi: Is that the local elections should not be held? The local elections will spur changes in the administration. There should be power devolution. The 18 per cent of employees are concentrated in Kathmandu. This should be undone. The PM office should be converted into an office of project monitoring. It should be independent and powerful. At the same time the PM should be accountable to the people.

Dr Ram Awatar Yadav: The bureaucracy should be free from politics. It should have life-world view. There is the need for coordination between the ministers and the sectaries. The secretarial post is not just an executive body but also a policy formulation one.

Bal Krishna Prasai: The suggestions should be given in a way that benefits the people. The PM office seems to be involved in every affair of other ministries. The secretaries at the PM office want to go to other ministries. The ministries should execute the given responsibilities and not to poke into the affairs of their counterparts. The administrative reforms should be implemented in the Nepal Police and Nepal Army. The departmental chiefs should be taken action base on their performances. The employees, who are sent from the Public Service Commission to the concerned ministries, should get work immediately.

Som Lal Subedi: There should be clarity in the role delegation and job description. Until the willpower, the administrative reforms are unlikely to be implemented. The committee should address the frontline service provider agencies in the urban areas. The PM office should be engaged in the policy analysis and auditing. It should coordinate with the Planning Commission for the monitoring. The Science and Technology Ministry should be equipped with manpower and resources.

Conclusions:

1 Draw a clear boundary between the politics and bureaucracy,
2 Simplify the cumbersome bureaucratic process,
3 Civil servants must change their mindsets,
4 Fix the number of ministries,
5 Don't reshuffle the secretaries with the change of government,
6 Bureaucrats should develop a sense of nationality and dignity,
7 The administrative reform report should be realistic,
8 The PM office should facilitate and monitor other ministries, not intervene in their works,
9 The PM office should focus on forming security and foreign policy,
10Administrative reform should be also the agenda of the political parties,
11Would-be secretaries must have insight about economy and planning,
12Bring migrant worker-friendly policies,
13Civil servants should start learning local languages,
14Administrative reforms should go beyond the walls of Singha Durbar,
15Administrative reforms must touch security agencies such as Nepal Police and Nepal Army,
16The government must invest in research and development,
17Discourage unnecessary foreign junkets,
18Local poll a must to end corruption at local bodies,
19Boost the morale of bureaucracy.

 
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