In the mid-1950s, Nepal was passing through the acute political transition following the abolition of century-old autocratic family rule of Ranas. Along with the task of consolidating democracy, the new political leadership had a challenge to reinvent a robust bureaucracy capable to deliver public goods and services in a prompt and fair manner. But it had inherited a shambolic administration from the Rana regime. The fiats of rulers served as law and guidelines for the major administrative decisions and actions. The system of pajani, an annual announcement of promotion, recruitment and firing of employees, was the key instrument in disciplining and motivating the employees.
But the arbitrary notion of pajani could hardly go with the idea of democratic governance system. Even if the nation was roiled by chaotic transition, the successive dispensations were saddled with the responsibility of modernising Nepali society and improving the livelihood conditions of Nepalis. This required a committed and people-centric public administration. In order to achieve this goal, the then government drafted the first Nepal Civil Service Act and Regulations in 1956. On Bhadra 22 (Sept 6) of the same year, the Act came into force with a view to systematise the civil service organisation and make the public service delivery more effective, efficient and speedy. In the commemoration of that milestone day, the country has started to observe the Civil Service Day since 2061 BS.
Today the country is marking the Civil Service Day amidst a variety of programmes. It coincides with multiple initiatives of the new government to restructure the entire bureaucracy into a three-tier federal administration, a new experiment that Nepal has adopted to ensure inclusive governance, people’s easy access to basic services and facilities and their active participation in the policy formulation and development works. The success or failure of federal system largely hinges on the role of civil servants assigned to maintain peace and order, make necessary arrangements for the just distribution of available resources and carry out the development activities according to the needs of the people.
Since assuming office some 16 months back, the KP Oli government has taken drastic steps to adjust the civil servants in the three separate government offices. To overcome tricky legal glitches, it has tabled Federal Civil Service Bill, 2075 in the House of Representatives. The new Bill will not only replace the existing Act but is also expected to sort out the disputed provisions such as the level and criteria of promotion of employees, their service age bar, reservation, collective resignation, work performance contract and rights of running trade unions at State and local level.
Though the bulk of adjustment works has been finished, it is not over the hump. The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has had hard times in convincing the employees to work under the State and local governments. Both the sides have been at loggerheads over the adjustment process, with the employees arguing that there is low level of motivation, incentives and facilities for those deputed at the sub-national governments. The civil servants must not be stubborn but be ready to serve the country after being appointed to the public posts. True, the concerned ministry should resort to stick-and-carrot approach to manage the newly bloated administrative structure but it must not run away from its parental duty of taking the employees into confidence. After all, the bureaucracy functions well when there is an atmosphere of trust and cooperation among the elected government, civil servants and the people.