Friday, 15 November, 2019
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INTERVIEW

We have adjusted only employees, not vehicles they are using



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Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Lal Babu Pandit, in his second inning, has been trying to make reforms in the civil service sector. During his first inning, Pandit had taken a few far-reaching decisions to make the civil servants more disciplined. He prevented the civil servants from applying for Diversity Visa (DV) and Permanent Residence (PR) while serving in the office. This time too Minister Pandit has made various changes in the bureaucracy.
The Minister adjusted the civil servants in the three-tire governments, forwarded Federal Civil Service Act, process to recruit civil servants and other reform schemes.
Minister Pandit spoke during the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on Sunday, coinciding the Civil Service Day, on various reform schemes he has planned in Nepal’s pubic administration.
Excerpts: 

It is always said that the political leadership and bureaucracy lack coordination and respect to each other. Why could the relation between the political leadership and the new government not move ahead by building better coordination even after the practicing of three-tier government?

Despite various hurdles, today, we are practicing three-tier governments and the public service has a big role to play from its side to make the governments successful. Every time, politics tries to move ahead of bureaucracy. And the administration, if we look at the global practices, tries to remain in its own ad-hoc form. There must be better coordination between the politics and administration. And there is always the leadership or command of politics even in the administrative field.
In Nepal’s context too, every moment is guided or led by politics. Nepal’s administrative bodies have not been seen as barrier to political system and we can’t think of that as well. Public Service sector has served the Nepali politics as a supportive force, not as obstructive ones.
Public service, despite being supportive to Nepali politics and leaders, has, however, not been ready to discard their traditional way of working culture and environment. Our public service sector has also been seen not ready to accept the changed context of the country and the practices of federalism and three-tier governments-- in the centre, state and local bodies.
I should fully own up and be responsible for the future impact of every political and administrative decision taken by me as a minister. Many of us have a tendency to conceal one’s weakness, but I have no such tendency, no matter whether I am a minister or not.
When everyone goes on hiding their weaknesses, they cannot live a healthy life and cannot gain result-oriented outcomes in their life.
During my first tenure as Minister, I tried to control the foreign visits and study visits of various high ranking government employees to correct the bureaucracy. After I resumed the office as Minister for the second time, I introduced a provision to have compulsory attendance in the office 30 days after the end of their study leave.
There was also a practice among the employees of doing attendance here in the office and studying abroad simultaneously for enjoying dual benefits. At the beginning, when I started taking such decisions, I was all alone for months and faced pressure from various quarters.
I assumed the office on March 16, 2018, as the Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration and prepared a plan to complete organisational integration of the employees in three-tier governments by the end of the fiscal year 2018/19 and employees’ integration by the mid-January, 2019. In the meantime, we introduced a bill relating to the integration of the employee adjustment and later endorsed the bill as an act. And in between the period, again, the Ministry launched software to understand the wishes of every employee about their desired destination while going for integration. Through that software, we tried to understand their wish while getting adjusted in the three-tier government.
After that, we got again new responsibility and that was opening of new en-masse vacancies to appoint the required manpower in the State and local bodies. At present, Federal Public Service Bill is currently at the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee for deliberation for past eight months. This federal bill will serve as a guide Act to State Public Service Commission and the Local bodies and will remain as mother act to other institutions, including the corporations functioning under the government.
Political leadership should always be the messenger of change. Employees always tend to remain in ad-hoc condition.
As the nation today (September 8) is marking the 16th Public Service Day across the country and has also set its own slogan ‘Able Public Service Administration, Development, Prosperity and Good Governance.. Will this slogan be implemented? Because there is still lack of employees in all three levels of governments and the adjustment of the civil servants has just completed.
The slogan is set and prepared by the government for implementation. We adjusted the employees inducting them in several places to manage the vacancies. But in some cases, integration is still going on. Had we integrated and inducted the employees simultaneously, it would have invited a catastrophe in delivering public service.
There was high number of vacancies in the local bodies and many employees working there wanted to come into the Federal government. Today, at the federal level, the vacancies of drivers and office assistant is highest with 24 per cent of the total employees. When we tend to send them in the State and Local level, they deny that manpower as their required vacancy was not for drivers and office assistants.
After the calling of the new vacancies of 9,161, and their recruitment will help the government settle the pressure of insufficient staff members in the States and local bodies.
Other employees will be appointed when the respective State governments seek them. There is also a trend that when the government has to send one officer level employee outside the valley, the Ministry has to bear the pressure from over dozen other powerful units.
Last month, we made a policy level decision that the officer level employees would be sent in the State and local bodies based upon their seniority and did not transfer those who are about to retire from the job within six months and those who are in the line to become secretary within next six months. Apart from these, we send all others to their desired place based upon the form they had filled up.
We are receiving grievances of some employees, who had already chosen their place of work by filling up forms through the online, stating that they were not happy with their earlier decision and wanted to change it. But our employees are changing their desire so quickly that they sometime wish to go to one place and come later taking another place of their choice.

What is your say about the growing brain-drain tendency in Nepal. Even doctors and engineers are flying overseas seeking better opportunities. What would be the solution to this problem?

One thing is that those who had gone abroad citing higher studies and education, most of them have cheated us. They had not gone there to pursue higher education and skill, but they have all gone there in search of good jobs.
Another thing is that all those who have good education cannot get good jobs, because there is not a set rule for that. Being an educated person, they can involve themselves in various technical jobs. Having engineering background, I myself used to hold every day five kg hammer when I was in that career for four years. Nepali citizens have such a mentality that they come to me seeking job to their children. They do not want their wards work but draw salaries just by putting signature.
We have also wrong understanding that when any person becomes well educated, they think they must get good earning job, which is wrong. Such educated manpower can also engage themselves in various technical works.
You have raised the question of integration. It has been completed in cent per cent today, but right induction is yet to be completed. Integration means division of employees in all three tier of government bodies, and we have done this. There are some categories of people, who have tendency to run from here and there to influence the decision and get transfer as per their wish.
Six days ago, the ministry took a decision from the government level that one particular officer or employee designated to one particular office is strictly prohibited from taking any kind of dual benefit (service and facilities) from other offices and institutions.

Despite introduction of the Employees’ Adjustment Act, a few employees still have shown their little interest in getting integrated into State and Local bodies. Don’t you think that the act has somehow lacked attractive features to encourage the employees to choose the State and Local bodies?

For many more times, I have told journalists about this integration issue. The Constitution has envisioned three-tier government employees’ structures. We have told them about chances of giving and allowing all types of possible career development. Second, we have also assured them that the government would not lessen or compromise in any type of facility to be enjoyed by them. The government had not sent them to integration by reducing their facilities and hampering their career development.
But some of our employees have a trend that they wish to take their favourite car of the government facility with them citing various excuses. Then, I want to question such employees that, the ministry has adjusted only the employees not the vehicles they have been using
The upcoming Federal Public Service Commission Act will also provide a base and guideline to the State Public Service Commission Act, which will also create a guideline to the local bodies’ service and criteria. All these process are all currently under discussion.
One important thing is that, for the current fiscal year, the Federal government has decided to maintain and fix same level of salary scale to three-tier government employees for the first time in absence of Federal Public Service Commission Act. But from next year the State Public Service Act will determine salaries and other facilities of the employees of their respective State based upon their strength and financial status. We have one this because, still the transition has not ended due to absence of the required laws. We can also take reference of Federal practice from our southern neighbor India that, an MLA of Bihar draws 65,000 as his salary while in the case of Himanchal State, an MLA gets just Rs. 30,000. In the future, there will not be similarities while enjoying salaries and other facilities to be distributed by the Federal government and the States.

What level of pressure did you to face from the trade union while adjusting the employees in the State and Local levels?

You can yourself experience and might have seen many times that my ministry faced long and continuous sit-in protest. The protest from the gate of the Federal Affairs and General Administration Ministry also reached the street-- from Maitighar to parliament and Office of the Prime Minister. We cannot accept their demand of receiving only big perks without working even after their integration.
The upcoming Federal Public Service Commission Act has envisioned of introducing and inking work performance contract with each employee and if they fail to work as per the contract paper, their career development opportunities will also be blocked. This contract level will go up to secretary level. There is also a provision of giving retirement to such employee who fails to execute even their very minimum level task as signed in their contract paper. The upcoming Federal Public Service Act has also strictly prohibited the civil servants from doing extra work in any other institution in their office hour. However, we have not ended the provision of opening trade union.
In term of age limit in public service commission, there is no uniformity in the service as there we have already set different age limit in the public service, and those employees working in the health service. Bringing uniformity in implementing age limit in the public service commission cannot be implemented instantly. But the ministry is working to maintain uniformity in age limit in Public Service.
Today, the Public Service Commission has been facing lot more pressure. It has now have responsibility to open large number of vacancies based on the recommendation and demand paper submitted from respective States. A month ago, Karnali State sought vacancies to be fulfilled in their State.

As the government has been talking about zero tolerance to corruption, but when public service seekers visit the public offices to get their work done, and still our employees have some sort of unwillingness to help them under different pretexts. How could you correct this tendency prevalent among our employees?

I have repeatedly been saying and urging all the local representative and the government employees not to be and act like contractor and boss while catering service to the people. The government, in this case, we want further reactiveness of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). The CIAA should not hesitate to build a big and spacious hall to house the corrupt employees if required.

Once in some government offices morning shift was introduced and discussions were held on the two-day holiday a week. What has been the latest progress on these issues?

Morning shift government has been discontinued and we are not feeling it’s necessity. And two-day off a week is irrelevant as we have already more public holidays. We should reduce our public holidays.

(Prepared by Purushottam P Khatri and Ram Prasad Dahal, Photos by Ramesh Chhetri/TRN)

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