Make People Feel Good Governance

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The main thrust of a government is to accelerate development and work in the best interests of its country and people. For this, a government needs to work responsibly, keeping people at the centre of its development goals. For the smooth execution of development works and effective public service delivery, good governance is a sine qua non. Good governance is a broad concept and includes a wide array of components.

The key components of good governance may be described as public participation, the rule of law, consensus-based decision-making, equity, inclusiveness, effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, transparency and responsiveness. Good governance becomes conspicuous when a country is being governed under responsible and accountable public and political institutions. 

Public service delivery

Good governance makes the state apparatus people-oriented and makes public service delivery effective and efficient as expected by the general public by steering clear of bureaucratic hassles and red tape. Further, good governance makes the state administration people-friendly, inclusive, participatory, accountable and transparent. A government has responsibilities towards its country and people. Good governance makes it possible for a government to improve its responsibilities and accountability. The rule of law and corruption control are two of the major goals envisaged under good governance. 

The Constitution of Nepal, 2015 has the provision for three tiers of government: federal, provincial and local. The duties and responsibilities have been divided among these tiers of government. They have their own jurisdictions and competencies. Article 232 has made institutional arrangements among these three levels of government. There is the Federal, Provincial and Local Level (Coordination and Relations) Act, 2020 in place. The Act is designed to promote relations, cooperation and collaboration between all levels of government, as well as their co-existence, on the front of, inter alia, maintaining good governance in their respective jurisdictions. 

Good governance can be made effective through a legal mechanism. In Nepal, there are various legal mechanisms regarding making good governance effective. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse Authority, 1991, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2002, the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Rules 2008, the Good Governance Act, 2008, the Right to Information Act, 2007 and Rules 2009 and the Local Government Operation Act, 2017 are among the prominent legal instruments. These legal measures are intended to make the administration clean and competent, make public service delivery effective and create a corruption-free society. 

Despite these legal measures, Nepal is lagging behind in good governance. In fact, just having such legal instruments in place will not be significant unless their implementation is strong. This is what is happening in the country. Political willpower is glaringly lacking. Political leadership is largely to blame for good governance not being effective. Political influence might affect the performance of the CIAA, the Revenue Investigation Department (RID), Nepal Vigilance Centre, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) and even the judiciary. When political leadership interferes in the investigations of such bodies, how can they work independently?

On the public service front, the situation is dismal. When the present government under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda came to power some months ago, the government visited some public service offices and assured the people that the service delivery mechanism would be effective, which buoyed the people’s spirits. But the situation has not changed for the better; the people are still facing hassles while availing themselves of public services.

Bureaucracy and red tape are the main culprit that may foil the effective public service delivery system. These are also responsible for the delayed or ineffective implementation of the government’s plans and policies. These are also the factors that subdue the peoples’ grievances and their voices for administrative reforms. Administrative reforms are essential to improve the public service delivery system. Many efforts have been made, including by forming administrative reform commissions, to reform the administration but to no avail. The old mindset of the civil servants is hard to change. 

There are several challenges in the field of good governance. There are laws but their implementation is poor. The government formulates policies and programmes but does not pay adequate attention to enforcing them. The civil service is highly politicised. Although political leaders frequently warn the civil servants against being associated with any political party or leader, many civil servants are in politics directly or indirectly. The practice of making political appointments to the bodies working in the field of corruption control is deplorable. It is a matter of grave concern that despite the existence of adequate legal mechanisms against corruption, corruption is rampant in the country. 

Improvement 

As per the Transparency International Report of 2022, Nepal was ranked 110th among 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index. The country made a slight improvement over its previous performance by climbing seven points from the 117th position in 2021. The country received 34 points in 2022 vis-à-vis 33 points in 2021. As per the criteria of Transparency International, a score below 50 indicates the existence of rampant corruption in a country. So despite registering some improvement in the score, the country is in the category of countries with rampant corruption. In South Asia, Nepal is behind Bhutan (25th), the Maldives (85th), India (85th) and Sri Lanka (101st), while Pakistan (140th), Bangladesh (147th) and Afghanistan (150th) are ahead of the country. 

The people are expecting a lot from the present government. The commoners seem enthusiastic over the agility with which the government is working in the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, the gold smuggling scam and the Lalita Niwas land grab scam. The government has entrusted the CIB with investigating the gold smuggling case. It is expected that the present government will make the people feel that there is good governance in the country. 

(Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000.)

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