As the government prepares to transfer staffers from various government bodies to the newly established local bodies in accordance with Article 302 of the constitution, many civil servants are confused about their roles and responsibilities. Many of them are quite reluctant to go to the local level whereas many are curious about the benefits they will get from the transfer.
In this context, Onlinekhabar talked to Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi.
What is the government doing about the deployment of staff at the local level?
A bill about the adjustment of staff at the local level has been tabled in Parliament. Therefore, we have to wait a few more weeks for the endorsement of that bill. Currently, what we can do is prepare an ad-hoc management. I have directed officials to deploy staffers at all local governments within a month.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development and the Ministry of General Administration will coordinate for the deployment. But, this is just for the interim period. The actual adjustments will take place after the endorsement of the bill.
Are you preparing to promote everyone who will be deployed to the local units?
We have not decided on this issue. I am against this proposal. The staffers have been advocating for ‘respectable’ adjustment, but haven’t demanded a blanket promotion. Some staffers can be promoted to adjust the ranks, but we have not thought of a blanket promotion.
However, we had discussed the issue while drafting the bill. Trade union representatives had demanded such a provision in the new law. The bill is pending in the House. Unless the bill is endorsed, Article 302 of the constitution does not allow such promotion.
If every staffer is promoted, it will seriously affect service delivery. Likewise, people cannot benefit if any employee is promoted without the raise in his/her capacity. When someone is promoted, he needs to be given additional responsibilities as well. Therefore, promoting staff without any ground will weaken the local government. Similarly, it will increase the expenses.
Do you think the trade unions will be convinced?
I am in conversation with them over the issue and the union seems to be convinced.
But, without any additional package to boost their willpower, how can staff working for the central government go to the local level? How can you expect excellent service delivery from them?
Do you think such blanket promotions help up excel performance? Once we have promoted 18,000 staff, but what did it give us? What did people get from them? Please ask the staff what they improved with a boosted willpower after the promotion. I do not think the promotion is an issue as the gap between two levels in the salary scale is nominal.
Therefore, I request the staff to go to the assigned office and work. Their benefits and other issues will be determined by the law which is pending in Parliament. We are also drafting a law for human resource management at the federal level. It will also determine the future of our staff.
What is the modality of mobility of staff between local and central levels?
I cannot tell you about the exact modality now. The adjustment will be done according to provincial and federal laws. I think there should be vertical and horizontal linkages for mobility of staff between two levels. If staffers at the local level want to join the federal service, they have to go through specific examinations. A segment of the federal service should be reserved for staff from the provinces. We have to manage such linkages at the policy level.
What will you do if the staff disobey the transfer orders?
The Act will have specific provisions on punishment for disobeying staff. For now, we have said they will face action upon failure to report to the office in 35 days. The absence of staff will severely affect the service delivery. There is no place in Nepal which takes more than 35 days to reach from any other point within the country.
When a staffer faces a situation beyond his control, he can be exempted from this provision. If someone can’t go to the site due to genuine reasons, the government will consider them. The is government also human. But, except in rare cases, this provision is mandatory for everyone.
What is your position on giving trade union rights to the staffers at the local level?
For a bureaucrat like me, the idea of a trade union at the local level is not right. I am very clear that the staff, who get paid from the state coffers, should work for the people, and not engage in politics. But, if the political parties decide to give such rights in the Act, I can’t do anything. In principle, the concept of trade union originated in the private sector when industrialists did not rightly distribute the profit. But, in the case of government, the staff themselves are employers, service providers, and beneficiaries. So, why do we need trade union rights? It does not do any good to our services.
Meanwhile, some local governance experts have said the federal government is trying to control people-elected local leaders. Are you really trying to control them?
It depends on the perception. We have just asked them not to make haphazard decisions. We have asked them to make every decision correct. The Ministry of Finance is setting criteria for spending the budget from local levels. We have asked them not to make any financial decisions until things are finalised.
It should not be taken as a control over rights of local levels. We have just drawn their attention towards the risk the local governments would likely to face if their decisions without any analysis created unnecessary financial burdens.
The constitution has specified that some tasks should be carried out by local, provincial and federal governments jointly. It means they should have interrelationship and coordination. If the local levels cannot rightly exercise the rights, the rights should be withdrawn to the centre. There are many examples of such withdrawal in the world.
Autonomy is never absolute. Therefore, we have such cautioned them so that the rights gained by local levels would not be taken back.
So what can the newly elected representatives do now?
Within this fiscal year, they should hold a council meeting to prepare policies and plans for the next fiscal year. They should prepare details of income and expenditure.
Our destination is far away. We have to do many things. Everyone wishes to make one’s place well-facilitated. But, not all rights can be exercised at once.
We have prepared a list of 357 tasks which the local levels should do now. They have to prioritise them and do them one by one.
Please pay attention to the sustainability of your plan. Announce any programme only if you can continue it. Every representative should consider limits of financial capacity and rights.
Published on June 12th, Monday, 2017 11:02 AM
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