A bad precedentLast week, Som Lal Subedi was forced to step down from the prized government position of chief secretary after facing scathing criticisms from a broad cross section of society.
Last week, Som Lal Subedi was forced to step down from the prized government position of chief secretary after facing scathing criticisms from a broad cross section of society. Subedi had to face public ire after he accepted the post of alternate director at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The voices of condemnation became even louder after he decided to take a sabbatical to work for the Manila-based multilateral lending institution.
Subedi likely could not resist the temptation to join the ADB, as alternate director is a lucrative post considering Nepal’s pay scale. But monetary benefits alone should not have driven him to accept a post that is more appropriate for joint secretary-level staff. Whatever drove Subedi to accept the ABD post, he has set a bad precedent.
Subedi’s example is emblematic of the culture among Nepali civil servants to seek favours from donor agencies. This needs to be abolished, as it can breed corruption at policy-making level.
Of course, Subedi cannot be solely blamed for what has happened. The government, as a member of the ADB’s Board of Governors, had appointed him to represent Nepal. But was the process to select him fair?
It is well known that the ADB has given unprecedented authority to its member countries to appoint directors and alternate directors. As such, the government should take the lion’s share of responsibility for appointing Subedi. But, perhaps, the ADB, as a major donor agency, could have stood up and said that the position is not meant for chief secretary-level staff. This would have given a clear message to the Nepali public that the ADB fosters good governance.
Development partners have always said bad governance promotes corruption, hits delivery of public services and hampers economic development. It is time they did some introspection, because they could also be vehicles of bad governance and corruption. If this sounds like hyperbole, look at the way development partners and INGOs dangle the carrot of consultancy in front of government officials who haven’t even retired. Donors offer these jobs not to profit from Nepali bureaucrats’ knowledge and expertise, but to benefit from their contacts in Nepal’s power corridors and, at times, obtain classified information and influence policy formulation.
Of course, it’s not a crime for retired civil servants to work as consultants for development partners. Civil servants across the globe do this. But when they are offered jobs before their retirement, questions can be raised on their integrity. This should be a food for thought for both the government and development partners.