Karnali suffers in absence of senior officials and Kathmandu transfers them frequently without consulting the provinceTwo-fifths of the bureaucracy positions remain vacant and with the Federal Civil Servant Act still not in place, the province cannot start appointing civil servants on its own.
Tek Narayan Pandey, chief secretary of Karnali Province, was transferred to the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation in Kathmandu on July 20. A day later secretary of the chief minister’s office Laxmi Kumar Basnet was deputed as acting chief secretary of the province.
Barely, a month later, on August 25, however, the federal government transferred Basnet to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in Kathmandu, leaving the offices of the chief minister and the council of ministers without both the chief secretary and secretary.
The provincial government has requested Basnet to postpone his move to Kathmandu until the arrival of a new chief secretary.
“We have requested Basnet to postpone his transfer but we are yet to get a reply. The federal government did not consult with the provincial government before making the transfer. We are in a difficult situation now since all administrative works of the provincial government have come to a halt,” said Bimala KC, spokesperson of Karnali government, who is also the Minister for Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives. “Karnali has failed to accomplish its development goals since its formation two and a half years ago. One of the main reasons for this is the absence of government officials in important positions.”
The Karnali Province Assembly has already endorsed the provincial Public Service Commission Act. The formation of this Act has paved the way for the formulation of the provincial Civil Service Act. The latter Act will allow the province to make decisions on the hiring of officials in the province.
But since the federal government is yet to endorse the Federal Civil Service Act, the Provincial Civil Service Act remains to be formulated. Constitutionally, the provincial act is to be enacted as per the spirit of the federal act.
The State Affairs Committee of the federal parliament has endorsed the Federal Civil Servant Bill but the parliament is yet to approve it.
While the provinces have been saying that the authority to appoint secretaries in provincial governments should be theirs in the spirit of federalism, the federal bill has given that authority to the federal government.
One of the factors leading to vacant senior positions in Karnali government is the remoteness of the region. With little to no facilities officials transferred from Kathmandu are used to available in the province, high-level government officials the federal government appoints ask to be transferred outside Karnali, says KC.
“In the past two and a half years, Karnali has seen four chief secretaries. None of them stayed for more than a few months before being transferred elsewhere—some sought their transfers while others were transferred by the federal government,” said KC. “Pandey, who was deputed as chief secretary of the province in mid-March, was in office for only four months before he was transferred to another federal ministry.”
Most of the managerial positions of Karnali Province have remained vacant since the formation of the provincial government.
“There should be level nine and level ten civil servants (of under secretary level) as division chiefs in the ministries while level eleven ones should be appointed as directors of the provincial directorates. But these offices have been operating with officials in acting positions since the formation of the provincial government,” said KC. “This has hindered the implementation of policies and programmes, and development plans in the province,”
In total there are 22 divisions and seven directorates in six different ministries of the Karnali government. Bishnu Prasad Adhikari, the spokesperson at the Social Development Ministry, said, “Junior officers have been given the responsibility of acting office chiefs and acting directors in almost all divisions and directorates in the absence of high-level government officials in the province.”
Chitra Bahadur Rokaya, a level nine official, is currently the acting director at the Agriculture Development Directorate. The position is of level eleven official.
“In the absence of a senior officer, our office is facing difficulties to meet its targets. I have to monitor fieldwork as well as administrative tasks,” Rokaya said.
The Infrastructure Development Directorate, the only directorate under the Physical Infrastructure Development Ministry, is also being run by an acting office director. Basudev Paudel, a level ten civil servant, is the acting office chief now although only a level eleven government official is qualified to take that position.
“One of the three divisions under the Infrastructure Development Ministry does not even have an acting office chief,” Gopal Sharma, the ministry's spokesperson, said.
Similarly, two directorates under the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment are being run by acting directors. Shivaram Adhikari, a level nine civil servant, has been leading the Forest and Environment Directorate though the office should be led by a level eleven official. A junior officer, Mukundanath Yogi, is the acting director at Industry and Consumers Rights Protection Directorate.
According to the Office of Chief Minister, 998 of the total 2,555 posts in Karnali Province are vacant now.
Minister KC, the Karnali government's spokesperson, said it was hard to execute work in the province since the federal government does not send human resources to fill critical positions in the government offices.
“The provincial government does not have the authority to appoint employees yet and is reliant on the centre to fulfil its human resource needs in the provincial government offices,” KC said.
The provincial government will have the authority once its Public Service Commission Act is implemented but that again is on hold as the federal parliament is yet to pass the Federal Civil Servant Act.
The provincial government had presented a total budget of Rs 34.34 billion in the last fiscal year 2019/20. However, only 35.37 percent of the budget was spent.
According to Man Bahadur Bam, chief at the Provincial Financial Comptroller Office, the development expenditure was merely 24.66 percent in the last fiscal year. The current fiscal year’s budget implementation has not even initiated, he added.