‘Limit ministries at central level to 16’Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi has called for limiting the number of ministries at the central level to 16, stating initiatives taken so far to empower local bodies will not yield desired results unless the big network of government’s administrative organisations is dismantled.
Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi has called for limiting the number of ministries at the central level to 16, stating initiatives taken so far to empower local bodies will not yield desired results unless the big network of government’s administrative organisations is dismantled.
His comments come at a time when efforts are being made to increase the number of ministries at the central level from proposed 16 to 18.
Currently, there are 31 ministries at the central level. But after formally embracing the federal set up in March, the government had floated a plan to reduce the number of ministries to 16. But again attempts are being made to increase the number of ministries to 18.
“Until there is cobweb of ministries at the central level, it would be difficult to strengthen local bodies, because authorities at the federal level will always try to wield power, rather than devolve responsibilities,” Subedi told a meeting of the Parliamentary Development Committee on Monday.
Heavy presence of ministries at the central level will also increase the government’s recurrent expenditure because of the need to maintain a bigger workforce. This will put a drain on taxpayers’ money.
“So, we should stick to the plan of forming 16 ministries at the centre,” said Subedi.
As a decision on the number of ministries at the central level has not yet been made, the process of deploying civil servants at local bodies is also being delayed.
The government is planning to depute staff at the local level after the number of employees required for ministries and departments at the central level is finalised.
As per the current estimate, even a village council will require at least nine staff, excluding employees who will oversee specific sectors such as health, education and agriculture.
“Many local bodies with elected representatives are complaining about shortage of staff. And we are doing our best to address their demands,” said Mohan Sapkota, secretary of the Ministry of General Administration, adding, “We hope the number of ministries and departments at the central level will be finalised soon so that local bodies can be strengthened.”
Nepal has taken a major initiative to empower local bodies by allowing them to frame their budgetary programmes on their own. For this, the government, through the budget of the next fiscal year presented in Parliament on May 29, has earmarked a fund of Rs225 billion, or 17.6 percent of the total budget, to 744 local bodies.
Also, village councils have now been allowed to implement projects and programmes of up to Rs5
million on their own, while such ceiling for municipalities has been fixed at Rs10 million and Rs20 million for sub-metropolitan and metropolitan cities.
Based on these programmes and allocations, local bodies will present their budget on July 9, according to Federal Affairs and Local Development Secretary Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya.
Although efforts are being made to strengthen local bodies, most of them are stopgap measures, signalling the need to frame relevant laws as early as possible.
“Couple of laws are pending in Parliament for approval, while others are being drafted,” said Thapaliya.
“The work is so intense, every day we feel the need to introduce a new law or regulation to ensure proper functioning of local bodies.”