Ministry’s decision on Caan chief ‘flawed’Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev’s apparent move to sack the chief of the aviation regulatory body has had many flaws and reflects a “weak” decision-making processes of country’s bureaucratic regime.
Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev’s apparent move to sack the chief of the aviation regulatory body has had many flaws and reflects a “weak” decision-making processes of country’s bureaucratic regime.
Some government officials and civil aviation experts termed the decision “a comedy of errors”.
On September 26, the ministry directed Sanjiv Gautam, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan), to stop attending the office and be present at the ministry every day to: review the Aviation Policy; expedite the process of extending compensation to the Korean firm that conducted a detailed feasibility study on construction of an international airport in Nijgadh; formulate strategies for effective implementation of national pride projects [under the domain of the ministry]; and initiate the process of establishing the Air Accident Investigation Bureau to enhance air safety standards.
“The government has sought a clarification from Gautam for his non-performance. But on the other hand, he has been given a big responsibility to review the country’s major aviation policy and infrastructure,” said an official at the ministry. “It’s nothing short of entertaining. It’s the comedy of errors.”
On Tuesday, Gautam attended the office and did some light works.
While the ministry officials, including the secretary, have taken a decision to stop Gautam from attending the office, the process has not met any legal formalities. First, since Gautam has been appointed as the chief of Caan by the Cabinet, only the Cabibet has the mandate to sack him.
“Neither the minister nor secretary has the authority to decide the chief’s fate,” said an official.
Second, Caan’s directors general are politically appointed to oversee the country’s civil aviation industry so the government has no right to transfer him to the ministry and entrust him with the ministry’s every day task.
“The government officials have not followed a single legal procedure that shows how the decisions are made that could tweak bureaucracy by politics,” the official added.
Gautam was appointed as the chief of Caan for a period of four years. One of his biggest achievements since joining the office was to remove the tag of “significant safety concerns” slapped on Nepal’s aviation sector by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the global aviation watchdog, for its failure to raise air safety standards.
A closer look at the Gautam saga smacks of a political game behind it. Hours after the ministry decided to transfer Gautam on September 26, the Election Commission (EC) had asked the former to furnish a clarification within 24 hours over its decision. The EC has termed the decision “a violation of the election code of conduct” without its prior consent. It was not immediately clear whether the ministry furnished the clarification on Tuesday—the deadline to do so.
“The ministry might have submitted the clarification letter on Tuesday,” said EC’s spokesperson Navaraj Dhakal, adding that they could not call a meeting due to a busy schedule.
“We will call a meeting on Wednesday,” he said. “Based on the clarification, the EC will decide whether any action should be initiated against the minister and other officials.”