Empty seatsShortage of staff at the provincial and local levels is impairing service delivery
Civil servants are the backbone of any government. Yet, more than a year after local level elections and six months after federal and provincial elections, there is a serious shortage of staff at the provincial and local levels.
Although the federal government is currently transferring its staff on a permanent and temporary basis to fulfill the human resource needs of sub-national governments, its pace has been less than satisfactory.
The civil services form an important part of the administrative system and act as a vital tool for governance. Without officials, the work of the government will continually get affected, contributing to the inertia of an already sluggish machinery.
In March, the Cabinet approved a total of 37,257 positions for municipalities, rural municipalities and District Coordination Committees. With a total of 21,716 officials already in service, the local level requires around 16,000 more staff. But the lack of adequate staff at the local level and provincial has made institutionalising federalism difficult. What’s more, while well-established municipalities are overstaffed, newly created ones are understaffed.
The situation is not any better at the provincial level either. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, among the seven state governments, three—in provinces 5, 7 and Karnali—have less than 50 percent staff against the total sanctioned posts. This constraint has affected daily operations, development work and revenue collection, ultimately resulting in poor service delivery. In the three provinces, availability of technical human resource such as doctors and engineers too stands at just around 25 percent.
The prime minister and the Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration time and again have publically announced that they would address the scarcity of employees, but in vain. An Organisation and Management Survey to determine the organisational structure and staff numbers under the provincial and local governments has yet to be completed. Granted, the transition from a unitary government to a federal system was never going to be easy, but that does not mean the transition process cannot be expedited. The bureaucracy is to be blamed, too. The fact that civil servants are unwilling to report to their assigned duty stations because it is in some remote area, away from their family, has made matters worse.
The Civil Servant Adjustment Act envisions completing staff management within six months. However, the government has yet to approve the regulation to begin deployment. Without the Federal Civil Service Act, Provincial Civil Service Act and Local-level Service Act, permanent adjustment of government staffers will be difficult. These acts need to be enacted soon if the government is to fulfill its promise of decentralising power and embark on its “journey to a prosperous Nepal”.