Government mulls confining Federal Affairs Ministry to policymakingTask of transferring staff to be handed over to subordinate agencies and the provinces.
The government is mulling over restructuring the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration largely confining the ministry to policymaking roles while devolving its several powers to its subsidiary institutions, and provincial and local governments.
A committee headed by the ministry’s Joint-secretary Basanta Adhikari is preparing to recommend among other things changing the name of the ministry.
“We have proposed that the name of the ministry be changed to Ministry of Federal Affairs and Human Resources,” Adhikari told the Post.
The ministry has worked as a contact ministry between the federal and local governments and the ministry has also been responsible for the operation and management of federal civil services. It works as a facilitator for development work and service delivery of the local governments and helps to strengthen the capacity of provincial and local governments.
“The main reason for recommending a restructuring of the ministry is to keep the ministry totally confined to policy making, as the issue of transfer of civil servants is keeping the ministry busy in less urgent things,” he said. The committee plans to hand over its report to the ministry within a week.
As per the recommendation of the committee, the ministry will hand over the task of transferring local government staff to provincial governments. Also, the committee has recommended assigning the Department of Civil Personnel Records the responsibility of transferring the civil servants up to section officers. It has also proposed changing the name to Department of Civil Servant Management and Records.
If the committee’s recommendations are implemented, there will be another government body under the ministry which will be named Department of Federal Affairs and Inter-level Coordination—among the three layers of government.
As most tasks will be devolved, the number of staff at the ministry will be brought down, said Adhikari. Currently, there are 172 staff employed at the ministry.
The federal government reconstituted the Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (Dolidar) under it into the Department of Local Infrastructure.
The department is involved in undertaking planning and assisting the construction of local-level rural roads, irrigation and river control, water supply and sanitation, suspension bridges, housing and building, and rural energy, among others.
Experts on federal affairs, however, say that continuing this institution in another name is an effort to involve the federal government in development works at the local level.
“Local offices under this department have been opened in several districts going against the principle of federalism,” Khim Lal Devkota, a National Assembly member, who has studied federal affairs, told the Post in a recent interview.
Even after the country adopted federalism, most of the government resources are concentrated with the federal government though the budgetary allocations for provincial and local governments have also been increasing gradually.
But, Adhikari said they have proposed minimising the department’s role as executor of development projects. “This department will only be tasked to coordinate with the local governments for executing local level development projects,” he said.
In order to restructure the ministry, the committee has proposed amending the Federation, Province and Local Level (Coordination and Inter-Relation) Act-2020 and Nepal Government Business Rules. “It is necessary to amend the legal provisions to implement the restructuring of our ministry,” said Joint-secretary Adhikari.