Mayors fly to Kuala Lumpur as government seeks to limit foreign trips by local officialsLocal officials welcome new policy to discourage unofficial and non-essential visits.
A group of mayors of various municipalities on Monday left the country for Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, to participate in a gathering of local officials from the Asia-Pacific region, a day after the government issued a notice to limit non-essential foreign trips by local officials.
They are participating in the 9th Congress of CityNet, a regional network of local authorities for the management of human settlements, to be held on September 20-24.
“Mayors of about two dozen municipalities who are members of the CityNet have flown to the Malaysian capital to participate in the event,” said Khemraj Acharya, a personal secretary to Dhanaraj Acharya, the mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City.
This visit is taking place at a time when the government on Sunday issued a notice stating that the federal government wouldn’t approve foreign trips unless they are official visits.
The ‘Directive on Foreign Trips of Officials of Local Levels-2076BS’ has made it mandatory for local government representatives to get their invitations approved by either the Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry or the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration.
The Prime Minister’s Office decided last week that the federal government would not approve foreign trips by local officials if the invitations have been sent in personal capacity.
As per the decision of the Prime Minister’s Office which was released along with the notice of the federal affairs ministry on Sunday, the federal government will nominate the elected representatives and other officials of the local governments for foreign trips only if the invitations are from countries that have diplomatic relations with Nepal, international agencies of which Nepal is a member, the United Nations, and the non-governmental organisations under it.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, most of the invitations received by the local government officials were sent in personal capacity and for events organised by non-governmental organisations, while some of the events were unrelated to local governments.
The Directive on Foreign Trips of Officials of Local Levels has discouraged foreign trips by local government officials to participate in events organised by NGOs.
If an NGO or a social organisation is found to have sponsored the foreign visit of any elected local representative without prior approval from the federal government, such organisations would face action, according to the directive.
Government officials say as visits abroad are a part of meeting the foreign policy objectives of the state, caution should be exercised while sending officials on foreign trips. In fact, the directive has barred elected local representatives from expressing views or signing documents that are against Nepal’s constitution and international commitments.
However, the local representatives headed for Malaysia claimed that their visit is in line with the existing rules.
“Our mayor headed for Kuala Lumpur after seeking Cabinet nod,” said Manjali Shakya Bajracharya, the deputy mayor of the Lalitpur Metropolitan City. “As Lalitpur Metropolitan City is one of the members of CityNet and our mayor is also in the executive committee of CityNet, it was necessary for him to participate in the event.”
All six metropolitan cities including Kathmandu, Pokhara, Bharatpur, Lalitpur, Biratnagar and Birgunj are part of the CityNet network along with other several municipalities of Nepal.
“A total of 23 municipalities of Nepal are associated with the CityNet network,” said Ashok Kumar Byanju Shrestha, the mayor of Dhulikhel Municipality, who skipped the event. “Nepali cities have long been involved in this network of cities.”
Office bearers at the local governments, however, are not averse to the new restrictions introduced by the federal government.
“The federal government’s policy of discouraging unofficial foreign trips is okay,” said Shrestha. “In fact, our municipal assembly has also decided not to entertain invitations extended to officials in personal capacities.”
However, Byanju said local officials should not be discouraged from participating in knowledge- and experience-sharing events.