Many see new ministers’ public instructions to bureaucrats on service delivery as publicity stuntMinisters should instead get to the root of the problems in the bureaucracy and resolve them, say former bureaucrats.
Since the formation of the Pushpa Kamal Dahal government in the last week of December, ministers seem to be competing with each other in giving directives to various departments.
However, experts find no meaning in such directives other than publicity of the ministers’ actions. They say their on-the-spot instructions would not resolve any problem.
The ministers should have a strong command at the policy level and a good control over the bureaucracy of their ministry, said Mohan Banjade, a former secretary of the Nepal government. Additionally, the chief secretary and secretaries of the ministries concerned should be hands-on with the regular operations of the bureaucracy.
“But in our context, it has become a norm that immediately after the formation of a new government, each minister seems to have a certain directive ready to be issued to the bureaucracy,” Banjade said. “However, that is not the way the bureaucracy functions; rather the government should make a mechanism for smooth and effective functioning.”
On Sunday, Minister for Health and Population Padam Giri visited Banke district to take stock of the situation of the measles outbreak that has spread in the district in the past couple of weeks. After the eruption of the disease in Nepalgunj Sub-metropolitan City, the virus has spread to nearby Kohalpur Municipality, Narainpur Municipality, Khajura Municipality and Dudwa Rural Municipality.
Banjade said the ministers are supposed to formulate a policy to make the workings of the government efficient, so that government officials can work efficiently rather than inspecting places.
“It is not the duty of ministers to go for an inspection, there is the National Vigilance Centre for that,” Banjade told the Post.
After the formation of the new government, ministers issuing instructions to government agencies is on an upward trend, said Krishna Gyawali, another former secretary of the Nepal government. “Even though such practices were there earlier also, the trend has become rampant especially after the formation of this government.”
Soon after taking the oath, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane inspected the passport department and ordered government officials to work efficiently.
However, such directives have not yielded any results yet. Later on, the newly-appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs Bimala Rai Paudyal joined other ministers in issuing similar instructions. Immediately after assuming her office, Paudyal ordered senior officials of the Ministry and the Department of Passports to ease the passport application and receiving process.
On January 20, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a press release directing the Nepal Police Headquarters to apprehend the absconding murder-accused lawmaker of the CPN-UML, Laxmi Mahato Koiri, who is on the police fugitive list.
In a press release, the Home Ministry said that it was seriously concerned as the police have not arrested the fugitive lawmaker despite repeated verbal directions from Deputy Prime Minister Lamichhane.
Administrative experts and former senior police officers say that was an immature move. “After the issuance of a warrant from the court, it is an obvious duty of the police to apprehend such persons,” Hemanta Malla, former Deputy Inspector General of Nepal Police, told the Post. “If the police were undermining the instructions of the minister, the minister could have summoned the police leadership in the case, but releasing a press statement is nothing more than a publicity stunt.”
Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Narayan Kaji Shrestha had gone to inspect some transport management offices. On January 3, Minister Shrestha visited Ekantakuna, Thulobharyang and Gurjudhara transport offices during office hours and heard complaints from service-seekers. Minister Shrestha instructed the officials concerned to carry out people’s work efficiently.
“The government should look into why any work is being delayed. There could be a lack of human resources, policy reasons or there could be a flaw in the bureaucracy itself,” Gyawali said. “But merely issuing directives or carrying out field inspections without trying to find the root causes of the problems will lead to nothing,”
Soon after becoming prime minister, Dahal issued a series of orders to top bureaucrats and all of them were related to the government’s service delivery and directly related to the general public’s day-to-day problems. The prime minister had issued circulars to government agencies such as the passport and transport departments, where hundreds of people queue up to get basic services, to immediately improve service delivery so that people aren’t compelled to stand for hours to receive documents such as passports, driving licences, citizenship and national identity cards.
Unless there is a mechanism in place to monitor the work of the various ministries, the directives from the prime minister and ministers won’t yield any results, said former top bureaucrats.
Kashiraj Dahal, former head of the High-level Administration Reform and Monitoring Committee, said there are problems in the bureaucracy and that need to be fixed.
“Our bureaucracy is oblivious to the needs of the people and is self-serving,” Dahal said. “That is the reason why every government leadership instructs them to work on behalf of the public.”