Move to hire staff for local units draws criticism from provincial governmentsProvince representatives say such actions are against the spirit of federalism
When the federal government was assessing the demand for staff at local governments to be recruited through the Public Service Commission, the Province 2 government had written to the commission asking it to not initiate the process of hiring employees for local governments. The provincial government had argued that recruitment of staff was its responsibility.
But a little over a week after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli made a statement in Dhading that provincial and local governments were “units under the federal government”, the Public Service Commission (PSC) on May 29 opened the vacancy for 9,161 positions at 515 local units.
As per Article 227 of the Constitution, matters related to employees and offices of the village bodies and municipalities shall be dealt with as per provincial laws.
But the federal government, saying that the country is still transitioning into the federal system, requested the commission to issue the vacancy as per Section 12 (5 and 6) of Employees Adjustment Act.
This provision states that the federal government can request the PSC to start the recruitment process for filling the vacant posts until Provincial Public Service Commissions come into place.
Federal government officials are of the view that they had to expedite the recruitment process as it would have taken time for the formation of Provincial Public Service Commissions and that it could have delayed the staff hiring, thereby affecting the service delivery.
However, provincial governments are of the view that this is another example of the federal government’s intention to centralise power, rendering provincial and local governments as subsidiary institutions of the federal government.
“The PSC should not have issued the vacancy notice as we are introducing a law to form Provincial Public Service Commission in a week,” Province 2 Chief Minister Lal Babu Raut told the Post. “The PSC is a constitutional body, not a body under the federal government, and it should have followed the constitution. And the commission should have at least consulted the provincial governments before initiating the recruitment process for local units,” he added.
Terming the current recruitment drive an anti-federalist move, Raut said Oli was intervening in the jurisdiction of chief ministers. “Why did the country adopt federalism if he (Oli) wants to run the provincial governments? Raut asked.
While other provincial governments have also expressed reservations about PSC’s recruitment drive, the government in Province 2, the only province where the ruling Nepal Communist Party does not govern, has vehemently protested the move.
When asked, Province 3 Chief Minister Dormani Poudel told the Post that his government has decided to say nothing on the issue even though it also finds the move against the spirit of the constitution and laws.
“We don’t have a law for the formation of our own Public Service Commission, and it may take around a year to start the recruitment process after the formation of the commission,” he said. “There is also a shortage of staff at local levels. So, we are not protesting the move of the Public Service Commission.”
Officials at the PSC, however, said they started the recruitment drive after the federal government made a formal request to this effect in line with the Employees Adjustment Act. “We didn’t issue the vacancy notice because we wanted to, we did it because the federal government made a request,” said Kiran Raj Sharma, spokesperson for the PSC. “In fact, we had also sought policy decisions from the government regarding the assimilation of level-based staff and class-based system (first class, second class) in civil service, inclusion policy and standards on academic qualification and experiences. After a Cabinet decision regarding these issues, we issued the vacancy notice.”
The latest dispute over the staff recruitment process for the local government has come in a series of conflicts between the federal and provincial governments over jurisdictional issues.
In the recent past, federal and provincial governments have sparred over a number of legal and administrative arrangements.
The provincial government protested the provision of the Bill on Law and Order registered at the federal Parliament that aims to empower chief district officers appointed as representatives of the federal government with control over all security agencies.
The provinces are of the view that the federal government should not appoint CDOs to maintain law and order, as maintaining law and order is within the jurisdiction of the provincial governments.
In response, the Province 2 government introduced its own Provincial Administrative law, creating the post of provincial chief administrative officer in each district.
After the federal government registered another bill on Police Administration—making a provision that the federal government would deploy Nepal Police personnel for posts of Deputy Superintendent of Police or above as a part of the provincial police. In response, Province 2 introduced a Provincial Police Act with the provision of Provincial Inspector General of Police who will be accountable to the interior ministry of the province.
Earlier, when the Cabinet on October 28 last year issued an executive order allowing the provincial police chief to mobilise personnel up to the sub-inspector level, it also invited protests from the provincial governments.
“The federal government’s moves—aiming to limit the jurisdiction of the provincial governments over the last several months—suggest that it is bent on snatching the constitutional rights of the provinces. This is against the spirit of federalism,” said Dipendra Jha, chief attorney of Province 2 government. “The issuance of the vacancy notice by the PSC is the latest illustration of the federal government’s mindset of centralising everything.”