Parties discuss setting up special panel for implementing federalismMeasures suggested by several committees and studies in the past for streamlining federal administration have yet to be adopted fully.
Eight years after the promulgation of the constitution, major political parties have started discussions on forming a special committee under the federal parliament for an effective implementation of federalism.
Given the lackadaisical approach of successive governments in implementing the new constitutional measures established after the 2015 charter that shifted the government system from unitary to federal, experts are calling for a special parliamentary panel to oversee the political transition.
“Discussions on forming a special parliamentary committee for effective implementation of federalism have started,” said Hitraj Pande, chief whip of the ruling CPN (Maoist Centre). “But we have not reached any conclusion yet.”
Earlier, the National Assembly had formed a committee led by Khim Lal Devkota with a mandate to study the implementation status of federalism. Last year, the Devkota-led panel submitted a report calling for a special parliamentary committee to oversee the implementation of federalism.
“But party leaders didn’t take the report’s suggestions seriously,” said lawmaker Prakash Pantha, who served as a member of the Devkota-led committee.
“Such a committee is necessary to oversee and guide all tiers of the government for the proper implementation of the newly adopted system, as people have begun questioning federalism.”
According to Pantha, a parliamentary committee is essential for steering governments in the right direction, evaluating their performance, and holding them accountable for their actions.
The Devkota-led study panel had also directed the government to reduce the number of ministries in both the federal and provincial governments to make the federal system sustainable. It also suggested shutting down half the departments existing under the federal government.
The panel studied the political, legal and administrative difficulties seen in the implementation of federalism in the five years after the 2017 polls.
The Devkota-led committee had asked the government to do away with 10 of the 25 ministries in the federal government and limit the number of provincial ministries to 10 percent of the total strength of that particular assembly.
Devkota, a member of the National Assembly who is also an expert on fiscal federalism, handed over the study report to the upper house chairman, Ganesh Timilsina, on November 3 last year.
Questioning the high cost of running provincial governments, some political parties, including the right-wing Rastriya Prajatantra Party, several independent candidates and some leaders of major parties like the CPN-UML have proposed that the provinces should be scrapped.
While the regulation for the joint parliamentary committees was being drafted, Devkota had proposed forming a new parliamentary committee including lawmakers from both chambers. He had dropped his demand after the chief whips of the major parties pledged to form such a committee whenever necessary.
“As lawmakers raised their call for a special parliamentary committee, we all need to delve into the matter,” said Padam Giri, chief whip of the UML.
Giri said a thorough discussion was necessary to decide about the committee. The UML wouldn’t oppose it if other parties found such a committee necessary, he added.
Santosh Pariyar, chief whip of the Rastriya Swatantra Party, said the issue was discussed but no concrete decision was taken. “Such a panel may help implement federalism,” he said. “Our party has yet to discuss the issue properly, but we will do it soon.”
Lawmaker Buddhi Man Tamang of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, however, said he wasn’t aware of any such proposal.
A study report by the Legislation Management Committee of the National Assembly says only 111 laws among the 151 needed to implement the constitution promulgated by the Constituent Assembly have so far been enacted. Still, 40 Acts need either significant amendments or replacement with new ones to bring them in sync with the statute, according to the study.
Pantha, a Nepali Congress member of the National Assembly, said all the parties agree on the need for such a committee but they have not come together to make it happen.
“Party leaders are good at paying lip service, but none of them bothers to discuss what exactly is necessary for the proper implementation of federalism,” Pantha told the Post.
The Devkota-led committee had also recommended halving the number of civil servants and stopping promotions for civil servants with less than two years of service remaining.
The committee made 99 recommendations to ensure smooth functioning of federalism, with a time-bound chart specifying the authorities responsible for implementing the recommendations.