Constitutional Body Recruitment
The Constitutional Council has made an announcement the other day opening a call for application from the aspirants to fill the posts of the constitutional commissions envisaged in the constitution of Nepal. The commissions for which the aspirants are called to upload applications include the Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission, Inclusion Commission, Dalit Commission, Madheshi Commission, Tharu Commission and so on. These constitutional commissions are very crucial for the functioning of federal polity and building of an inclusive and equity based social order in the country.
As most of the commissions are going to be instituted according to the new federal constitutional arrangement, how will they perform to meet the need of the new political and social context is yet to be seen. But in order to make them function effectively, these bodies need to be sufficiently staffed and adequately resourced. In Nepal, the existing constitutional bodies and public oversight agencies like Public Service Commission, Elections Commission and CIAA have not been fully manned and they are allowed to remain in limbo for a considerable length of time in the past. As a result, their performance is far from being adequate and competent. This has jeopardised and impacted negatively on governance and institutional performance in the country. Even today the government seems to be somewhat reluctant to form the Natural Resources and Fiscal commission. It has called for applications from the potential aspirants after demands from civil society, lawmakers and opposition party were raised vociferously to constitute it to address the anomalies seen in local taxation and intergovernmental fiscal arrangement.
In fact, it is too slow a response from the government as the law relating to the natural resources and fiscal commission has been already in place for the last six months. Mention in this context must be made of the paralysed situation of the CIAA as its chief has carried out the role in the caretaker status for long. Moreover, apprehensions abound that the CIAA would be allowed to go dysfunctional for long especially due to the perceived political threats should it dare to act against the established political leaders and authority especially on the cases regarding the abuse of the authority.
Moreover, the most important part in making the constitutional commissions and bodies functional and competent is the way the commissioners and officials in these agencies are appointed and nominated. This point has been sought to be emphasised especially due to the fact the at least eight constitutional commissions are due to be manned with commissioners and members through appointments pursuant to the provision of the new federal constitution.
However, it is dismaying to note that the political affiliation and loyalty tend to count most in the appointment for these high level posts of the constitutional bodies including the Election Commission, public service commission, and national human rights commission and so on. Though the constitutional Council comprising of the prime minister, leader of the opposition is in place according to the constitution to recommend to fill the posts in the bodies, this has allegedly been reduced to a forum in which the ruling and the opposition parties tend to bargain over spoil sharing.
The similar provision had existed in the repealed Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 and the Interim constitution 2007 but this was reduced to a farcical proposition due also to political bargaining and cartelisation of posts and recruitments. The similar story is repeated in this Republic era of Nepal. However, there had been initiations taken to reverse the practices guided by favouritism and nepotism to select and appoint the commissioners and officials for the constitutional bodies and authorities. Like this time, the practice to issue public notices on behalf of the constitutional Council soliciting application and submission from the potential aspirants for the posts of such constitutional bodies as public service commission, election commission, Commission for the Investigation of the abuse of the authority and so on testified to this fact.
Similar to the announcement made on behalf of the constitutional council last week, the aspirants and potential candidates were also asked to provide the strategies that they would adopt and execute if they were selected for filling the vacated posts in the constitutional bodies. This move can be said to be innovative as the selection process could be made expectedly free from political meddling. And the competent and independent persons could have an opportunity to man the responsible positions of the constitutional bodies. However, the process in the past was meddled and jeopardized as the politicians bent on using patron-clientele practices in such appointments subverted and circumvented the tradition.
This time it is expected that steps will be taken to fill the position in the constitutional bodies in accordance with the due and judicious selection procedures so as to allow them to function in an effective manner. The political bickering especially guided and motivated by the partisan interests and motives should not prejudice the way of finding consensus on the proposed names or tentative list of the persons to be appointed for the posts. It had occurred in the past that the leader of the opposition failed to attend the meeting of the constitutional council called to take decision on the appointments for the constitutional bodies.
The constitutional commissions in the federal set up should remain independent, and they should be provided with competent human and fiscal resources to exercise their authority. For example, if the Natural resources and fiscal commission is not independent and competent, it is not possible to imagine the effective functioning of the fiscal federalism. Similarly Independent commissions are required to fulfil aspirations of the underprivileged sections of the society like Dalits and women and so on. The government should commit to fill the posts in the constitutional bodies by following the fair and competitive procedure, and set new precedents to strengthen the capacity and credibility of the constitutional commissions in the federal political set up.