Personnel At Local Level

Mukti Rijal

Unlike the classical federal countries, local governments do matter in the framework of federal structures of Nepal. This is a major achievement in legal and constitutional terms. However, the real test lies in how they will be organised, empowered and capacitated to function through the endowment of adequate finance and functionaries to match their responsibilities. In our country where decision making has been long centralised by political, administrative and technical elites, the genuine devolution of power is still a pressing problem no matter the governing polity and state structures – unitary or federal.

Furthermore, it must be taken into account that the strategies for decentralised local governance in federal polity should reflect the social, cultural and economic context and the process and system of its implementation have to be based on an explicit and coherent set of rules. These rules should encompass, among others, various aspects of the intergovernmental relationship especially related with division of political, administrative and fiscal power. If the issues of inter-governmental relations are not carefully set and executed, the process of instituting a strong and autonomous local government is bound to encounter problems no matter the robust democratic constitutional provisions meant to favour them. The chances for the incumbent parties/coalitions at all levels of the government to monopolise state apparatus and usurp all types of crumbs of power must be limited through strengthened accountability and oversight mechanism.
Vested political, social and regional interests that cripple state institutions at all levels –federal, provincial and local governments -and hamper the service delivery at the local level need to be curbed. The vested interests and unscrupulous actors can meddle and play mischievously to scuttle the federal democratic process threatening social harmony, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nepal. The steps in the days to come need, therefore, to be taken in a more prudent and responsible manner keeping broader and holistic perspective into consideration. Furthermore, organisational-structural aspect of federalism is very important in the successful working of the federal system.
The organisational structures and processes of the local government within the federal governance framework will have to be developed in such a way that they do acquire optimum capacity and capabilities for resource mobilisation, find locally relevant and democratically acceptable solutions to local problems, reduce corruption and leakage of resources and improve the democratic quality of civic efforts and service delivery.
In fact, the ability to perform better on the part of local government hinges upon administrative and technical capacity these locally elected democratic institutions have. Local governments, therefore, need not only adequate financial resources but also competent set of functionaries and staff accountable to the locally elected institutions. Article 285 (3) of the constitution provides for administrative autonomy and staff management of local government. The constitution stipulates for a competence-based personnel system for the local government level though it is not very clearly articulated.
Generally, three types of public personnel system have been in practice in federal countries of the world. They are separate personnel system in which the government at every level especially every local government Acts as a completely autonomous employer. The second kind is integrated personnel system in which sub-national and local government functionaries are composed of the civil servants hired at the central level. The third is unified personnel system in which local government staff are employed locally but organised nationwide in a single civil service.
As there is a mix of the centrally deputed and transferred personnel and locally recruited staff, the Nepali civil personnel system will be more or less of the unified or integrated kind. Integrated personnel is found in countries like India. It offers some sort of homogeneity and transferability since key officials belong to the central civil service. However, in this
type of system there is a split between loyalties which every senior official face. His/her operational loyalty is to the local government whereas his career loyalty is to central government. The effectiveness of the local government administration depends on whether the government will transfer existing agencies, staff and personnel under the institutional control of local government. If the parallel staff and structures continued to exist at the command of federal and provincial government at the local level, the administrative and governance effectiveness of local government shall be completely undermined.
For the local government to effectively carry out the responsibilities cast upon them in respect of the matters listed in Schedule-8, the relevant line agency offices, personnel and functionaries will have to be transferred institutionally under the control and purview of local governments. The posts must be created under the respective local government. And the officials would have to be officially transferred and deputed to local government. As an interim measure for now the services of the government employees and personnel working at the district level for central line agency offices have been placed at the disposal of the Gaonpalika and Nagarpalika. But this has not been sufficient and effective.

The government should speed up the process to formulate the civil service law to ease the process for transfer and adjustment of the civil servants for local and provincial levels. It is learnt that the government is considering formulating the law through ordinance to meet the needs for personnel so that the local and provincial governments implement their functions in an effective manner. The local and provincial governments are affected badly due to dearth of human resources and pressing the federal government to provide human resources to implement functions allocated to them in the constitution of Nepal.

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