The Civil Servants Ordinance
Citing an urgent need to address the increasing demands of employees at the provincial and local level, the federal government has introduced the ‘Civil Servants Adjustment Ordinance 2018’ amid criticism from the opposition of skipping the parliamentary deliberations on such a matter of high public importance.
The ordinance aims to bring four categories of officials in the adjustment process: civil servants, staffs of different commissions, committees, academy and corporations handed over to the province and local level including the employees of the scrapped offices; staffs at the district coordination committee and the remaining staffs who haven’t been integrated.
The ordinance includes various clause to motivate employees at work outside the center. Replacing the provisions of the Civil Servants Adjustment Act 2017, the new ordinance offers two level of grade increment for employees who have served in the same position for less than 5 years in case of their willingness to go to province or local level for service.
Similarly, for officials with more than 5 years experience, promotion to the next senior level is available. Furthermore, both the province and local level can make necessary arrangements of other positive rewards to boost the morale of the employees as stated in the ordinance. However, it bars the transfer of such staffs to the federal or other provincial services in the future. In the same way, top priority has been accorded for the deployment of the married couple working in the civil service in the same place. Having said that, the new enactment intends to sack those staffs who fail to reach their designated office within 35 days.
Being the permanent arm of the government, civil servants occupy a significant place in the public administration. There are around 89 thousand civil servants in the country till date and this will be insufficient to run the public administration at federal, province and local level.
Out of the total 21 thousand vacancies in the provinces, 8 thousand employees need to be adjusted via the new ordinance. Meanwhile, 4 thousand officials are to be adjusted at the local level and addition 45 thousand employees will be required at the federal offices.
At a time when the implementation of federalism in Nepal is going through transition, the role of this vital state machinery to institutionalise the new political and administrative setup can hardly be exaggerated.
Giving an upperhand to the federal government in the mobilisation of public staffs in the provinces and the local level, the ordinance has further entrenched the federal domination. In the absence of adequate consultations with concerned stakeholders, the government is receiving accusations for being lop-sided. Nonetheless, the ordinance lacks provision of making employees responsible in the public service.
While it has laid an emphasis on positive sanctions, it is mum about the negative sanctions for employees who try to take undue advantage of the government job. For example, in case an employee wishes to retire from the job after getting senior level promotion at the province or local level, he /she doesn’t have to bear any loss as per the new rule. This is likely to increase additional burden on state coffers in the form of more pension amounts.
Instead of settling this issue through the parliamentary discussions, the government’s decision has come as a unilateral one which has created dissatisfaction among other political parties including even some leaders within the ruling parties. Moreover, the government didn’t bother to seek pertinent views of the former high-ranking bureaucrats and public administration experts in the ordinance drafting process.
No matter whatever rules have been incorporated in the ordinance, unless and until there is the change in the employees mindset, federalism can’t deliver according to public expectations. Such changes require a more flexible approach to handling the administrative affairs by abandoning the ‘superiority complex’, openness to learn the new ways of functioning in the changed system, switching to service oriented mentality instead of a job centric mindset among others.
More importantly, stepping out of the comfort zone, the public officials should have a strong sense of national responsibility to promote public welfare. Any attempts on their part to challenge the administrative decision of deputing them in different parts of the country would be devastating for effective public service delivery.
It looks difficult for the government to address the emerging challenges of federalism. As stated above, in the absence of a vibrant public administration, the bigger goal of prosperity will remain only a political rhetoric.
Hence, all efforts need to be directed towards improving the quality of the civil service. Relevant trainings and other learning orientations to adapt to the change should be high on the government’s agenda. Building a harmonious relation with the civil servants, the government needs to collectively work in achieving the national goals. Coming out of the political and administrative blame game has become urgent.