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Provinces table grievances at inter-state meet

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Dec 10, 2018-

Chief ministers who spoke in the first-ever Inter-state Council meeting held in Kathmandu raised issues related to the home, finance and federal affairs on Sunday.

The council is a prime min-ster-led constitutional mecha-nism formed to settle political disputes between the federa-tion and the provinces. It has chief ministers as the provin-cial representatives.

The panel had failed to meet for long even as the provincial governments had been press-ing for a discussion with the federal government on prob-lems seen in implementing federalism for the first time.

The chief ministers were full of complaints about Kathmandu’s alleged apathy for handing over the authority and resources to the provinces in a true spirit of federalism.

The Centre and the provinc-es spar over a number of issues including mobilisation of personnel and resources, and jurisdiction of the two federal units.

According to sources privy to the meeting chaired by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the provincial executives demanded that the district administration offices (DAO) must come under them.

Currently, the offices tasked with maintaining law and order are mobilised by the central government. The con-stitution states that the pro-vincial government is respon-sible for enforcing law and order in the geography.

According to a senior gov-ernment official, they also asked for timely introduction of the Federal Police Act, on which the provincial police laws are based. Amid the delay by the Centre in passing the Federal Police Act, Province 2 Assembly has already endorsed its Police Act inviting strong opposition from the federal government.

The chief ministers also voiced their displeasure at the current hierarchy of public officials, demanding higher status for elected representa-tives, according to a source.

Province 1 Chief Minister Sher Dhan Rai told the Post that they had demanded early introduction of the standard for setting up the provincial Public Service Commission (PSC) and transfer of plans and resources to the provinces from the Centre.

As the provincial govern-ments fail to deliver public services mainly due to a staff crunch, the chief ministers asked the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government to clear the way for recruiting staff through the provincial PSC. The provincial govern-ments blame the lack of ade-quate technical human resource for the slow progress in implementing the budget for the current fiscal year.

According to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, there are only 12,900 officials currently working for the provincial governments while their total required strength is 21,000.

The chief ministers also complained that frequent transfers of officials from the provinces make the provincial bureaucracy unstable, an offi-cial who attended the meeting told the Post.

They were unhappy about the current structure of the pro-vincial administrations argu-ing that it would not serve their needs, sources said.

On the failure to effectively carry out development activi-ties, the provinces are con-cerned that projects were handed over to them but not the offices and officials required to implement the schemes, an official said.

They also complained about the mismatch between the estimated project cost and the actual amount of money that was released to the pro-vincial governments. This had created unmanageable funding deficits. In another anomaly discussed at the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday, District Public Health Offices have come under the provinces while resources for them have gone to the local governments.

Suggesting ways to resolve the disputes, the chief minis-ters stressed the need for a permanent high-level politi-cal and administrative struc-  ture to settle federal disputes, according to CM Rai.

On Sunday, the chief minis-ters from provinces 1, 2 and 3 and Gandaki Province aired their views. According to the PM’s Office, those from Province 5, Karnali Province and Sudurpashchim Province will present their views at the meeting on Monday.

Prime Minister Oli was quoted as saying that all should make efforts to strengthen the federal  system enshrined in the  constitution adopted three years ago.

“Since we are practising a new system, there might be some unease,” he said, add-ing that the challenges would be overcome soon.

Published: 10-12-2018 07:22

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