Turf war

  • Focus is on govt formation, but decentralisation of bureaucracy will be equally tough

Dec 21, 2017-

While much public attention has been focused on the elected representatives of local governments and now provincial assemblies, much less attention has been centred on the civil servants necessary at all levels of the provincial structure. 

There is a dire need to give greater attention to this issue. The government has recently estimated that at least 3,000 civil servants will need to be deployed to the seven provinces in the immediate future. 

Yet the number of bureaucrats to be deployed is only the tip of the iceberg. There will be numerous other efforts that have to be made to ensure that provincial governments function properly. These include the development of infrastructure so that civil servants can begin their work. Furthermore, the development of regulations and the passage of laws will also be necessary to precisely determine how the entire federal system will work. 

There will doubtless be numerous problems in the implementation, many of which are already evident at the local bodies. To identify just a few of them: Many civil servants used to the privileges of working in urban centres such as Kathmandu are resentful that they have been, or will be, sent out to the districts. Once in the districts, they then face infrastructural problems and regulatory confusion, which will seriously compromise their capacity to function adequately at the ground level. 

In addition, relations between the newly elected local representatives and civil servants are bound to be very difficult.  The elected representatives feel that they should be in charge and come up with ambitious schemes for their areas. However, they lack knowledge of the rules and regulations and are unsure how to implement their agendas. The civil servants, meanwhile, feel that the elected representatives are unaware of how the system works and come up with plans that cannot be implemented. In many areas, there already is open resentment between the elected representatives and bureaucrats.

This is unfortunate. It is clear that the federal structure cannot work without deeper cooperation between civil servants and elected representatives. Now that an additional layer of government, the provincial assemblies, will soon come into being, there will be even a greater degree of turf war. 

Steps need to be taken to deepen cooperation between elected representatives and the bureaucrats. The top level of the bureaucratic leadership in all ministries need to urge local bureaucrats to deal better with the needs and concerns of the elected representatives. Also, clear directions have to be sent out so that elected representatives become aware of what they can do and what they cannot. 

At the same time, there need to be channels of communication from the grassroots to the central bureaucracy in Kathmandu. This will enable ministries to adopt a flexible attitude towards addressing the concerns of local and provincial representatives. The task of adopting a new federal system will be a highly complex process. Nepal’s elected representatives and civil servants need to adopt flexible and open attitudes to make the transition easier.  

Published: 21-12-2017 08:06

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