Print Edition - 2018-12-03 | News
Constitutional bodies, PM’s Office locked in a dispute
Singha Durbar has written to four constitutional bodies, asking them to report their pending tasks within 15 days. In a meeting, chiefs of the bodies decide to defy the call
Dec 3, 2018-Four constitutional bodies and the Prime Minister’s Office are embroiled in a dispute after the latter sought details of their unfinished tasks within 15 days.
Citing the “instruction” by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the PM’s Office shot off separate letters last Tuesday to the constitutional bodies and ministries, asking them to submit details of their projects and pending works within two weeks.
Earlier, the prime minister organised a three-day session at his office evaluating the tasks undertaken by all the ministries in the past four months and expressed serious reservations over the lack of timely progress on several projects.
Oli instructed officials to expedite them within the given time frame. Based on the PM’s order, his office wrote to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, the Public Service Commission, the Election Commission and the Office of the Auditor General to share with it their lists of pending tasks.
None of these bodies were invited for the assessment and evaluation led by Oli. Objecting to the call, a meeting of the heads and members of the four constitutional held at the CIAA on Friday decided not to reply to the PMO as it would undermine their constitutional authority.
“We’re not going to reply to the prime minister’s office,” said the head of a constitutional body on condition of anonymity. “Constitutional bodies do not fall under the jurisdiction of the PM’s Office.”
Either the chief secretary or secretaries at the PMO are not aware of the constitutional bodies or they tried to overrule the political leadership at a time when PM Oli made clear instructions to seek clarification from all the ministries and their subordinate entities, he added. According to the constitution, the constitutional bodies are accountable to Parliament.
Questioning the content of the letter and the intent of the executive, the heads of the constitutional bodies present in the meeting agreed that the PMO had no authority to write to the constitutional bodies in that manner.
“If we reply this time, there will be a danger of getting such letters frequently in the future, which will invite unnecessary tussles,” said the chief, clarifying that either the President or Parliament could dictate them.
Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, who undersigned the letter for the PMO, defended the move saying that he did not address or mention any office bearers of the constitutional bodies. “Like other secretaries serving at various government ministries, the letter was addressed to the secretaries at the constitutional bodies. I see no controversy in this,” Adhikari told the Post.
But the heads of the constitutional bodies believe that any letter or circular issued to the constitutional bodies is institutional in nature so the move should be opposed.
Heads of the constitutional bodies sit occasionally at different offices to discuss their common problems and strengths or any grievances with the government. This time around, they were focussed on the government’s letter.
As suggested by the chief secretary, the letters were marked “instructive”. According to a member of a constitutional body, they objected to the intent, content and tone of the correspondence.
“If this practice continues, our reading would be the executive--the PM and the Cabinet--trying to bring control us. That would be acceptable to us,” the member said.
Two office bearers from two different constitutional bodies told the Post that they will meet the prime minister and brief him on their jurisdictions if more letters come their way in future.
Published: 03-12-2018 07:10