Elected reps, govt staff in tug of war

Kathmandu, January 28

A few months ago, a secretary of a rural municipality was taken aback when the chair of the local level asked him to milk his buffalo, give it fodder and cook food for him.

The secretary had gone to the rural municipality chair’s house to discuss development issues, policy and programmes of the local level. Chair of the rural municipality, however, told him that he was busy as he was going to attend a function at his in-laws’ house. He asked the secretary to wait until he returned. This made the secretary feel humiliated.

This is just a representative case. In the last few months, clashes and tussles between elected representatives of the local levels and government officials have been reported from across the country. Some of the elected local representatives reportedly thrashed staffers for not obeying them. Employees serving at the local levels too complain that they are under intense pressure from elected representatives to breach the laws.

“We turn the calendar at least once a month, but the elected representatives have not even once flipped through the guidelines since they took charge,”

an engineer at Kathmandu Metropolitan City told THT on condition of anonymity. He said representatives even pressurised them to approve designs of buildings in violation of the guidelines. “We have to be accountable, but they pressurise us to follow their directives,” complained the engineer.

Executive Officer at Lalitpur Metropolitan City Hari Prasad Dahal said local level staffers had  been encountering a lot of challenges in changed context. “Both technical and administrative staff are having a hard time carrying out their duties,” said Dahal, adding that local level staffers have to be accountable and follow rules and regulation. Dahal, however, said staffers at  LMC did not encounter such problems.

Spokesperson at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development Rudra Singh Tamang said both elected representatives and government employees should try to adjust themselves in the changed circumstances. “They should understand each other’s role and settle disputes,” said Tamang. He said government employees had to be accountable to their duties and responsibilities.

Balananda Paudel, who was the chief of the now-defunct Local Level Restructuring Commission, said government employees should be loyal to the local government and elected representatives also should not make government staffers do their household chores. “Problems may arise as government employees ran the local levels for about 15 years,” said Paudel. He also attributed the tussle between elected representatives and staffers to the government move to send employees on deputation in most of the places. “Government staffers do not feel obliged to obey elected representatives as they do not have to stay for long there,” added Paudel.

He said tussles between elected representatives and government employees could be resolved by organising orientation programmes and training.