Three contenders for Reconstruction Authority chief executive officer post

KATHMANDU: Govind Raj Pokhrel, Madhav Prasad Ghimire and Pawan Bahadur Pande have emerged as serious contenders for the lucrative post of Chief Executive Officer of the National Reconstruction Authority, which will oversee works related to recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of the earthquakes of April and May, a highly-placed source told THT.

These names have started making rounds at a time when some quarters are saying the government has put the issue of bringing the authority into operation on the back burner since the completion of the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction.

The government had pulled out all stops — from introducing the Ordinance on Reconstruction of Structures Damaged by the Earthquake and creating the authority to expressing commitment to expedite public spending — to make the conference a grand success.

Seeing this business-like approach, several countries and agencies that took part in the conference surprised the government by extending generous funding commitments of around US$4.4 billion to rebuild parts of the country ravaged by quakes. “Since then, things appear to be moving rather slowly, as the government is yet to select NRA CEO. But it’s not that the government is reneging on its promise,” the source told The Himalayan Times, adding, “If things move swiftly, the Cabinet may pick one of the three candidates for the CEO’s post as early as this week.”

The government’s ideal candidate for CEO’s post is someone who understands the country’s bureaucratic system well. This is because the person has to work in coordination with all the ministries while executing tasks related to reconstruction. So, the government prefers someone who has served the nation for quite some time. Also, the candidate should possess fine leadership skills, has previous experience of framing policies to guide an organisation and, most importantly, has worked in collaboration with people at the grassroots level, where most of the works related to reconstruction will take place.

“Considering the qualities the government is scouting for, all three contenders meet the expectation,” the source said.

Pokhrel, for instance, is the incumbent vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission and has previously served as the executive director of the state-owned Alternative Energy Promotion Centre.

Ghimire, on the other hand, entered civil service in January 1985 as a planning officer at the National Planning Commission and went on to become the chief secretary. He has since served as the foreign and home affairs minister.

Likewise, Pande, who previously assumed the powerful post of the Director General of Military Operations in the Nepali Army, retired in February as lieutenant general, the second highest army post in the country.

But apart from the three candidates many others are also said to be eyeing the CEO’s post. This is because the chief executive’s post is equivalent to that of a Cabinet minister, and the authority has been given sweeping powers to speed-up reconstruction works.

For instance, NRA can override existing legal provisions related to land acquisition and registration, public procurement and environmental impact assessment to expedite reconstruction works — some of the major factors that delay project implementation in the country.

Also, NRA has the power to issue orders to any civil servant, including secretaries, and government agencies, and recommended the concerned government body to take punitive action against those who do not abide by these instructions. It is because of these reasons, and the glamourous post of CEO, many, including politicians, seem to be lobbying for their own candidate for chief executive’s post. As of now, Pokhrel is said to have received the backing of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.

This is because of the exemplary work done by the National Planning Commission in preparing the Post Disaster Needs Assessment report, which became a basis for donors to make funding commitments.

Ghimire, on the other hand, is said to have built a good rapport with major political parties when he was home minister in the previous government, which held the second Constituent Assembly election. And Pande, who is known as sincere and hard-working individual, is a distant relative of Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat.