Nepal | September 21, 2019

Proposal to appoint foreign secretary from other ministries draws mixed reactions

Jagdishor Panday

Kathmandu, May 21

The government’s proposal to appoint foreign secretary from among bureaucrats who have never worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has drawn mixed reaction from members of Parliament with ruling party lawmakers supporting the move and the opposition opposing it.

The Federal Civil Servant Bill registered in the Parliament states that the government holds the right to transfer any government secretary to any ministry, including MoFA, in special circumstances.

This goes against the practice of appointing foreign secretary from among bureaucrats working at the MoFA.

The government has long been appointing foreign secretaries from a pool of MoFA bureaucrats as only those with experience in foreign service and those who have understood Nepal’s foreign policy well can steer the ministry in a proper way.

“The government should not allow secretaries from other ministries to assume the post of foreign secretary,” said former foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya. “Any ups-and-downs in foreign policy can invite disaster.”

The bill prepared by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has divided jobs of civil servants into 11 clusters.

They are: economic planning and statistics, agriculture, forestry, engineering, foreign affairs, administration, health, education, audit, judicial and others.

The bill says secretaries working in any one of these areas can be transferred to any ministry in special circumstances.

Special circumstances, according to the bill, are related to the performance and behaviour of the official, abolishment of the service cluster where the official was employed, and special assignments given to officials.

“The government should not frequently transfer secretaries, but if the need arises, the government should be allowed to do that,” Pampha Bhusal, a lawmaker from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) told the parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee, where the content of the bill is being discussed.

Nepali Congress lawmaker Dilendra Prasad Badu, however, said lawmakers should rethink this provision, as foreign affairs, judicial and audit are special types of services which require expertise.

“I fear that the government will define ‘special circumstances’ to suit its needs, which may lead to haphazard transfer of secretaries,” said former chief secretary Bimal Koirala.

 


A version of this article appears in print on May 22, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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