By your leave

If public holidays and leaves are anything to go by, Nepal may edge out any other country. Add to this the widespread practice of going on official tours even when there is little official business to be done during the tours, then the matter will look even more serious. This last benefit for the individual, apart from hampering office work or service to the people at the station of the individual’s posting, involves a lot of unnecessary travelling and daily allowances that have to be paid out of the public money. The judiciary is not behind any other branch of government in indulging in this pastime, as the Supreme Court report for the year 2003/04 shows. A Jumla district court judge took a leave of absence for 110 days, over and above 79 days of public holidays. He attended office for 184 days during which he heard 32 cases and settled 30. This is not an isolated case, but applies to most judges in hilly districts.

The judges in question appear to give insufficient work-load as the main reason for absence from their station. Indeed, mainly because of the insurgency, a number of districts, and even appellate courts, have seen a sharp drop in the number of cases during the last several years. Nineteen districts have less than 40 cases. If this were to justify leaving office for long periods, the picture of the body politic would come out even more unattractive. And these judges tend to visit the capital for purposes such as trying to get a transfer to district courts in urban areas. There are many government offices, besides the courts, which show a similar trend, including a number of district administration offices and essential service providers like hospitals. It is generally accepted that Nepal has too many public holidays and too many leaves. Besides, many employees, including those in high positions, tend to obtain a tour of duty just for personal purposes at the expense of the public exchequer.

Things are made even worse through neglect of duty even when employees attend office. Unfortunately, there is nowhere the harassed members of the public could go with any degree of confidence that their complaints would be heard and resolved and the errant employees taken to task. This state of affairs has played a major role in making official corruption widespread and deep-rooted over the past five decades. Long fed up with the assurances, promises and preaching of government leaders and bureaucrats, the general people have lost faith in any government making a difference to their lives. As the people are being exposed to such pledges at present, those in authority will have to show a difference through the efficiency of service and the effectiveness of action, if the people are not to be disenchanted again.