EDITORIAL: Plug the gap

Government should carry out a study on the requirement of civil servants and ask Public Service Commission to start hiring

As many as 4,462 civil servants have applied for voluntary retirement, in line with a notice, which expired on Sunday, issued by the Ministry of General Administration (MoGA) calling for applications from those government employees who had reached 50 years of age and completed more than 20 years in service. The voluntary retirement scheme for government employees was introduced through the Bill on Civil Servants Adjustment, which was passed by then Parliament in the first week of October. The Bill was introduced with a view to managing civil servants at all provincial and local governments so as to make them functional at the earliest. All levels of governments need to be equipped with civil servants by adjusting them from the available pool of around 86,000.

What led to introduction of the voluntary retirement scheme was what was dubbed “reluctance” of civil servants, especially the senior ones, to go to the designated areas under the new federal set-up. Apart from voluntary retirement scheme, the Bill has provisioned that civil servants can join provincial or local government services if they agree to the salary and benefits as per the rules laid down by them. There were also reservations from civil servants about “being adjusted” for various reasons vis-à-vis remoteness of duty stations, administrative structures, issues related to post/position and lack of appropriate office infrastructure, among others.

Civil servants adjustment is a key issue in the federal set-up. According to estimates, at least 16,000 civil servants are immediately required to make local governments functional. However, there are reports that civil servants who have been deployed to various offices are yet to report for their work. At a time when local governments are still hamstrung by lack of staff, retirement of this huge chunk of civil servants will certainly create a hole in bureaucracy. While there is an urgent need to adjust civil servants at all levels of government, the process for fresh recruitment should also be initiated without any delay. According to MoGA, those who have applied for voluntary retirement will have to report for duty until the ministry asks for their resignations and accepts their resignations. But they will ultimately retire sooner rather than later. Hence, the government not only needs to make up for this shortfall but also should start hiring new staff. For this, the first thing the government should do is carry out a thorough study on the requirement of civil servants, their positions and categories (technical, administrative, accounting and revenue) at all levels and ask the Public Service Commission (PSC) to start the recruitment process. The government should also be cautious about not hiring staff on contract basis, as this could run the risk of turning government offices into “recruitment centres” for political parties. Hiring through the PSC as per the rules laid down by the constitutional body could inject fresh and competent blood into the bureaucracy. The sooner the hiring process is completed, the better it is. Fully functional local governments equipped with competent staff can only ensure federalism in true sense. People deserve swift and effective delivery of goods and services and civil servants have a huge role to play.

Back in business

It is good news that the state-owned Nepal Drugs Ltd (NDL) has finally started commercial production of paracetamol, one year after the revival of the state-owned pharmaceutical company. NDL started commercial production after running trial production of 80,000 tablets of paracetamol for a week. However, the company will start distributing its product only in the second week of March. By that time, it will produce around one million tablets. Currently, the NDL has the capacity of producing around 100,000 tablets per day.

NDL’s paracetamol was highly popular in the country until the company was shot in 2010 due to mismanagement and resource crunch. It also used to produce various life-saving drugs which used to be distributed by the government to the pubic free of charge. The government decided to revive it in September 2016. NDL officials have said paracetamol will be cheaper than the one produced by private pharmaceuticals or imported from outside. The company can be run in profit provided that it is allowed to operate independently without political interference.