Servants, not masters

The civil servants have observed the 5th Civil Servants’ Day with the slogan ‘Public Service Our Commitment. In new Nepal, if only a small part of this commitment becomes translated into the ways of the Nepali bureaucracy, the masses will really feel a sense of change for the better in service delivery by the government. And there is no doubt that the civil servants form a mainstay of government, because it is they who carry out the policy and programme of the government, and it is they who routinely interact with the common people who have to come to them for all types of business. The general feeling is that the civil servants have so far acted more like masters than servants. A new team, a Maoist-led coalition, is now in office. It has come to power on the strength of its various people-centric promises — effecting important social and economic reforms and boosting service delivery. Are the civil servants ready for a mental revolution, and will the new government be able to mould the civil service in the people’s service.

At a function organised on Sunday at the PM’s official residence in Baluwatar to mark the Civil Servants’ Day, Prime Minister Prachanda said that the government would ‘do its best to boost the morale of the civil servants’, but he also warned of action against those who do not work in the spirit of the political change. Indeed, the bureaucracy must move with the times to fulfil the people’s aspirations better. The government, too, needs to create an environment conducive to tapping the full potential of the civil servants. Performance-based employee assessment and the faithful application of reward and punishment should guide government practice, and this calls for a sound monitoring and evaluation process. The existing one needs to be overhauled. On the one hand, the civil servants’ pay and perks need to be reviewed from time to time, taking into factors such as inflation, of course, within the framework of the national economy; on the other hand, corrupt practices and deliberate delays in service delivery must not be tolerated. Appraisal system should be so designed as to minimise the chances of nepotism, favouritism and other non-professional factors playing a major role in advancing the careers of employees.

But it is easier said than done, for the temptation for politicians as well as for bureaucrats to distort any system is too strong to resist. Selfish interests have led to frequent changes in rules and regulations, sometimes in the civil service law. This must not happen again. A system should rule. The recent provision of automatic promotion of civil servants has killed the incentive for performance. Job guarantee regardless of competence and efficiency and motivation has been the bane of people-oriented civil service. The present government, should, before rewarding any employee or giving them greater responsibility, investigate their past credentials, which should include whether their wealth has increased considerably during their service with government. Otherwise wrong persons would become rewarded and those who are honest and capable would fall behind. Things will not improve if this happens again.