Wrong mix

The Nepal Medical Association had for over the past decade demanded that a medical

doctor should become health secretary on the grounds that the health ministry was a ‘technical’ one. According to the latest amendment to the related Act, a technical employee can become eligible for the post. For the past four months, NMA is reported to have been insisting on the implementation of this provision of law. No doubt, the health ministry is huge — its network spreads from the central to the village level and it has over 25,000 employees. Employees in the health services are not eligible to become a secretary in any other ministry, nor, till the latest amendment, could the ministry’s technical staff qualify as such in their own ministry. However, this is no longer so. There is no reason why a doctor should never become a secretary, though an engineer can in other ministries.

Up to this point, the case of technical staff in the health ministry appears justified. But there

is a difference between mandatory appointment of a technician to the post and their eligibility.

Bureaucrats in the administrative service may not like the idea of a technician becoming the

administrative head of any ministry, because they want to see one of them instead of a technician occupy that post. On the contrary, technicians, the medical staff here, have been clearly in favour of reserving the seat for one of them. Both show selfish views, irrespective of what effect their remedies might have on governance. What should indeed be in practice is the promotion and placement of the right man for the right job. It is not necessary that technicians are always better than people in the administrative service, or vice versa. Those with managerial qualities, honesty and financial probity, as well as with the courage to take stands on the right issues, would always do better.

We have seen how people in the administrative service have so often proved to be incompetent, corrupt, as well as cowards lacking the moral fibre to do justice to their jobs. They have left an ugly mess in so many places. We have also seen how many doctors as heads of government hospitals have managed the health services poorly, and ditto for many other technicians like engineers in other departments and ministries. It is not for nothing that in a number of countries, people who want ultimately to manage hospitals need to complete a degree course in hospital administration. A technician does not necessarily make a good administrator in a related institution. But in our government and public corporations, the laws and rules are often changed to suit the convenience of those in authority — regarding employee evaluation, promotion, transfer, conversion of service, tenure of the holders of top positions, employee retirement age, etc. This has rendered the task of creating a level playing field for all employees virtually impossible. As a result, unhealthy bureaucratic and political manipulation proliferates. General employee motivation suffers. Governance tends to lose direction. Above all else, service delivery to the public becomes a casualty.