Lal Babu Pandit’s habit of answering almost all calls personally has not changed even after taking oath of office as Minister for General Administration on February 25, 2014. He recently told APD’s Shristy Kafle that all civil servants should try their best to serve the people, instead of remaining idle. Excerpts:
People on the streets deserve quality service
You stood up against 400 government officials possessing permanent residency (PR) of foreign countries. How is the progress? How are you dealing with the pressure?
Right after my appointment as the minister, I took this issue seriously. No civil servants should be allowed to possess foreign permanent residency. It is a legal procedure, which takes some time to come into effect. But right after the endorsement of the Act, we will implement it. We shall provide 30-day grace to the civil servants to declare their national residency status. Within the next 30 days, we will cancel foreign accredits of serving civil servants. Those who fail to declare their national residency status before the deadline will be sacked from service. There are few against this proposal, but I am determined. I have public support.
What is the current status of amendment of Civil Service Act?
A Cabinet meeting has already endorsed the fourth amendment to the Civil Service Act. The proposal is currently under the parliament’s consideration. Once the parliament approves the proposal, it will be sent to the President for final approval.
Recently, the government directed some of its offices to introduce 12-hour operating system. What is the main purpose?
With an aim of providing prompt and convenient service to the general people, the Cabinet on November 20, 2014 endorsed a proposal put forth by the Ministry of General Administration, which paved way for a 12-hour working system (6am to 6pm) in certain government offices with huge workload.
At first, this service was in operation in the Department of Citizenship and the Department of Passport only. Later, as per the demand of people and overwhelming flow of customers, we introduced this service into Department of Foreign Employment, Department of Transport Management, District Administration Offices and 11 Land Revenue Offices across the country. We aim to extend this service to other government offices too, depending on their work pressure.
What are the major challenges in its implementation? What is people’s response?
Since its implementation from December 15, 2014, we have received warm applause from citizens. They have appreciated our initiation and we tend to expand the service whenever and wherever necessary. Meanwhile, it is undeniable that the winter season has a little influence over the working schedule. But it should not be considered as a challenge. If people can withstand cold and queue at the government offices, then they deserve quality service. There are few issues like difficulty to work in odd hours, but civil servants should live up to their promise made on their appointment day and abide by government rules. The employees do not have to work for 12 hours. Rather, they work on an alternative shift basis (6am-12pm and 12pm-6pm). We have faced other challenges such as lack of enough infrastructure. But, they will be addressed gradually. Regarding manpower, we can transfer employees from other government offices with minimal work pressure.
How will you assess national administration?
Currently, the administration department is functioning smoothly although it needs some reformations. As promulgation of the new constitution in near future will pave way for federal states, reformation will be carried out side by side. Meanwhile, there is need for civil servants to have strong patriotism and become more responsible towards general people. We have always prioritized citizens’ concern. In the meantime, we are carrying out researches to standardize our administration system.
How regularly does the ministry inspect daily functioning of civil servants?
We regularly inspect all government offices. We try to address people’s concern at the earliest. I frequently visit government offices myself. People can directly contact me on my mobile phone if they need to lodge a genuine complaint against civil service.
What is your impression on the civil servants?
They are doing their regular duty well. Meanwhile, they should not consider the 12-hour service special; rather they should take it as a normal duty with no provision for additional allowances or incentives. They should be ready to serve the people under any circumstances. All they need is encouragement and morale. My idea is simple: no civil servant should remain idle.
What are your future plans to make Nepal’s administration further competent?
We have a team studying overall performance of national administration. We have generated different ideas in this regard. Currently, we are focusing on e-governance system, which is today’s prime need. For the same, I and my team went to Singapore earlier to study their e-governance system. Our team will also visit South Korea in near future to learn further about it. We will soon introduce the e-governance system in Nepal, which shall bring efficiency and transparency in civil service. Similarly, a Civil Service Welfare Trust will also be established in the near future. Likewise, we will soon provision life insurance facility to all civil servants. At present, life insurance is being provided on-demand only.