While I was working in the National Planning Commission, I was assigned a branch officer to assist me professionally. I found after we began working together that my assistant neither knew how to access emails or set up my daily schedule.
All my assistant would do was pore over books to pass exams in order to get promoted. The promotion would go through, not as a result of my subordinate’s professional abilities, but on the basis of a three-hour exam filled with pages of rote-learning.
I have constantly questioned how this process is justified.
This is one of many examples of the procedural inconsistencies that I have encountered upon a close analysis of Nepal’s bureaucratic mechanism— both as someone in government and out of it.
The primary responsibility of a civil servant is to implement the law, and above all, serve the people to the bet of their ability. These responsibilities, however, seem to be contrary to the attitude of many Nepali government employees.
Indeed, I have often noticed that they have an air of superiority over ordinary citizens — as if the public they are supposed to serve as being beneath them and the positions they occupy.
This is not to say that there are not capable, diligent public officials serving the people. But they are heavily outnumbered by the unqualified, under-motivated and incompetent. They get to their posts through these perfunctory tests, personal connection, or political affiliation.
This political-bureaucratic collusion exists even after new employees enter government service and after their retirement, where they get to hop from one government commission to another.
Much prestige is assigned to the fact that somebody has passed Nepal’s public service exam. It guarantees one financial and job security for the next two decades. But as much importance is given to the tests, there is little way through which the exam can evaluate if potential government staff can handle the responsibility of their work.
And once one passes the exams and enters public service, there is no practice of evaluating whether employees are up-to-date with the technology required to fulfil their jobs, nor is there any mechanism to evaluate them on the basis of their work.
In fact, any consequences that government employees might face for their professional actions is when they get transferred, wherein they are sent off to work in remote districts. Ironically, the work done during their transfer later becomes a basis for one’s promotion, making the entire process a reward instead of punishment.
Access to public service in Nepal depends largely upon the leverage that one has. Indeed, if I were to go into any government office without my government identification, it would be difficult to access any service.
Read also: “Everything is political”, Durga Karki