Saturday, 9 December, 2023
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OPINION

Revamp Federal Civil Service



Khagendra Prawaha

In response to the Supreme Court's recent decision not to return the adjusted personnel to the federal civil service, to carry forward the stalled staff selection process, and to reinforce the service conveniences of workforces attuned to the subnational levels, the Public Service Commission has recommended 485 officers for various services and groups, which the Commission had advertised for fiscal year 2076/77 B.S. and was put on hold for two years.

As the federal and sub-federal administrations are currently facing an acute shortage of civil servants, these newly appointed officials will help end their scarcity to some extent. Administrative federalism that is well-managed and effective contributes to the overall success and well-functioning of the federal regime. However, the administrative management and service delivery at the sub-national level appears to be less effective and less people-oriented.

Novel officers were unable to get service-entry training (physically) owing to the COVID-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, training may be delivered to them virtually.

Situation at hand
As officers, they are entering this service amidst the social, economic and political chaos and disillusionment. There is currently no defined delineation between politics and administration. As a result, unwarranted political intrusion in policy formation, implementation, and personnel management has become commonplace. The politicisation of bureaucracy has increased dramatically in recent years. The parliament has yet to endorse the Federal Civil Service Act and Regulations, as well as service-related laws at the state and local levels. This legal void has resulted in confusion and chaos in civil servants' career.

On the other hand, civil workers are criticised for not being competent service providers; they are portrayed as corrupt officials who are narcissistic, not people-friendly, and nonchalant about the needs of the public and the nation's progress. It is true to a large extent, and people's fury and disappointments are understandable.

Integrity, ethics, and morality in the civil service are rapidly deteriorating. According to a recent report by Transparency International, corruption has been pervasive at all levels of government, threatening financial discipline and the rule of law. Corruption and bribery have gobbled the state's wealth and public coffers. Bribes are being offered for public services. Often officers and bureaucrats, both technical and non-technical, have been implicated in corruption scandals.

Moreover, civil workers are accused of not being updated, technologically incompetent, reluctant to change, and lacking in innovation and creativity. They are accused of lacking leadership and managerial skills, yet prefer to dominate over the people rather than serve them. Civil employees and our bureaucracy have yet to embrace new trends and ideals such as co-production, public-private partnerships, good governance, and transparent government in this period.

Still, society and people are confronted with discrimination based on caste, colour, class, sex, and gender, and human rights are violated as a result. Human trafficking, drug addiction, social taboos and evils such as dowry and chaaupadhi, rapes, crimes, and domestic violence have all become major challenges for the administration to uphold internal and external national security.

Furthermore, the economy of the country has been encountering a multitude of anomalies and hurdles. Recent data reveals that inflation, public debt, and trade deficit are alarmingly increasing. Similarly, remittances are gradually falling, foreign exchanges are declining, and balance of payments discrepancies are flaring. Also, employment generation and internal production are considerably truncated, and the rest of the macroeconomic indicators are also not in the right direction. Besides, the capital spending of the government is dismal, however, the revenue collection is positive during the first six months of the current fiscal. Nonetheless, even to pay salaries and recurrent expenses, the government is compelled to take out an internal and external loan.

Economic growth depends upon government expenditure, private investment, internal production, investment-friendly environment and well-functioning of the bureaucracy. But the country has witnessed low economic growth and the projected growth will be 3.9 per cent for the current fiscal year, according to the World Bank.

The reason I brought up this gloomy socioeconomic, political, and bureaucratic picture is to presage freshly approved officers about the precarious circumstances in which they will serve the country. Working in the civil service provides an opportunity to sort out some of the country's most complicated problems and to take evidence-based initiatives. And now is the moment for newly hired officers to prove their competence, proficiencies, knowledge, conscientiousness, and leadership in dealing with the above-mentioned bureaucratic and socio-economic challenges.

Until we effectively construct a meritocratic society, the integrity of democracy remains based on the integrity of government workers. The civil servants are the first line of defence for democracy, both against corrupt politicians and irrational crowds. So, by maintaining robust financial and economic discipline, implementing democratic norms and values, constitution, and federalism, which are on your shoulders, civil officers can curb spiralling corruption and financial irregularities prevailing in our bureaucratic system. They must stand up against bribery, nepotism, favouritism, service discrimination, and squandering of the public's money embracing the integrity, morality, and principles of public life. Only then can the worsening parameters of corruption, poverty, unemployment, brain-drains, and labour force flight be mitigated.

Officers have the primary duty and responsibility to promote good governance and democracy. No politician has the right to discriminate against the people. Our society experience social justice, equality, equity, and freedom if civil servants work with ethics and discipline. Most importantly, it is their responsibility to serve the people rather than the politicians.

Shun corruption
Society implodes under the strain of corruption when self-interest takes precedence over public duty. Thus, civil servants should always keep in mind that, for the sake of the people and prosperity, they will serve as servants rather than rulers. They should never take a bribe. They must be honest, transparent, responsible, and professional and advocate, design policies and programmes, use budgets, and make decisions that are in the best interests of the people.

To conclude, the civil servants should focus their entire effort on institutionalising democracy, enhancing national unity and security, civil service and the constitution, thereby securing peace, stability and prosperity in the country.

(The writer is a Section Officer working in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Sudur Pashchim Province)