Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In Defence of Bureaucrats

By Krishna Hari Pushkar

Berlin, Germany,
In Defence of Bureaucrats, I don’t know why our friends are always so offensively attack with deluge of critics wherever we discuss about politicians or bureaucrats. I am not sure that all blames are right and true concerning all former bureaucrats. Rather to accuse them, I would say the system or our administrative culture is so hideous that they were unable to do good things. The system encouraged them for nastiest actions and they became addicted. Accordingly, there is no room for discussion to blame them individually for such sickness.

In Defence of Bureaucrats, I think we all Nepalese citizens are equally responsible for such bad governance and ill bureaucratic productivity because we never ever tried to adapt any check and balance public mechanism. I insist, in practice, Nepalese bureaucrats are not answerable towards the people; they are compel to bear accountability towards the politicians. I give you one example, if I follow the order of any partyman, may be I will get good posting, promotion or able to earn huge money in short time, if I provide good and effective service to the thousand of people, than what I get? I will get sickness, worst posting, trouble in my private life, poverty, health problem and more, so what should I prefer? It is your inbuilt system or culture that I am forced to win heart and mind of politcail people rather than a service seekers or general public. The most important thing is no one is caring publically that what I am supposed to do and what I am doing? Thus, could you imagine the status of bureaucrats? I am not sure whether such situation could be considered as a kind of slavery or independency. Please judge yourself and find who is guilty for such pathos? We should also not forget that bureaucrats are a kind of human mechine only not a principal operator at all. We know our main operators(politicians) and their qualities that what they want to do in our nation and how? You might also know about their performances that how they choose to drive state mechanisms. Further, please let me know, who is the producer of our state opearators? who elect or nominate them to work on behalf of people? Of course we all. Thence, I am concluded to write, we all Nepalese citizens are equally responsible for such bad governance and ill bureaucratic productivity. Any logics to avoide the line of reasoning?

In Defence of Bureaucrats, besides, there is also some problem with good bureaucrats, they cannot be able to expose their problems or reasons or causes during their job. We should think, are they all people worst who works in bureaucracy? Of course not! If so, why even some good people are not able to do any good things or why they are being failure, passive or collapse even they want to use huge efforts for positive outcomes? Simply, they can not expose their grief to the people during their job due to so called binding professional norms and latter they have to face unfortunately these types of balmes, insulations and charges that bureaucrats never work in favour of people. We must think, bureaucrats also need to survive, so there are no any possibilities to go away from survival line or vicious hole by acting against the maladjusted norms. Isn’t it?

In Defence of Bureaucrats, in addition, our taxes go as their salary, allowances and more but we never seek for any direct concern on such huge investment that what we are receiving instead of it? Our people frequently do strike, Nepal band, protest, hadtal, rally and more for small-small things but no effective concern on such huge services massacres. Have you heard any public protest program by general public against the bureaucratic leadership or poor service delivery system? Of course, NOt or vary rarely.

In Defence of Bureaucrats, I think just to criticizes about something is not enough until we produce counter handling. Therefore, let’s use our collective effort to improve the existing operative system respectively rather to always dominate or accuse individuals without analysing the situation or working environment of Nepalese bureaucracy.

In Defence of Bureaucrats, I really respect to the all honest bureaucrats, who spent their whole professional life in such pitiable career environment without caring the social dishonour, insulations and........... I think state and people should be thankful to them because of their sacrifice. Thank you.

(Source: This is a group email response against the attack on retired Bureaucrats in Nepal Officers Online discussion forum)


Lok Nath Bhusal said...

Dear All,

I just wish to add one more point. The western concept of good governance dates back in 1989 when World Bank prepared a report about the crisis in Africa. All donors used/misused this concept excessively in the sense that the original concept was narrowly focused on administrative/managerial perspective. Indeed, it lacked and has still been lacking to explicitly mention the fact that bad governance is primarily the cause of weak politics rather than the administrative failure/weakness. My point is, please do not blame the bureaucrats because I wonder how many bureaucrats can misdo in the abscense of political patronage?

Hence, politicians must be blamed. Mostly, bureaucrats are the puppets of politicians, and this is theoretically justifiable. By the same logic, administrative reform without political reform is a superficial matter.


Lok Nath Bhusal

Prakash said...

Dear friends,
I don’t think the idea of voting for a corrupt civil servant will bring a desired result at all as no one objectively will be able to ascertain the individual to vote, primarily due to lack of information. And the same case perhaps applies in selecting the best employ of the year for the same reason.

Instead, Those proved offenders mush be punished under the law and those who have delivered excellent work seen by many must be rewarded specifying the reason for that. An yearly event could be held organization wise to vote for the best employ of the year.

Do you think is it possible to have a round table of Civil Servants attended by all top officials with or without the consent of political leaders. Agenda could be 1) Safeguard the unity and Ethics of Civil Servants from undue political encroachment 2) Demarcation on the rights and duties between policy makers and Civil Servants. 3) Strenghthen the moral authority to enable themselves to deliver better services to the people.

Agenda could be more but exclude the subject of perks and facility from the round table.


Phanindra Adhikary said...

Dear All

In a country full of negative culture, let's all search from some positives and pride. Let's turn away from 'shaming game' to 'faming game'. This will help to encourage the bureacrats, instill positive feelings and commitment. Our attitudes are ingrained and will need time to change, but we can contribute with some positiveness.

I personally dislike the term 'notorious civil servants'. Though there may be but this should have been better dealt by CIAA and court, but unfortunately not. We as a member of civil society and individuals can help bring some positive feelings and encouragement. There are so many others to do the negatives.

So the good thing to start as some other friends said that we should identify as users of service the qualities of civil servant. To me we have some good policies but implementation have always been bad and biased. How can we change this? What do the bureacrats needs to look to change and increase their commitment to better service delivery.

Civil servants normally claim that their salary is so low that they don't need to work but pass their time in the office. Yes pay is low, but it is catch 22, it's low becuase we have not delivered, if we had delivered there would have been better economic activities and development, hence increase in revenue for the government and then pay rise. We should all encourage our civil servants to practice what we preach - 'Karma gara phal ko asha nagara' - i.e., fruit will be yours eventually if you dedicate yourself to your duties.

We are all claiming for our rights but no one says about their duties to our community, society and to country. There needs to be a balance and so should the civil servants and we all in civil society behave. The country is in transition and this is not a time for rights only but also for duties and commitment.

Therefore let's instill a positive fillings by identifying positive qualities and then 'faming the best, better and good'. The remainder will automatically be 'shamed'.

Best wishes to all for Dashain,

Phanindra Adhikary

Rajan said...

Dear All,

Like Pushkarji says, yes, we definitely have and had handful of excellent Bureaucrats, without whom our country has not come so far away. What I was provoking was about the system- not an individual bureaucrats. Almost every Nepalese who has to fight for the civil service knows that this is the only one system where one has to provide "bribes" before entering into the system. Not to talk about how corrupt the system could be. The resulting situation is same like one Medical Doctors in Nepal. The person who invest more than 15 Lakhs NRs in his study will never be able to save so much money in his whole service life. So, s/he may not be interested in government job first, but if they join government job (hospitals) they need to open their private clinics.

I totally agree with what I have quoted sentence says: "I think we all Nepalese citizens are equally responsible for such bad governance and ill bureaucratic productivity because we never ever tried to adapt any check and balance public mechanism". Yes, it is the people who have to be blamed than the leaders and bureaucrats. We provide the bribes to get into the corrupt system. Of course one civil servant before entering into the system is a common citizen, right? Then, we assist the system to be corrupt by providing easy money for getting our job easily done- such as at tax and custom offices, land revenue office, municipality office, airport, district police office, CDO office, forest office, and so many places. Who is to be blame here- of course public, right? If they have not given the money- individuals at these offices may not have received money. And the third mistake we make as Nepalese citizen is: we do not care what has been the source of income of a person? How he own a civil servant got rich from the day through the night? - We simply praise the person who comes in Mercedes, who has tall big house in Kathmandu. We never neglected those corrupts officials rather praise and support them with some expectation of getting something from them. So, the people of Nepal are equally responsible for this.

Just a short comments on one previous comments- of course Bureaucrats are the one who implements the government decision, thus they have to follow most of the political decisions. I don't think the other way around. Then, you shouldn't be the civil servants- just go for politics. Do the good job first in your line sticking with the law and order than blaming the political system for everything. Then, I am sure the public will be with the bureaucrats whenever necessary. I think Pushkarji has elaborated the existing situation in our Bureaucracy, but I will like to just add a line. in the name of the order from the top and few politicians, Nepalese bureaucracy has always pressurized and taken advantage of pennies from the Nepalese citizens.

Let's not wait for the politicians to improve the Bureaucracy. I hope it can be improved within first at least locally in the individual perspectives. I am not dreaming of the transparent governance and bureaucracy tomorrow, at least 10 years from now would still be a good time frame.

With best regards,


Santosh Giri said...

Dear All,

I have only one thing to say here for this absolute topic.

The nation is there because of the bureaucrats. If they were not there, we would not have existed.

Nepal is not functioning automatically !

During the 10 years of egocracy (2007-2017), 30 years tyranny (2017-2047), 11 years of partycracy (2047-2058) and these 5 years of cannabilism of party, crown and terrorists; the institution Nepal was saved just because of sincere continuation of state structure from true patriotic state employees aka Bureaucrats.

Salute to you all.

Santosh Giri

Teeka said...

Dear Deviji, Chintanji, Meenaji and the rest,

I pick up these names becasue I know you personally who have been active in deliberations in recent days.

I would appreciate our efforts of identifying Ideal Civil Servants rather than Notorious ones. Of course, there is a big arena what an individual can do but there is a large structure of which an individual is at mercy. So, pointing a culprit is not a way out. Rather it reinforces negativism. We can find Ideal Civil Servants in each sectors, ministries or districts, instead. As long as we take pride in tying knots of our children with the children of corrupt officials for example, Notorious Civil Service continues to flourish. How many of you have stopped attending the ceremonies of a relative who is corrupt or not responsible? We don't hesitate to salute the corrupt officials receive favours with them. They are our products, our reflections. We all have created and established them. So each the so called Notorious Civil Servant is part of us. So are the leaders - I don't agree Deviji that its just the leaders who are wrong - let us scrutinize business firms, NGOs, Private Schools where personalities have worked together for the greater good! Leaders or Civil Servants they are parts of our society. I do respect most of the emotions and intentions expressed here. However, I do urge to search our soules before we go out to hunt a culprit. Have any of us if we are in this capacity asked to treat the 'clients well' to our guards, peons or sub-ordinates - even to give a smile and respond politely? I have had opportunity to visit the offfices of some of the poeple who contribute here - their su-ordinates try as much to harrass visitors as they can. Even if I complain to you, hardly any of you have taken seriously even if you could make a difference for one day. Most obvious example is evading queues: I have seen most influential officials - I might well have done it ( I do claim: I don't do it without going through a proper channel once). Most common is evading queue in the immigration counter - for no apparent benefit or reason other than showing off our positions! I do firmly believe that if we, who are contributing in this forum start to reveal our feelings in practice, things will start changing - or rather I dare to say, things will not change until we do so.

I like to end this note with a story from someone:

One person happen to be in the heaven. He liked everthing - nice food, clothing, all the entertainment and so on. One thing the person disliked was a particular person in the whole heaven. After a long time, he couldn't resist without complaining to a fellow. The fellow said "Well, in this heaven each of us has a duplicate. The person you said you don't like is your duplicate who is here ever since you are here!"

With the all the best feelings and wishes for the festive season. Our behaviour transcends to our profession, political party or many kinds of our identities.


Medini Prasai said...

1. What a ridiculous notion to say that "we all Nepalese citizens are equally responsible for such bad governance and ill bureaucratic productivity" . Please be kind enough to spare those victims of perpetual oppression. We so called (Intellectuals, bureaucrats, Diaspora, politicians etc) are free to scratch each others back but please do not drag them in the middle to shift the blames on their shoulder for the mess we created. I think we are best at avoiding responsibility. How come those 95% ( I do not know the exact figures) who never had a stake on the state, who never had access to and who have been perpetually overlooked/sidelined/marginalized by the state, could be held responsible for not doing something that we are supposed to be doing. Come on sir, give me a break.

2. We continue to indulge our self in this zero sum game. I am good but the system is not, system is good but the bureaucrats are not and the bureaucrats are good but the politicians are not. Nobody wants to loose here because the other will gain from it. Finally, we all come out clean blaming everything for "systemic ills" because it is abstract and does not throw all the blames back to us. However we all at least know that an illiterate, poverty stricken, diseased mother of ten children will definitely not come from Kalikot to Singh Durbar one day to fix our "systemic ills" and to rescue us. Therefore the onus lies on the leaders, whether they be in politics or in the bureaucracy.

3. Those who took/are taking leadership should be held accountable and they should be prepared for the criticism (hopefully constructive).

4. Finally KHP sir, for the sake of our "survival instincts" a little bit of buttering and flattering is Ok but you are not expected to shield your boss.

Best regards,

Vijaya Sharma said...

I am impressed with the discussions on this topic. I am not a civil servant, but agree with the most arguments on the problems/undesirability associated with naming the most notorious bureaucrat. I am taking these discussions as a brain storming session and would like to add my view to this pot of ideas:

I see government officers calling drivers and peons as "timi," and then lower rank officers calling higher rank officers "hajur" - which are reminiscents of feudalistic culture. Similarly, one sees the members of the general public who are seeking services from a government office being address as "timi" or "tum;" one can witness this in many offices like malpot, CDO office, etc. Such a behavioral attitude imparts an impression of civil servants behaving as "civil masters." Can the following behavioral ethics be imposed?

(1) Every civil servant of any rank or hierarchy must address another civil servant of any rank or hierarchy as "tapain" and not as "hajur" or "timi"?

(2)Every civil servant of any rank or hierarchy must address any visitor or any member of general public seeking service from the civil servant's office as "tapain" and never as "timi" or "hajur," irrespective of the political status, income status, educational status, caste, creed, age, or sex of the visitor/service-seeker?

If the above behavioral ethics can begin, any violator can then be awarded the title of "THE MOST UNCIVIL CIVIL SERVANT."

Vijaya Sharma

Dr. Rabindra K. Shakya said...

Dear all,

I feel sad when I noted that we are trying to identify the "notorious" civil servants. In stead of trying to find the "exemplary" civil servants, we are using our precious time and energy to identify the "notorious ones". Identifying one better civil servant is worth the efforts than finding the hundred "notorious" ones. I think we need to try to cultivate positive attitude and encourage good works done by others. Sometimes even a word of appreciation for a good work will serve as a good stimulant to encourage people to do good work.

Dear all,

I feel sad when I noted that we are trying to identify the "notorious" civil servants. In stead of trying to find the "exemplary" civil servants, we are using our precious time and energy to identify the "notorious ones". Identifying one better civil servant is worth the efforts than finding the hundred "notorious" ones. I think we need to try to cultivate positive attitude and encourage good works done by others. Sometimes even a word of appreciation for a good work will serve as a good stimulant to encourage people to do good work.

Dr. Rabindra K. Shakya

Gopal Siwakoti 'Chintan' said...

Dear all,

Went through the comments with interest. I think we look for both,
notorious and good ones, to learn any lessons from the past. But
ultimately it is a minor issue unless we want to punish them in the
post/new Nepal for their past crimes.

The main thing is that they are the by-products of the system of the
time. Is it better today? Certainly not. The generally accepted fact
is that people like their own bureacucrats even if they are corrupt
but their family members, relatives and friends also benefit!

Are others better? No. One example, in which I am a part, our
Tribhuvan University system -- supplsed to be a centre of critics and
excellence of the time. But they are hardly any professors left who
are not sold to one of the political parties as their greatest
buddijibi or those who do not have their own hidden NGOs or those who
are not consultants to some NGOs. The TU in loss, the students are in
loss, the departments are in loss and the whole country and the future
generations are at lost.

What I saw in many other countries is that professors bring projects
and resources to their universities and departments who profit best,
and they also get well-paid and well-recognised for the contribution
to their own institutions. But in Nepal -- most of them are notorious.
I saw in my law campus where I am lecturer but now on leave for 5
years, nothing happnes there collectively and for the insitution and
there is no support and incentive to those who want work differently.

So our TU is a gross failure in the first place which is regulated by
the corrupt officials at the top or secretaries and ministers of the
time who are generally corrupt. Secondly, we professors and lecturers
keep quiet about it or do no intellectural revolutionary work there
because it profits you and us better than the collective and
democratic system of bureaucracy.

We need regime change! We need system change!

What kind of new regime or new system? That is what it is being
debated in the past few years all over, including this forum sometime.

Gopal Siwakoti 'Chintan', Advocate
Specialising in International Human Rights and
Environmental Law with Diploma (France) & LL.M (USA)
Legal Advisor, Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO)
Chintan & Subedi Law Associates
GPO Box 2125 or 60 New Plaza Marga
Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone/fax (0977-1) 4419610
E-mails: gchintan@gmail.com / pairavi@ntc.net.np / www. gopalchintan.info

Meena Acharya said...

Dear all,

It is very interesting to read the debate on bureaucracy and its faults. Finally some body has brought in the politicians and the citizens at large. Now the system also has been brought in. There in lies the truth. All of us are at fault, the socio-economic system in which the bureaucracy and the politics are embedded is at fault. What are the systems fault then? Dr. Bimal Koiralaji brought out the bureaucracy's fault systematically. But why is the bureaucracy like that? Is not it that our society is like that. We talk about our corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. Politicians need votes to win the elections, if they do not favor their group they become obsolete. Tanka Prasad Acharya had to sacrifice his own party and government to set up a system in Nepali Administration. Ministers who were honest in the Interim Government of 2046, have been thrown into political oblivion by the electorate. Daman Nath Dhungana and Nilamber Acharya are prominent recent examples of this process. Now the Maoists are talking about routing out corruption. To me extortion and not being able to present the bills for the money they took from the Treasury for the camps are greater evidence of corruption. Youths, who talk so much about corruption, mostly join the political party on the basis of what they can get out of it. If there are honest bureaucrats and politicians who have contributed to keep the system working and remained dedicated even within this socio- political milieu, they must be lauded and honored. I can tell you a story about myself when I fought the 2056 elections. Every club in the area wanted money from me. There was a group in Baneswore, which wanted to work in my election. But when they saw that I had no money to distribute, they hitch -hiked to the election campaign of a leader from a big party to Nuwakote. He won the election. I can tell you another story. In that election, I was myself in the voting area, a group of youth were sitting there. They offered 500 votes to me, if I can pay the price. I responded that "you should be ashamed to talk like that. When you sell votes in this way what right you have to shout on the Sansad who gets bought and sold within Parliament. They said " tapai jastai sabai hunchan ra? Nakine arule kincha.'' I do not know who bought their votes.

About a few years ago I was reading life history of Sigmund Freud and the picture that emerge from Austria of that time is what exactly we have observed in Nepal in the last 30-40 years. Politicians are forced into making the Politics a game for earning money to buy votes. Since there are very few alternatives to government jobs, bureaucrats are forced to stick to their jobs by hook or by crook. In a system where money is every thing, if you are not corrupt you do not survive. I have no answered as to how we can improve the system. When your income can not pay for even a decent schooling of your children, while colleagues around you are sending their children to US/ UK or some other place for study what will you do? Why are schools/colleges converted into money making factory by so called professionals, who decry corruption of others? Teachers, who are in the public schools do not teach. They are more engaged in taking children to political rallies and pleasing their political masters. Is it corruption or not? Doctors are interested more in getting favors of pharmaceutical companies by prescribing medicine rather than curing the ailment? What do we do?

So instead of playing the blaming game, we need to build a new system. What kind of new system? We can not copy the US or UK system. They are embedded in their own socio-political context. So we have to devise our own system. Community management of schools and health facilities is one of such home grown experiment. Teachers are up in arms against this practice, branding it imposed by the World Bank. It was recommended by IIDS Report in 1992 after a survey of rural service delivery system. The recommendation was also part of the Administration Reform Report. It is clear that a school in Maling of Gorkha for example, to go to where you had to walk from sadar mukam for 5 days can not be managed by DEO from district head quarters. The head masters and the health assistants had to go to district head quarters to get their salaries every month. No wonder Health posts were managed by the local peons most of the time and half the teachers were absent most of the times. But none of the donors bought the ideas at that time. Now it becomes a World Bank program and now the sister organizations of political parties are against the system. It is the vested interest of the teachers to make the system a failure and political parties including the Maoists, who do not tire of talking about people's power are buying their arguments.

First, we professional must learn to examine the situation in depth before, we take side. We must also not try to impose imported management systems in
Nepal blindly. Since management systems are embedded in socio-political systems, he can function only if growing from inside. That is all for now.

With best of Dashani Holidays to all.

Meena Acharya

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