31 July - 6 Aug 2015 #769

“I gave it all I had”

Interview with Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal, Himal Khabarpatrika, 26 July-1 August

BIKRAM RAI

Himal: Are you happy with your tenure as Chief Secretary?

Leela Mani Paudyal: My motto in life is to lead by example, so I have always prioritised my work and fulfilled it to the best of my ability. Unlike the security forces, civil servants are not under the jurisdiction of a Chief Secretary. The position doesn’t have power and resources. A Chief Secretary’s job is to  coordinate between agencies, conduct meetings of the council of ministers and act as a bridge between the government and the political parties. Another important role is to serve as secretary of the constitutional council.

Were you prepared for the job?

It wasn’t decided that I would be the Chief Secretary until the last moment. After I got appointed I made sure not to compromise on issues of corruption, public administration, and to be impartial and efficient. 

Don’t you think you could have done more?

For one year during my term we didn’t have a parliament. Bombs went off to stop elections. It was a tough situation. I couldn’t work everywhere, but I did the best I could with what I had.

How much political pressure was there? 

There were a lot of pressure but I stood my ground. I had quite a few arguments with political leaders. The issues of public land as well as transfers got a lot of attention.

Instead of delegating, you did things yourself. Is it because you didn’t have faith in others?

As I said before I believe in leading by example. Because a lot of civil servants volunteered during  the Clean Bagmati campaign, many others joined us. If I had just given orders this wouldn’t have been possible.

Should a Chief Secretary be limited to policy-making or get feet dirty cleaning up rivers? 

The country goes downhill when you say one thing and do another. Political leaders make the policy; a Chief Secretary alone cannot. For example: when the Civil Service Act to sack government employees possessing Diversity Visa (DV) and Permanent Residency (PR) of foreign countries was first taken to Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, the minister called it my agenda.

Are you saying the role of the Chief Secretary should be broader?

The Chief Secretary should be involved in hiring, promotion, and transfer of government officials and the transfer and promotion of security personnel.

Do you have a favourite successor?

No, those are just rumours. All candidates went through all the selection process. I have even overlapped with them, so they get exposure. 

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