Civil servants’ 1,400 trips cost taxpayers over Rs 1b

Published On: July 12, 2017 07:43 AM NPT By: BHADRA SHARMA/ROSHAN SEDHAI

KATHMANDU, July 11: Government employees have spent over a billion rupees on foreign visits in the last two months. The bill includes over 1,400 trips of civil servants since May 18 this year. Some of the visits are scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.

A total of 1,442 civil servants acquired permission from the government to visit over three dozen countries from May 16 to July 11, according to a document obtained by Republica. Most of the visits included field trips, exposure visits, study tours, familiarization and observation tours that sources said were of little gains. The exact figure of foreign visits could be much higher as it does not include visits made by civil servants to countries like India.

In total, Nepali taxpayers had to foot over a billion rupees in travel bill including air tickets and travel allowances, according to preliminary estimate of government officials having knowledge about the cost.  Some visits were sponsored by organizers.

“Some visits were really useful to boost bilateral relations and for personal growth. But most of those visits were sheer waste of money,” said an official at the Office of Prime Minister.

The revelation shows no decline in civil servants’ attraction toward foreign junket despite several restrictive measures taken by the government in recent months. In 2015, the government had introduced a policy to discourage such visits but had little impact.
Officials said a host of factors including good travel allowances are major source of attraction toward foreign visits. Government officials get between USD 150 to 200 in travel and daily allowance depending on their designation. According to existing provision, government secretaries get USD 200 in allowance for day, while joint-secretaries and under-secretaries get USD 175 and USD 150 respectively.

Government officials get even more lucrative allowance if the trip is sponsored by big donors and multilateral agencies. For instance, UNDP provides a minimum of USD 350 per day.

“The government gives additional 33 percent on the existing amount in case of few countries that are considered expensive travel destinations,” said an official.

Former General Administration Minister Lalbabu Pandit, who earned lots of praise for reforming bureaucracy with various measures, said the number of foreign junket is worrying. He said that the problem would worsen if the government does not show enough political willingness.

Pandit said civil servants don’t want to miss any opportunity of foreign junket. “Most civil servants consider foreign junket as journey to heaven. Since there is a provision of providing expenditure to civil servants traveling abroad, they spend more time on how to arrange foreign junket than performing their assigned duties,” said former minister Pandit.
They don’t care about their expertise or urgency of visit. They will be simply happy when any organization invites them.”

According to the former minister, civil servants receive allowances in dollars, allowances for clothes and accommodation during their stay abroad. “Very few go aboard in assignments. Influential civil servants frequently go abroad and even take their supporters,” he said, adding, “Going abroad is for saving money and fun. Some go to foreign junket just for show off.”

Secretaries and the countries they visited are as follows:  

America - Birendra Bahadur Karki, Parliament Secretariat

- Britain - Himlal Subedi – Parliament Secretariat

Switzerland - Suroj Pokharel, Ministry of Agricultural Development

 America and Switzerland - Indra Prasad Upadhyaya, Ministry of Commerce

 Poland - Shankar Prasad Adhikari, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation

America - Shreedhar Sapkota, Ministry of Defense

Australia - Shanta Bahadur Shrestha, Ministry of Education

South Korea - Shanta Raj Subedi, Ministry of Finance

Germany - Mohan Krishna Sapkota, General Administration

 Pakistan - Senendra Raj Upreti, Ministry of Health

Switzerland - Shankar Prasad Koirala, Ministry of Industry

Italy - Ramananda Prasad Yadav, Ministry of Irrigation

Switzerland - Laxman Prasad Mainali, Ministry of Labor and Employment

South Korea - Dr. Bishwa Nath Oli, Ministry of Environment and Employment

Australia - Bhim Prasad Upadhyaya, Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation

Denmark and America - Mahesh Prasad Dahal, Ministry of Youth and Sports

Switzerland - Bed Prasad Bhattarai, National Human Rights Commission

America - Bishnu Prasad Lamsal, National Planning Commission

Germany and Myanmar - Ram Kumar Acharya, Office of the Prime Minister

 Canada - Rajiv Gautam, Office of the Prime Minister

United Arab Emirates, Germany, Chile - Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Office of the Prime Minister 

 Poland - Sarbajit Mahato, Office of the Prime Minister

Australia - Gopinath Mainali, Office of the Prime Minister

Canada - Madhu Prasad Regmi, Public Service Commission

America - Tulsi Ram Sedai, National Women Commission

Sudan - Ram Prasad Sitaula, Ministry  of Defense

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