No substance and no deadline in PM’s performance deals with ministers

Published On: August 18, 2019 06:58 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Aug 18: In an apparent move to quell growing criticism over the government’s failure to deliver despite its near two-third majority grip over parliament, Prime Minister KP Oli made all his ministers sign work performance agreements two weeks ago. The ministers agreed to complete seven to 20 tasks in the next few years.

But a study of the agreements, copies of which Republica has obtained, shows that most of them do not cover any substantive tasks and do not have any completion deadlines. What they do have is much overlapping with existing government policy and program. 

The agreements between Prime Minister Oli and at least five of his ministers, for instance, don’t have any completion deadline other than what can be inferred from the annual target for the ministries set by the fiscal year budget and the government’s overarching policy and program. 

Forest Minister Shakti Basnet, Agriculture Minister Chakrapani Khanal, Minister for Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Minister Padma Kumari Aryal are the luckier members in the Oli cabinet who don’t have to worry about any deadline or calendar of completion for the tasks mentioned in their work performance agreements. 

In these agreements, Prime Minister Oli has assigned the most tasks, 20 in all, to Forest Minister Basnet. But none of these tasks have a completion deadline other than implementation of the announcement made by the government in its annual budget. Out of 12 agreements with Home Minister Thapa none has a completion deadline except the one related to the budget. 

Similarly, Land Management Minister Aryal has signed up to completing 10 tasks, Law Minister Dhakal to at least seven, and Agriculture Minister Khanal to 13 tasks. But there is no completion calendar. 

One refrain the government has been striking is bringing all encroached public land back under government ownership. But Land Management Minister Aryal doesn’t have any calendar for starting the task or for completing it. 

Interestingly, the prime minister has tasked Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali with ensuring proper publicity to Nepal’s successes in the peace process. But he hasn’t set any deadline for Law Minister Dhakal for concluding the tasks related to transitional justice. 

In an 11-point agreement with the prime minister, Minister for Labor and Employment Gokarna Bista has been given nine tasks. But Bista has a deadline for completing only two of the tasks--starting payments for laborers through banking channels and meeting the annual target for the ministry set under the budget and policy and program statement of the government for this fiscal year. 

Foreign Minister Gyawali has agreed to convening Nepal’s international forum, Sagarmatha Dialogue, in March. But the rest of the tasks in his agreement with the prime minister are also lacking in completion deadlines.

Minister for Drinking Water Bina Magar is tasked with completing the notoriously delayed Melamchi Drinking Water Project within this fiscal year. Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister Raghubir Mahashesth is to begin construction of the east-west electric railway within the fiscal year. He is also tasked with connecting the district headquarters of Humla and Dopla with the national road network, again within the ongoing fiscal year. 

Industry, Commerce and Supply Minister Matrika Yadav has agreed to start commercial production of iron from a mine being developed in Nawalparasi district and commence construction of industrial areas in all seven provinces, all within the ongoing fiscal year. 

Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel is to declare the country fully literate within two years and begin operation of the Madan Bhandari Science and Technology University within two years.
Unlike agreements with most ministers, the agreements with Minister for Energy Barsha Man Pun cover multiple and substantial tasks and with completion deadlines. Pun has signed up to complete the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project within the ongoing fiscal year and the Bheri-Babai Diversion Project within two years, as well as add 1,000 megawatt to the national grid within this fiscal year, among other things. 

Following their work performance agreements with Oli, the ministers have been asked to enter immediately into similar agreements with their ministry secretaries, and the secretaries with the joint secretaries and under secretaries. 

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