KATHMANDU, July 13: Overseas trips involving over 300 government employees have become uncertain following a new direction issued by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to stop foreign junkets. PM Deuba on Thursday directed newly-appointed chief secretary, Rajendra Kishor Kshetri to stop government officials from attending unnecessary events overseas.
At least 323 government employees including some secretaries are due to attend various overseas events in the next few weeks. Many of them have already stamped their passports and booked air tickets.
It is not immediately clear how many of the trips will be affected by the prime minister’s instruction. Prime Minister’s press advisor Govinda Pariyar said that only those officials attending events that are necessary to strengthen bilateral relations or beneficial for the country have been directed to make the trip.
“There has been strict instruction from the prime minister to bar officials from attending unnecessary trips,” said Pariyar, without clarifying about the criteria that the government would set to distinguish necessary from unnecessary visits.
PM Deuba’s instruction comes a day after Republica and Nagarik published news reports highlighting anomalies in overseas trips of government employees.
Of the 1400 overseas trips involving government officials sanctioned since mid-May, many are planned to take place in the next few weeks.
The list of sanctioned visits shows that nearly four dozen officials from the Ministry of Agricultural Development are scheduled to leave for foreign visit within the next few weeks. Similarly, around one dozen staffers each from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Federal Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Local Development Ministry, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youths and Sports are scheduled to attend various overseas events next weeks.
Few other officials from the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Industry and National Women’s Commission are also in the queue.
Those in queue include some secretaries including Bhim Prasad Upadhyay, secretary at the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Gopinath Mainali, secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, Tulsi Ram Sedai, secretary of National Women Commission, Ram Nanda Prasad Yadav, secretary at the Ministry of Irrigation, Shanta Bahadur Shrestha, secretary at the Ministry of Education.
Except some exceptions, most of the foreign trips constitute programs with little gains such as overseas ‘study tours’, observation visits, reflective events in Europe and America.
For example, Shrestha, Upadhyay and Mainali are going to Australia on exposure and reflective visits. Sedai and Yadav are going on study tours.
“These visits are completely unworthy of their status and waste of money. They should cancel it,” said a source at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Government secretaries confirmed receiving calls from the chief secretary regarding the restriction on visits.
“He didn’t tell to cancel visit but suggested to use discretion to find whether the visit is worthy or not,” a secretary who is scheduled to visit Australia quoted Chief Secretary Kshetri as saying. He, said, he would soon decide what to do.