KATHMANDU, Nov 14: Former Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Deep Basnyat, a retired government secretary picked for the job, stopped claiming his pension following his appointment as a CIAA Commissioner in March 2015. He did so until he retired once again - this time from the anti-graft body - in February 2018 on age ground. But soon after his term at the CIAA ended, Basnet went to the Pension Management Office and claimed and received the accrued pension amount - a sum of Rs 800,000.
Basnet is not the only bureaucrat to draw dual benefits from the state coffers even after their appointment to constitutional and political bodies. According to an official at the pension office, except Umesh Mainali, chief of the Public Service Commission (PSC), and Leelamani Paudyal, the Nepali Ambassador to China, all former bureaucrats who were ‘lucky’ to get appointed to constitutional and political posts, are drawing pension from the state coffers. Paudyal retired as the chief secretary in 2015 while Mainali resigned from the post of government secretary in 2009.
Former Vice President Paramananda Jha, too, has been enjoying double benefits, -- he receives attractive monthly perks and benefits as a former deputy head of state while he also gets a monthly pension as a former justice of the Supreme Court (SC).
The case of the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anup Raj Sharma, is the same. He has been drawing his pension regularly ever since he retired as the Chief Justice in March 2010, and is also enjoying the perks and benefits he gets as the NHRC chief.
According to the Pension Management Office, some other former bureaucrats such as CIAA chief Nabin Kumar Ghimire, member Ganesh Raj Joshi, PSC members Brinda Hada Bhattarai, Govinda Prasad Kusum and Shree Purush Dhakal, chairperson of the Law Commission, Madhav Paudel, Labdev Awasthi of the Language Commission, and Auditor General Tankamani Sharma, too, have been drawing pension in addition to their regular salaries and other benefits from their current positions.
Commissioners at the Election Commission (EC) Narendra Dahal, Ishwari Prasad Paudel, Sudheer Kumar Shah, and Chief Commissioner of the National Information Commission (NIC) Krishna Hari Baskota are some other former bureaucrats who have been enjoying double benefits - a salary as well as a pension.
Former Chief Secretary of the government Bimal Koirala says the state should bar former bureaucrats from enjoying dual benefits from the state coffers through law enforcement. “The practice of ex-bureaucrats enjoying double benefits can be permanently barred if a law is endorsed through parliament to this effect,” said Koirala.
However, the number of former government officials getting appointment at the constitutional bodies and other state offices is fewer than those joining the private sector and international or domestic non-government organizations and foreign diplomatic missions. Despite having such lucrative jobs, the former bureaucrats don’t sacrifice their pension and other benefits they get from the state after retirement.
According to sources, what these former bureaucrats pay in income tax for their salaries now is more than their monthly pension amount, but in the absence of law to bar retired officials from enjoying dual benefits, they are getting both salary and pension.
Although the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s not illegal to receive both salary and pension at the same time, good governance experts say it is more a moral and ethical issue than a legal one. Former Chief Secretary Koirala claimed that the tendency to seek double benefits from the state coffers in this way is a result of moral degradation.
Executive Director of Social Security Trust, Shyam Raj Adhikari said that the international practice, in cases of post-retirement appointment, is to choose between pension or perks and salaries. “Though the law doesn’t bar retired government officials from enjoying both pension and salary, they should stop drawing pension after getting a post-retirement appointment,” said Adhikari.
The government’s attempt to end this practice of ‘double benefits’ has turned futile in the absence of a proper law. The Ministry of General Administration issued a directive in 2004 and the CIAA also directed the government agencies to end the practice of double benefits later in the same year. Also, the government in 2016 asked former officials getting appointment at various constitutional or government bodies to choose between pension or the salary from their current public positions.
But such moves became ineffective as soon as the Supreme Court ruled that it was not illegal for the former bureaucrats to receive both salary and pension after hearings on a case filed by former PSC chairperson Kayodevi Yami in 2017.