The country adopting a federal set-up—a federal government, seven provincial governments and 753 local units—meant immediate need of staff at all levels to ensure effective service delivery to the people as well as expedited development works. Four years after the constitution and two years after the local, provincial and parliamentary elections, the federal government should have made immediate moves to ensure staff for all levels of administration. Amid a staff crunch at the local level, the Public Service Commission issued a vacancy notice at the request of the federal government, but it quickly landed in controversy, ultimately reaching the court. The court recently gave a nod to the commission to hire staff. But the final verdict is yet to come. Here is all you need to know about the vacancy notice and the controversy surrounding it.

What happened?

Stating that the local federal units—515 in particular—were in dire need of staff, the federal government asked the Public Service Commission to issue a vacancy notice to fill 9,161 posts. The commission on May 29 announced the vacancies. The notice immediately gathered criticism, mainly because many believed it undermined the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. As per the constitution, provincial governments are responsible for hiring staff for the local units under them, for which they need to set up Provincial Public Service Commissions. As per Article 227 of the constitution, matters related to employees and offices of the village councils and municipalities are dealt with as per provincial laws.

Why did the PSC issue the vacancy notice then?

The Commission went ahead with its vacancy notice citing Section 12 (5 and 6) of the Employees Adjustment Act, which states that the federal government can request the Public Service Commission to start the recruitment process for filling the vacant posts until Provincial Public Service Commissions come into place. The Commission and the federal government’s argument was: the vacancies were issued because the Provincial Service Commissions were yet to be formed.

Is it the issue of jurisdiction breach only?

No. Those against the vacancy notice claim that the Commission’s process of recruiting new staff also undermined the principle of inclusion. As per the Civil Service Act, 70 percent of vacant posts are filled through open competition while 30 percent are filled through promotion in the case of section officer. Of the 70 percent vacancies, 45 percent have been set aside for filling them after a separate competition among different clusters of communities for the purpose of inclusion. As per the law, 33 percent quotas should be allocated for women, followed by 27 percent for indigenous nationalities, 22 percent for Madhesis, 9 percent for Dalits, 5 percent for the disabled and 4 percent for backward regions. The remaining 55 percent seats are filled through unrestricted competition. But the Commission said it cannot reserve the quotas for all because there is demand for only one or two officials in most of the local governments at once and that there was no way the principle of inclusion could be followed. But Umesh Mainali, chairman of the Commission, argued that the vacancy notice did not violate the principle of inclusion.

“We have adopted the same practice in the staff recruitment for local governments that we have been following for long to ensure inclusion,” Mainali told the Post in a recent interview. “Under this system, not all groups are guaranteed representation in a single vacancy notice. If one group does not get the chance of representation at one time, the group gets a chance in another recruitment process.”

Had any of the provincial governments asked the Commission not to proceed with hiring?

When the federal government was assessing the demand for staff at local governments to be recruited through the Commission, the Province 2 government had written to it, asking it not to initiate the hiring process. The provincial government had argued that recruitment of staff was its responsibility. All the provincial governments have common stance that they should be responsible for staff recruitment at the provinces and local units. But as the lack of staff hit service delivery badly, the Karnali Province, the most impoverished and remote region, asked the federal government to recruit 312 staff through the Federal Public Service Commission, Dilli Raj Shrestha, under-secretary at the Karnali Chief Minister’s Office told the Post.|

Has any of the provinces formed the Provincial Public Service Commission?

Most of them are in the process of introducing the law on formation of the Provincial Public Service Commission. For example, provinces 5 and 6 have already endorsed the bill on the formation of the commission and others are in the process of passing the bill.

What caused the delay in forming the Provincial Public Service Commissions?

Article 244 of the constitution has made a provision that each province will have their own Public Service Commission. Article 244 (3) states that the federal parliament, by law, determines the grounds and standards for the purposes of the clause. But this law was passed by the federal parliament only in May this year. Without the grounds and standards set by the federal parliament, the provinces could not formulate laws on the Provincial Public Service Commission. Province 2 Chief Attorney Dipendra Jha told the Post in a recent interview that it was strange that the federal government did not formulate laws to create grounds and standards for four years since the promulgation of the constitution and that it was now insisting that the Public Service Commission recruit staff for local governments in a massive scale. This could potentially render Provincial Public Service Commissions without work.

What are the provinces saying after the Supreme Court nod to continue with the process to hire staff?

While some political leaders, Janajati and Madhesi activists have criticised the court’s order, provincial governments have not spoken publicly about it. But Province 2 Chief Attorney Jha said it is a constitutional issue and should be determined by the constitutional bench. “The court should take decision as per the true spirit of the constitution,” he said. “It should take an early decision on the matter. If the court takes decision after the recruitment process is over, it [the decision] will have no meaning.”

This story first appeared on Kathmandu Post. Read the original story here.