In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has begun a performance evaluation of his own government starting Wednesday, calling a special meeting of ministers and secretaries following continuous criticism of his administration to deliver on the promises made since coming into office.
Officials familiar with the process said the evaluation could continue until Friday, and would give the prime minister room to weigh the work of his ministers who are under serious scrutiny for poor performance, alleged financial irregularities, and accusations of being behind the administration’s growing unpopularity.
During the meeting on Wednesday, a sombre Oli, according to a secretary present at the meeting, said that the work culture has not changed at the top level and that he does not want to hear any “ifs” and “buts” from Cabinet members.
“Why does it take months to shift one file from one government entity to another,” the prime minister asked during the meeting. “I urge you all to work for visible change and results.”
The performance appraisal for ministers, which includes leading Nepal Communist Party leaders, comes amid increasing calls for a Cabinet reshuffle from the ruling party. PM Oli, who has been expressing frustration over the performance of his team, will preside over the meeting for the next couple of days, going over a ‘report card’ for each ministry and rating them based on performance. It is unclear what kind of grading scale the prime minister is applying to his ministers.
On Wednesday, the ministries of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation; Agriculture; Industry; Energy; Urban Development; and the National Reconstruction Authority were up for evaluation. Ministers and secretaries from each ministry presented their progress report during the meeting.
The meeting reviewed budget expenditure, progress made on large infrastructure projects, and whether policy and budget targets were met or not by these specific ministries and the NRA. Ministers and secretaries claimed that a lack of inter-ministerial coordination, along with other internal hiccups, had led to a failure to meet budget expenditures in the last four months.
Expressing displeasure over the current pace of work, the PM then directed the ministers to ensure that outstanding policy, programme and budget targets be met and that work be conducted faster, said Finance Minister Yubraj Khatiwada.
“I do not see any budgetary problems in carrying out and implementing projects,” a frustrated Oli said, according to one secretary. “Why has there been no progress? Whatever the reasons are, we need results. I urge you not to be satisfied with the work you have done so far.”
The PM further asked the ministers to inform him if it was the Cabinet, the ministers and secretaries, or any laws and regulations that were leading to delays.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has developed a dedicated app to monitor and evaluate the projects undertaken by various ministries. Those that have progressed above 80 percent get a green signal, those below 80 but above 50 percent get a yellow signal, and those which have failed to progress or achieved just 50 percent are given a red signal.
“I do not expect any red signals,” the PM said.
Even though four months of the current fiscal year have already elapsed, the government has hardly spent 8 percent of its capital expenditure, which is less than what was spent last year. “This is surprising, given that last year was an election year and development expenditure is low during those years,” said the PM.
Finance Minister Khatiwada replied that the low capital expenditure was due to a mismanagement of civil servants from the Central to the local levels and the new federal budget format. “These bottlenecks will be addressed by mid-January,” said Khatiwada.
Five months ago, after presenting the annual budget, the PM had called a meeting of his ministers and secretaries and directed them to prepare a detailed work plan on ways to address issues charted out in the government’s policy and programme, and how service delivery could be improved. At the same meeting, the PM also asked ministers and secretaries to come up with a plan to remove bottlenecks to expedite large and national pride projects.
The PMO had prepared a report card that each ministry was told to update on a monthly basis. However, once the PM became engaged otherwise and was lately taken ill, he was unable to hold regular meetings and the report card was not updated regularly.