Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s style of working has disenchanted his Cabinet colleagues as the PM takes briefing from secretaries and makes ministers wait for hours before starting Cabinet meetings.
“The PM has broken the chain of command as he receives briefing from secretaries, rather than ministers,” a minister told.
The minister said secretaries had been telling ministers to take permission from the PM for any major decision, hinting that the minister’s decision might not be okayed by the PM.
According to sources, Oli criticises ministers in front of secretaries. “How can secretaries obey the minister when the PM directly appoints secretaries and chides ministers in front of them?” a source wondered.
However, government spokesperson and Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota said it was natural to get briefing from the secretaries in the absence of ministers.
A source at a ministry’s private secretariat said Minister of Federal Affairs and General Administration Lalbabu Pandit was recently denied appointment to discuss issues with the PM, but MoFAGA Secretary Dinesh Thapaliya was allowed to meet the PM whenever he wanted to.
Baskota, however, claimed that ministers had been meeting the PM separately before and after Cabinet meetings.
Most secretaries in ministries are Oli loyalists, except Secretary of the Ministry of Water Supply Gajendra Thakur. This ministry is led by Bina Magar, daughter-in-law of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Oli doesn’t interfere in its working because he does not want to antagonise Bina or Dahal, according to sources.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health and Population Upendra Yadav and Minister of Urban Development Mohamed Istiyak Rain are two other ministers who have secretaries of their choice, sources said.
Kedar Bahadur Adhikari replaced Dr Pushpa Chaudhary as secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population as recommended by Yadav.
The PM also removed former secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development Dipendra Nath Sharma after Rain sought to transfer him. Yadav and Rain are from the Federal Socialist Forum- Nepal whose support ensures the NCP government two-thirds majority in the Parliament.
The other charge against the PM is that he does not hold meetings with ministers, diplomats and bureaucrats as scheduled. “Oli has no regard for others’ time,” a minister complained to THT. The other day he arrived at a Cabinet meeting two hours late, he added. “On Sunday, the Inter-province Council meeting scheduled for 11:00 am started at 12.45 pm and Oli left after 15 minutes. He returned at 2:45 pm.” The minister alleged that the PM convened meetings and left in the middle, asking Cabinet colleagues to discuss the issues among themselves.
He said at times the PM would discuss one agenda for 45 minutes. “Cabinet meetings under other PMs would end in a reasonable time after taking decisions without any delay,” the minister said.
Baskota said the PM liked to argue each and every issue. “If the minister is not able to convince him, the PM would tell him/her to table the agenda in the next Cabinet meeting.”