Senior government officers are busy travelling abroad, ostensibly for seminars and observation tours. Under the leadership of Chief Secretary Bimal Prasad Koirala, officers from various ministries are busy shuttling to Europe and Africa to attend training programs. Koirala himself is busy preparing for another junket just two days after his return to Nepal. Under-secretary Hari Prasad Nepal who just returned from Malaysia is already on his way to Japan. Four administrators from Ministry of Population and Environment are somewhere abroad. Two more officers from this ministry are in Sri Lanka. After just 10 days of new appointments at the metropolitan municipality office, officials will soon be on a US tour with the deputy mayor of Kathmandu as the delegation leader. All costs and allowances will be borne by the office.
It's nothing new for government officers to indulge in international tours, especially for those who have good relations with INGOs. This usually increases in frequency when retirement approaches. Junior officers don't get junkets often. Most of the time, the secretary takes a trip meant for junior government officers because of attractive perks and allowances.
Due to the conflict, most donors' money does not reach the villages. The funds are used instead to finance officers' trips for study, research and observation-categorised as 'software' work to learn about good governance and efficient bureaucracy. "Officers travel around and share their experiences but they don't apply anything in office," says Madhab Ghimire, former secretary, who has made more than 40 international visits.
Officers from education, industry, finance, local development and foreign ministries get more opportunities to travel. One secretary from the foreign ministry has been abroad 16 times in the last 18 months. The so-called 'exposure and confidence-building' tours have reduced after directives from the CIAA last year. There was a time when 68 bureaucrats-from section officers to secretaries-made about 84 international trips in just one year. Most of the time, the government officers never revealed the purpose of the visit and funding source, especially when they went through donor agencies.