31 couples employed in a single government office

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A close look at the details of staff at the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training shows members of some families rule the roost at this government office

Makar Shrestha,: Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal

  • Nagandra Sah, the staff union chair at the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training, joined the CTEVT on April 3, 1989. A resident of Hanumannagar-1 in Siraha, Sah availed not only himself of the government job but also his brother Birendra, sister-in-law Indrika and niece Kabita Sah. Chairman of the CPN-UML-affiliated CTEVT staff union, Sah got the job for his brother on October 14, 2009 and for his sister-in-law in Nov-Dec 2013. Birendra works for the Rural Training Centre Tanahun while Indrika is an agriculture training assistant at the Lahan Technical School. Kabita has been deputed to the Gaur Nursing Institute.
  • Pashupati Joshi, the spouse of Nepali Congress-affiliated CTEVT staff union President Devdatta Badu, is also employed at the Council. During the tenure of Ramhari Lamichhane as the CTEVT member secretary, Pashupati was appointed there on contract basis. After getting a permanent post from the internal competition is 2015, Pashupati has been deputed to the skill development project.
  • Two brothers and a sister-in-law of of Netra Bahadur Khatri, former chair of the Maoist-affiliated CTEVT National Staff Union, work for the Jumla-based Karnali Technical School of the Council. Netra’s brothers Gajendra Bahadur Khatri and Bir Bahadur Khatri and sister-in-law Radhika work in Jumla.

This is not a group of people working at a non-government organisation or a private company. This is a family network within the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training that runs on taxpayers’ money. The staffers discussed above are related to the three staff union chiefs at the Council. What is more, the CTEVT also employs a large number of people related to influential officials, directors and ex-member secretaries.

Staff union chief Sah claimed that his relatives and sister-in-law got their jobs with their own capacities. “I got into CTEVT before them but they got jobs through competition,” said Sah. “Who would listen to me–a section officer?”

According to the constitution, government officials cannot be appointed without involving the Public Service Commission (PSC) in the selection process. But before the provision in the new constitution, CTEVT officials and politicians took their relatives in through the back door. They used the technique of appointing their people on contract basis and conducted a narrow internal competition for permanent posting. “Earlier, the institutions concerned appointed their staff,” said PSC spokesperson Laxmi Bilas Korala. “We got the responsibility only after the new constitution came into force [in 2015]. Now we conduct the written exam; they [public organisations] interview shortlisted candidates.”

31 couples employed

Among the 932 staff members at the CTEVT in total, more than 130 have kinship among themselves. They include 31 couples, some of them at the director level. Sangita Lamichhane, the wife of former member secretary Ramhari Lamichhane, still works for the CTEVT. Ramhari, having resigned from the post, serves as the director general at the Colombo Plan Staff College, the Philippines. “I did not request anybody to employ my wife,” said Ramhari. “While being transferred to a remote region, the management sent my wife along with me giving her a job. I did not abuse my authority to employ my wife.”

When Nepali Congress (NC) leader Govinda Raj Joshi was the education minister (1991-1994), he used the CTEVT as a place to employ party cadres and his kin. Saroj Devkota of Gorkha was the CTEVT vice-chairman then. “The two employed 500 people in one lot,” says CTEVT former director and educationist Tanka Nath Sharma. “CTEVT needed staff of technical background. They filled it with general staff,” said Sharma. Most of those employed then are relatives and cadres of Joshi and Devkota’s kin.

There are several examples of family presence in the CTEVT. Take the case of the Devkota lineage. Rajani Devkota of Jita-6, Lamjung got a job at the CTEVT on July 5, 1996. She is currently an administrative officer. Her brother Shankar Neupane is another employee at the Council. Her brother-in-law Ramhari Devkota of Palungtar-5, Gorkha has worked at the Council since July 29, 1997. He is currently the deputy director at the CTEVT polytechnic while Rajani is the administrative officer at the Exam Controller’s Office. Shankar has been deputed to the School of Health Sciences, Bharatpur. Besides, there are more relatives of the Devkota family at the Council.

Kin of NC-aligned staff union general secretary Shankar Dev Koirala–nephew Kumar Koirala, niece Pramila and her husband Shalikram Dangi–are employed at the CTEVT. A close relative of Shalikram, the Seti Technical School, Dipayal acting principal, Homnath Adhikari is the principal of Ratna Kumar Bantawa Polytechnic Institute, Ilam. Kumar’s elder brother Bishnu Koirala resigned after being charged with producing forged certificates. Bishnu was the first from the family to get into the CTEVT. His brother Kumar joined the Council next on July 9, 2006. When temporary employees were ousted during the tenure of Education Minister Amod Prasad Upadhyay, Kumar lost his job too. But he made a re-entry soon. Shalikram got a permanent post in 2010. His wife Pramila got permanent status on August 14, 2015.

The wife and a sister-in-law of Account Officer Krishna Bahadur Khadka are also jobholders at the CTEVT. Khadka got into the Council 21 years ago and got permanent appointment after 12 years of service. While his wife Binu joined CTEVT three years after him, both got permanent status in the same year. After working a while at the Council, Khadka’s sister-in-law Inu was made permanent two years ago.

Five relatives of former regional director Dipak Nepali Chhetri have got jobs at the Council. Dipak’s wife Usha had got a job at the CTEVT before him–on December 9, 1996. Her brother Keshav Mishra and sister-in-law Saraswati Mishra are CTEVT staff members too. Keshav has been serving at the Council for 29 years while his wife Saraswati joined it 13 years ago.

Among Account Officer Dinesh Luintel’s relatives, wife Sapana Neupane, sister Bidya Sharma, brother-in-law Pramod Poudel and uncle Tara Luintel are employed at the CTEVT. Since July 2, 1984, Tara has the longest period of service. Dinesh got a job at the Council on December 17, 1996. His wife Sapana found her job there on July 16, 2016. His brother-in-law Pramod also got a CTEVT job the same year as Dinesh.

Another person having his relatives employed as fellow staff members is curriculum director Dipak Poudel, who joined the CTEVT on June 19, 1992. His brother-in-law Umesh Prasad Kharel, who is currently a senior account officer, joined the Council in 1996, a month later than his wife.

Another person maintaining his family’s presence at the CTEVT is Tailendra Acharya. Since he got into office on July 14, 1997, he has landed his kin lucrative jobs here. His younger brother Prakash Acharya, nephew Bharat Acharya, sister Harikala Acharya and brother-in-law Khem Pokhrel have been working there since October 14, 2009. Another nephew Prakash Acharya was employed at the Council on December 19, 2008.

Since this information was not easily available from the CTEVT, we had to exercise the right to information to access the details. According to the statistics available, we found 32 couples working at the Council. There are four men or their brother-in-laws, 24 brothers, eight sons and fathers, sisters and their husbands numbering four in total, niece and her husband numbering two, men and their wife’s sister’s husbands eight in total, men and their brother/sister-in-law numbering six, woman and her brother-in-law two, uncle-nephew two and four siblings working at the CTEVT, according to the data.

Ill-motive, of officials, ministers

Senior Account Officer Pramod Bhakta Acharya is in the policy making section of CTEVT. His wife Gita Dhungana is in the Training Institute for Technical Instruction (TITI) of the Council, where Pramod was the administrative chief until a few months ago. Another senior account officer Tika Nidhi Khanal is in the Skill Development Project while his wife Shobha Khanal works for the Ensure Project of the CTEVT.

Another senior account officer Umesh Kharel is in the skill testing department while his wife Mina Kharel is in the TITI. Administrative Officer Bimal Dhakal is in the legal section and his wife Sima Kumari Shrestha in the TITI.  Administrative Officer Shailendra Pandit is in the Exam Controller’s Office and his wife Chandrakala Poudel is on the National Skill Testing Committee.

Staff Union President Devdatta Badu is in the information and research department while his wife Pashupati Joshi is in the skill development project. Administrative Officer Keshav Lal Shrestha is in the training department and his wife Mina Kumari Shrestha in the exam controller’s office. The couple Thakur Bhattarai and Durga Chapagain both work in the exam office. Khemraj Gautam is in the internal audit section and his wife Maya Gautam in the National Still Testing Committee.

Director Jib Narayan Kafle heads the standard determination department (SDD) while his elder brother Ramakanta Kafle is in the administration department. Ramakanta was shifted to the administration after Jib Narayan was transferred to the SDD. These two departments are in adjacent rooms.

At the CTEVT, SDD, the Skill Testing Committee, exams, Skill Development Project (SDP), Ensure Project and TITI are regarded as lucrative departments. Those serving in the exam department get 50 per cent allowances. Until last year, officer level employees at the exams got about Rs 100,000 as bonus. The SDD is perceived to be the place where officials get kickbacks for granting affiliations to institutions. The SDP and Ensure Project are funded by donors, with opportunities for officials to go on monitoring visits and foreign tours.

The CTEVT has staff unions affiliated to the UML, Congress and the Maoist parties. Thriving in the name of workers’ welfare, facts show the unionists are active landing their kin jobs.

Birendra, brother of union chairman Nagendra Sah, his wife Indrika and niece Kabita are in the CTEVT. Durga Chapagain, wife of union vice-chairman Thakur Bhattarai; Sushma Wagle, wife of union deputy general secretary Kishor Chandra Sharma; Nirmala Giri Devkota, wife of general secretary Ishwori Devkota; and Kalpana Jirel, sister of former vice-chair Surya Adhikari’s wife are employed at the Council.

Pashupati Joshi, wife of the Congress-affiliated staff union president Devdatta Badu; and three brothers and daughter Archana of union’s senior vice-chairman Ramkishor Lal Karna are CTEVT employees. Surendra Pudasaini, son of union vice-chair Yadu Pudasaini, works there too. Shankar Neupane, brother of union vice-chairperson Rajani Devkota, is an employee at the Council and a central member of the staff union.

General Secretary Shankar Dev Koirala, his uncle, nephew, niece and her husband are CTEVT staff members too. Binita Ghimire, wife of former union chairman Ishwor Chandra Ghimire, is employed there. Bishnu Devi Dhami, wife of former senior vice-chairman Dev Singh Dhami, has found a job at the Council. Dev Singh is in the Skill Development Project and Bishnu Devi at the Seti Technical School.

Three brothers of a former chairman of the Maoist-affiliated staff union are CTEVT jobholders. Dinesh Luintel, nephew of former senior vice-chairman Tara Luintel, and his wife Sapana have been service holders there. Niece of Tara, Bidhya Sharma and her husband Pramod are other staff members.

Former member secretary Jay Bahadur Tandon got his nephews Krishna and Dipak jobs on contract basis on October 24, 2010 and a year later, respectively. They got permanent posting two years ago.

When irregularities reach this high, the general public perception is that the corruption watchdog CIAA will look into the matter. But CIAA officials fished in the troubled waters by appointing their own relatives in collusion with CTEVT officials.

The 107th meeting of the CTEVT on April 30, 2010 permitted Far-west Technical College Dhangadhi, Rambhadevi Technical College Butwal, Valley College of Engineering New Baneshwor and Central Engineering College Balkumari to run three-year programmes from the fiscal year 2010-11 without following the due process. The Education Ministry formed a committee on August 17, 2010 to probe the irregularities.

The committee submitted its report with a conclusion that there had been financial irregularities while approving the programmes for the colleges. But there was no further investigation, nor was a case filed in court. The case was closed instead. After some time, the wife of investigating officer Subas Pandit got a job at the CTEVT. Having joined the CTEVT on contract basis on April 1, 2011, Saraswati Sharma of Halwar-2, Dang, got permanent posting on August 11, 2015. She currently works at the Technical Education in Community School department.

Now retired, Pandit agrees that the case was closed due to others even after he had prepared a file after investigation. Asked if the issue was closed after the CTEVT gave a job to his wife Saraswati, Pandit said, “I was for investigating the case. My colleagues later closed the case.”

The wife of Ratna Dhakal, a student leader from Kavre and a provincial assembly member who frequently padlocked the CTEVT office in protest, is now a staff member there. Menuka Ghimire got a job there while Dhakal was the coordinator of the CTEVT wing of the All Nepal National Independent Students Union-Revolutionary. Durga Bhattarai, the wife of ANNISU-R chairman Ranjit Tamang, has been employed at Sankhu-based Shankarapur Polytechnic of the CTEVT. Kalawati Bhatta, the wife of former Nepal Student Union vice president Ganesh Bhatta, is a staff member at the Council too. “The practice here is to employ a relative of someone who is a vocal critic to shut their mouth,” said a CTEVT director.

The education minister chairs the CTEVT. The education minister employs his or her relatives and cadres at the Council. Some of the people employed by the office bearers and top level staffers of this office have joined in the minister’s interest as well. While Sarvendra Nath Shukla was the education minister, Nisha Mishra, a relative of his personal assistant, was recruited on August 17, 2009. Mishra is currently at the information and research department. Many were contracted for jobs also when Chitralekha Yadav was the education minister.

‘Unhealthy competition, indecent work’

CTEVT seems to be a family club formed to serve the interests of a limited number of families. “This is the reason why the organisation has failed in its mission,” says educationist Tanka Nath Sharma. “The organisation needs 75 per cent technical staff but general staff account for 75 per cent of its workforce.”

According to experts, the CTEVT was incapacitated due to the dominance of general staff. It evolved as an institute that grants affiliation to the private sector and conducts exams. “The reason why the organisation has forgotten to provide hassle-free education to the poor people and remote area residents is the family network and the predominance of non-technical staff,” said Sharma.

Another visible reason is the staffers’ greed for resources. “Such officials always look for profit,” said former member secretary Ramhari Lamichhane. “Well-connected staffers seek transfer to lucrative offices and look for paid responsibilities even on holidays. They choose where to be transferred.” According to him, managers also struggle to handle such staffers.

“Secrets to be kept are leaked through family members,” said Lamichhane. “A husband threatened me for not promoting his wife. One did not talk to me for six months since I did not transfer his relative to the place he wanted.”

Another top official troubled by nepotism is former member secretary Nir Bahadur Jirel. “The CTEVT is a web of families. Its effect is seen in regular service delivery. Nobody is willing to work,” he said. Jirel faced a number of problems related to staff transfer. “An official has expertise in one field. When s/he has to be transferred on that basis, that person alone can’t be sent. Their spouses have to be sent too on humanitarian ground,” he said.

Jirel shares more problems. “The husband is promoted but the wife is not. A male staffer benefits, his brother does not. Troubles are created when one man gets what he wants and his sister-in-law does not,” says Jirel. “Assigning duties is even more difficult.”

On the question of how such anomalies are tolerated in government agencies that run on taxpayers’ money, High Level Administrative Reform Commission Chairman Kashiraj Dahal says, “The aim of the constitution and laws is to appoint officials on the basis of their qualification and capacity. If any agency has employed family members, that is unhealthy competition and an indecent act.”

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