KATHMANDU, May 9: The government´s ambitious plan of selecting chief executives of all public enterprises (PEs) through open competition has hit a roadblock, as the Supreme Court has asked a recently formed high-level PE Board to halt the process of selecting the managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority.
The Public Enterprises Management Board had initiated the process of selecting the chief of the state-owned power company through open competition last month.
Following this, 15 candidates had applied for the post. Of these, three names would have been shortlisted from which the government would have appointed one person to the post.
But before the board could pursue this task, Rameshwor Yadav, who was one of the candidates selected for the post by a committee formed in the past, filed a case at the Supreme Court, based on which a stay order was issued on Monday.
Sources at the Ministry of Finance told Republica that Yadav was discontent about the latest selection process which only allowed participation of candidates who had not crossed the age of 55.
“Since Yadav had crossed the age limit, he moved the court asking it to annul the entire selection process,” the source said.
The position of managing director at NEA has remained vacant ever since Dipendra Nath Sharma resigned from the post last November. Later, the Ministry of Energy - NEA´s parent authority - had tried to fill the vacant position and sought application from interested candidates, of which Yadav was one.
But the committee was prevented from proceeding ahead with its job after the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) intervened in the matter and asked the ministry to leave everything to the board, formed earlier this year to monitor, supervise and regulate all state-owned enterprises in the country.
Based on CIAA´s instruction, the cabinet annulled the entire selection process and a public notice in this regard was also issued.
“The petition filed by Yadav also asked the court to reverse the orders of CIAA and the cabinet,” the finance ministry source said.
Now, two different verdicts - one from the apex court and another from the anti-corruption watchdog - are likely to render the power company without any person at the helm for some time. But the finance ministry is not worried as the “legality of the board has not been challenged so far”.
“That´s why we are pretty sure the matter will be resolved once we furnish evidences on annulment of the past selection process,” the finance ministry source said.
Earlier, many had feared about sustainability of the board as it was formed through a ´formation and operations´ order issued by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai last December.
This meant the Board would face problems wielding authority as the constitution of individual public enterprises would easily supersede the order through which it was formed, creating problems in implementation of decisions taken by it.
That´s why many called latest Supreme Court verdict a harbinger of challenges that the board might face in the coming days.
“We know formation of the board through a law would give it more teeth and we are pursuing for it. That´s why it is making cautious moves at the moment and has limited its role to that of an advisory body to the government on selection of chief executives and board members,” the source said.