The Civil Service Bill debate continues

A Royal Charter in 1982 saw the establishment of an important institution like many others in the country called the Royal Civil Service Commission. Since it’s establishment it has been responsible in implementing many FY plans and continues even to this day and will remain an important and integral part. Priorities of the FY plans have changed with changing times. Mandates and expectations have grown increasingly more since then. The system of the bureaucracy has both expanded and grown more complex. In 2004, a drafting committee was formed to draw up the first draft of the bill. Since then, it under went several revisions and during the 3rd session of the Parliament, about deliberations of 30 hours (spreading over 5 working days), the bill was adopted by the NA on July 9, 2009. The NC took up the NA endorsed bill for debate on July 15,2009 and decided to do further study. After studying the bill, the NC debated and passed the bill on July 20, 2009 with it’s own some changes. The bill (declared as an urgent bill) went back to the NA for debate and differences emerged between the two Houses that needed to be resolved at a JS. At the JS on July 29, 2009 deliberation lasted into late evening and finding no consensus, the bill did not pass (Yes:5; No:55 and Abstain: 7). A JC was formed afterwards to work on the bill which was introduced in the 4th session of the NA. On December 9, 2009 the bill was unanimously adopted by the NA and the bill will be tabled for discussion and debate this session of the NC.

This brief history of the bill gives us an idea of how long it has taken to enact the Civil Service statue. But all of this has happened in an earnest effort to consider carefully the implications it may have on the machinery and as well as the people who drive it.

The differences that arise stem from clauses but for a more simple (although things are never as simple while passing laws I now understand) understanding, it maybe easier to start with doubts and questions and in answering these doubts and questions, we may find the best solution.

Who is a civil servant, the basic premise of the long debate. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary are independent of one another (as independence could only be relative). These three distinct institutions have often been called the three arms of the State (media sometimes refered to as the fourth) and more often than not, the branches of Government. Along with a few colleagues I once asked if we were making a mistake by the interchangeability of the terms of State and Government, which I am guessing was misunderstood because the clarification then received was not what I had expected as a reply and I convinced myself that it was perhaps an academic question that would need to be answered as time went by. But that is not the point I am trying to get at. Not having resolved the vagueness then, either by design or by accident, we have come to refer to the RCSC as the central personnel agency of the Government. Whether the Government means the executive or the “three branches” that we have come to use today is at the heart of our discussion in many ways.

The Constitutional Offices, namely the Election Commission, the Royal Civil Service Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Royal Audit Authority) are bodies that are equally important offices, mentioned separately in the Constitution. These offices provide check and balance to the system and therefore, desire equally independent nature of existence. Are they then part of the Civil Service too. If they are, could that undermine the ability in executing their mandates. The heads of these institutions are not civil servants. But is that enough; will that effect into good delivery. Is it justified to hold these heads accountable if they do not have control over all resources in delivery what we expect them to deliver. Or what happens to the people in these offices if they are not part of the civil service. What would motivate these critical links in the service delivery.

Today’s consultative meeting; I would prefer to call them interactions, went along these lines of discussion. Interactions help form opinions (or at least help form) and so no concrete results were expected and none were arrived at. It is part of a process which we hope will grow stronger. Bigger decisions will need to be made in the times to come and it is this type of institutional procedures that will allow communication.

Today’s interaction has not resulted into a definite perspective for me but it certainly has made me realize just how even more complex the issue is. The weight of the decision feels heavier now than ever and I just hope that when the time comes, I would have contributed my utmost.

UPDATE: The 11 member Joint Parliamentary Committee(JPC here after) on the matter, of which I was a part, was constituted mainly to help Parliament move forward with the bill that once again stood at a very certain ending. The JPC worked towards agreeable terms and conditions, keeping in mind the interests of stakeholders. In the end, the bill was passed with a good majority support at the Joint Sitting of Parliament. 2 National Council members were not in favour (1’no’ and 1 ‘abstain’ votes were recorded) for their own reasons.

The bill in essence recognizes everyone in the Constitutional Offices (CO) as Civil Servants, adhering to BCSR BUT application by respective COs. It recognizes the Constitutional nature of the Royal Civil Service Commission and it’s INDEPENDENT mandate as far as human resources are concerned.


About Sangay Khandu

Elected to Parliament of Bhutan twice. Previously worked with the Central Bank, the largest SoE (power utility) and international organization.
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One Response to The Civil Service Bill debate continues

  1. Tashi Wangmo says:

    My take away from today’s meeting is, Secretariat’s staff of the constitutional offices be kept as part of civil service but independence for administering personnel management be given to them. As the Constitutional post holders agreed, RCSC can do personnel auditing on their HR actions. That was fair enough, I thought! However, RCSC must review and revise the BCSR immediately after this Bill is through.

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