I work for the Constitutional Offices; Who am I?

In my earlier post on the Civil Service Bill I had mentioned the chronology of events leading up to the current state of affairs.

The Good Governance Committee was afterwards, tasked with presenting recommendation(s) to the House on the Civil Service Bill for deliberations during the current session (5th). Recommendation(s) by any committee is not binding. It is simply a recommendation and becomes basis for discussion.

In the current context, the Good Governance Committee’s recommendations were primarily:

(i) recognizing the importance, an attempt to define Civil Servants as those working in all three arms of State namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary (excluding elective and appointive positions); those working in and under ministries; autonomous agencies and the Constitutional Bodies.

(ii) recognizing the positive effect it could bring about, an attempt at allowing implementation of a common rule and regulation by the agencies themselves to promote independence, respecting the principle of a common umbrella act and to act as the central personnel agency of the Government.

(iii) recognizing and respecting all Constitutional Bodies equally, an attempt to create an environment for natural check and balance among the Governance instruments.

These in essence were the recommendations made by the GGC to the National Council. The prolonged debate on the House floor today were on the principle of the bill. This reflects an important procedural development in law-making for the Council. Debate(s) on principle(s) should be encouraged more often so that a consensus building first happens at that level, after all a law is a principle that is extended into words to allow practise of the principle.

The differing view points offered by fellow members primarily subscribed to the idea that clear separation of the civil servants in the Constitutional Offices, thereby, de-linking  them from the civil service body and making them public servants (public servants remain to be captured comprehensively at some point of time in future). The implication this has, is that they no longer are civil servants and therefore, no longer eligible for posting, promotion or transfer into positions under the civil service. It also means given the potential size of these institutions and given the limited  positions at executive levels, vertical growth for these group of professionals maybe limited (this is purely an assumption at this point of time). This however, has a brighter side to it. The agencies having control over it resources (financial and human) it could then dedicate itself to delivering their respective mandates and more efficiently (this is what some of them had to say). It is also assumed with this power vested in these agencies, accountability could be exercised better (grounds for impeachment)  through Parliament.

The debate at no point of time contradicted the ideology for the need for institutions to be independent. The debate went into clarifying the extend of independence (the GGC recommendations included extra powers to these bodies over other institutions to allow independence). However, independence is relative. My submission tried to define independence as being independent of unwanted political interferences (applicable to both individual civil servants as well as institutions). This translates into being able to decide as an institution, within their mandates their business. The discussion mostly pointed towards independence in terms of human resource development and management on the basis that an institution is only as good as it’s people (both quality and measure).

Constitutional provisions remain largely subject to interpretation and arguments based on those clauses on the floor could go on forever. The need to align pragmatic approaches within the Constitutional limits maybe just the solution to see the Civil Service Bill become an Act.


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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