A test case for the civil service

With the recent development in the case of the three secretaries to the government, there are more questions being asked.

The Royal Civil Service Commission decided to reassign them, a decision that many felt was very neutral, as the news of the decision spread.  However, it is not announced or even decided if the commission had finalised where to reassign three senior secretaries, who had held important portfolios at the highest positions in the civil service.

One of the secretaries, the cabinet secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, is nearing superannuation and will retire after a colourful career, including a stint in the armed forces.  He could retire being assigned a new post.

Those following the case with interest are keen to find out where the foreign secretary and the economic affairs secretary will be reassigned.  This is because the post of a secretary is the top position in the civil service, and a reassignment is a major penalty, according to civil service rule.

The secretaries, who are still on authorised absence, although not separated from the civil service, will see differences, as they will not be assigned similar positions or enjoy the same perks.

Secretaries to the government, appointed as per the provisions of the Constitution, enjoy higher salaries.  They are different from other secretaries, like those of agencies, appointed according to the civil service Act.

Meanwhile, speculations are rife as to whether they will be appointed as dzongdas, ambassador or secretaries of agencies?  Will there be a major reshuffle? There are many questions.

While we wait for answers, the current issue, from a positive perspective, has brought to light that democracy is well at work.  If democracy is the rule of law, it is being practised to the fullest, even as agencies assert their independence and autonomy following legislation.

The civil service commission has stuck to its Act in dealing with the first high profile case in hand.  The government has welcomed the decision of the commission, respecting RSCS as an independent agency.

The elected government felt that the committee of secretaries, answerable to the Lhengye Zhungtshog, had exceeded their mandate, and had kept the government in the dark on an important decision it had made.  The government wanted action taken and surrendered them to the commission.

What has also emerged from the issue, as the commission pointed out, is a communication gap between two important institutions, the Cabinet and the CoS.  The whole drama unfolded from a failure to communicate.

However, the current issue should not be taken as developing a mistrust between the government and the bureaucracy.  If a democracy should work well, we need differences, as we often say that beauty of democracy is in difference in opinion.  And for a democracy to succeed, we need good faith between decision makers and those who deliver.  The two cannot be separated.


1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    On so many occasions, in our personal as well as public opinions, notions can be a lot more realistic than our perceptions. If that’s not true elsewhere, it can be very true in our bureaucracies. When one is new to the system of civil services, he has the notions of the ways and methods of governance and legislation in our democracies no matter how new or old we are as a democracy. But perceptions do change as one moves up the career ladder. If that’s true in some way or other, there may be good reasons to blame the bureaucratic structure rather than blaming the bureaucrats. It can be highly valuable experiences that come only with time; but are that required in a very complex and complicatedly tall civil service or bureaucratic structure! On other side of a democracy, a cabinet or a legislative body remains relatively simple in structure even though political parties can grow into complexities with its size. At times, differentiation of opinions is also required for an integrated method of decision making in our democracies. But mere differences in opinions can even be inspired or simply biased for personal reasons. It remains a testing case for civil service even in future.

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