The long break from offices does not spell good for the top executives in the civil service. Call it sheer coincidence or volitional, as we break for another long weekend, the Royal Civil Service Commission found  that one-third or about 19 directors didn’t meet the “high expectations” in the leadership assessment exercise conducted recently. The earlier result  came during the month-long lockdown.

The exercise is a part of the reforms in the civil service and the Commission expects that those who meet or exceed expectations will help drive civil service reforms and restructuring. The outcome of the exercise comes on the eve of His Majesty The King’s birth anniversary. His Majesty in December 2020 granted a Kasho calling for drastic reforms of the Bhutanese civil service and the education system.

The Commission’s initiative is a “fundamental shift” in its approach towards leadership selection and performance management. It will not end with managing out the underperformers. The ultimate aim is to improve the overall performance of the civil service for the benefit of the nation and the people.

The royal civil service is the biggest organisation and service provider. Their efficiency determines service delivery. The top-down approach in this fundamental shift should have a ripple effect down the line and beyond the civil service. The ineffectiveness, inefficiency and the retape has shaken public confidence. The recent exercises are welcomed by the public as they feel it will improve the bureaucracy and therefore services.

Decision-making at the top level of the bureaucracy is one thing, implementing them is another. When availing services or experiencing the outcomes of decisions, it is not top executives that the common people meet. What also matters is what is changing literally on the ground.

Two drivers were arguing about their vehicle’s road worthiness certificate. One said that his car is road worthy, but the roads are not worthy of his car. The joke madesense. It provokes serious thinking. Why not question bad roads when we pay and get roadworthiness certificates? Bad vehicles cause accidents. Bad roads cause more. Two others were talking about office closure due to the lockdowns. Most e-services are cumbersome if not user-unfriendly. Many are computer illiterate to avail it and there are not many alternatives.  We talk about the beauty of technology but can’t leverage it.

To many, civil service at the support level are all they see whether it is to avail a permit or a form or to get a cheque for the work done. The rest of the sectors are heavily dependent on the civil service and their machinery. An efficient bureaucracy could determine the rest of the sector. For instance, the quality of the building a contractor is building could depend on transparency in awarding the work, how it is monitored, timely payment, and many more.

We are finally seeing some actions after listening to the Royal concerns and wisdom. This is a welcome change. And as we wait eagerly to wish His Majesty The King on His 42nd birth anniversary,  the greatest gift could be shouldering our responsibilities.

Fulfilling the smallest responsibility of staying home, not crowding and respecting Covid protocols is the need of the time during the pandemic. Not doing so will result in lockdowns. We recorded the highest number of positive cases yesterday with 527 new cases including a huge number from the community. Besides the inconvenience and the loss of income, there is a huge cost on the national exchequer from lockdowns. And the government is nearly broke from fighting the virus.