RCSC: To ensure that specialists and technical civil servants do not become generalists as they grow with the civil service, work has begun at the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) to reform the Bhutan Civil Service System (BCSS).

The reform is expected to create a strong foundation within the civil service by ensuring that there is a right person for the right job and enhance professionalism.

The BCSS is one of the five areas the commission has identified to be reformed.  A draft proposal on BCSS reform was presented to heads of agencies during executive forum held this year.

RCSC’s chairperson, Karma Tshiteem, said, with the current system, professionals are differentiated only at the entry level.  Once recruited and trained, he said, there was a mix of professions, allowing ‘specialists and technical’ to become ‘generalists.’

“This has led to loss of professionals, specialised skills and knowledge acquired after huge investment,” Karma Tshiteem said. “This shows that the current civil service system doesn’t provide an environment for retention of skills and professions, which are necessary to build a strong civil service system.”

The BCSS reform aims to correct this by creating professionals throughout the system, irrespective of their field, and retain them in their fields.

Some of the key features in the BCSS reform are institution of super structure (SS) and allowing smooth career progression for civil servants.

SS is a composition of six groups that would comprise the existing 19 major occupational groups and 94 sub groups.  The occupational groups will now be divided into six broad areas of executive and specialist, administration, finance, foreign, education and technical.

“This will serve as a guide for movement of civil servants within their professional areas and ensure specialisation in their profession,” Karma Tshiteem said. “These six broad areas are based on the entry into the civil service,”

In terms of career progression, the commission is also reviewing the stagnation issues, based on the average age a civil servant joins the civil service, and the number of years they have stagnated at the highest position level.   The commission will review this with focus on supervisory and operational category, Karma Tshiteem said.

For the professional level, the commission is also reviewing to allow specialists in technical positions who head a technical division to go up to ES3 level.

However, the chairman explained that the BCSS reform is not to differentiate the groups by considering one as more elite than the other.

“Rather the idea is to promote professionalism within the civil service and to draw clarity between the generalists, specialists and technical civil servants,” Karma Tshiteem said.

Generalists will be those civil servants, who are groomed for policy, planning, operations and human resource management.  Following the reforms, the administrative services will be the group groomed as generalists and only they will fill the executive positions.

Except for those who have completed PGDPA, the rest will all fall under technical group. Both generalists and technical civil servants can reach the specialist level.

Even with the SS in place, movement of civil servant within the six groups will not be restricted, the commissioner said.

“Restrictions will be placed on movement to other groups due to the fact that the qualification and experience requirements will be different,” he said.

However, recognising the need for people to experience diversity in their lifetime of civil service, the concept (and thus the position) of officer on special assignment (OSA) will be introduced. “A civil servant, under special circumstances, on a fixed tenure, will be allowed to move outside the group,” Karma Tshiteem said.

For example, a dzongkhag education officer can serve in the Gross National Happiness Commission’s plan monitoring and coordination division that work on ministry of education as OSA for a fixed term (of maximum of three years).  Upon completion of the assignment, the individual will return to his organisation.

“This will allow civil servants to take time off their regular work and do something different in order to make their civil service career more exciting and interesting while retaining them in their profession,” Karma Tshiteem said.

However, with the BCSS reforms, career progressions and human resource development will be based on the area they entered the civil service.

If one enters as a teacher, for instance, all further human resource actions will be contained to developing one in that field to become a better teacher, principal, DEO or researchers.

Under the reform, civil servants in the technical services under the P category will progress to ES3 level, if the minimum performance requirements are met.  They will also be able to head divisions.

“This is to recognise the importance of technical people and thus the need to develop and utilise them properly,” Karma Tshiteem said. “If such reforms aren’t undertaken, professionalisation will be difficult.”

As people move to areas where they are not necessary, the civil service would continue to face shortages, which in turn affects the quality of governance and public services.

By Thinley Zangmo