Finance ministry checking legal provisions

Yangchen C Rinzin

What could boost the morale of the 212 community centre operators, the 200 Community Centres (CC) across the country could finally have a parent organisation.

If everything goes as planned, the CCs would be inducted with the National CSI Development Bank. This would mean that CC operators would be formally known as State Owned Enterprise staff with redefined and clear job description and roles and responsibilities under CSI bank, according to the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

“I’ve personally decided and asked the finance ministry to look into the provisions to peg them with relevant CSI organisation structure immediately,” Lyonchhen said. “The main issue is CCs not having a parent organisation. With this (change), the operators will become CSI staff.”

Since its establishment 11 years ago, in 2009, CCs still did not have a parent organisation, which affected its roles, function, and management.

The centres were mandated to provide rural communities with access to fast, affordable and reliable public services using information communications technology. The goal was to reduce poverty, empower communities, and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

The operation and management of CCs, when it started, was with the Bhutan Post Corporation. However, in 2015, its operation and management were handed over to the Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL) to increase the utility of the centres as financial services along with public services like the government to citizen (G2C) services, among others.    

It was not finalised for how long BDBL will operate the CCs. The operators were transferred to BDBL as contract employees.

The CCs role is likely to divert from the initial idea with the focus more on banking services even if it becomes a part of the CSI bank. Lyonchhen said that CC operators could act as a CSI agent stationed in gewogs and help the community on different loans available at CSI bank, help to apply for a loan, avail the loan and finally get the loan amount to the person.

“We had a discussion with the finance ministry and CSI bank board members to possibly open a separate division headed by a director as a community service,” Lyonchhen said. “They will do all the banking work plus community work.”

However, Lyonchhen said that the finance ministry is still looking into the legal provision of transferring CC under the CSI bank.

“This is to ensure we don’t violate any finance Act and if it violates, we cannot transfer. However, I’m waiting for the finance ministry’s findings while CSI bank will work on the management’s sustainability.”

Lyonchhen added that since CSI is a new bank, it would be difficult to have a bank outlet in all the gewogs and would be difficult to manage. “This is one of their concerns. If there is no legality issue, we’ll have to build the CCs’ management cost with the entire CSI bank’s budget.”


Appeal from CC operators

The decision to induct with the CSI bank was made following 212 CC operators including seven operators on standby, appealing to Lyonchhen in August last year to look into the possibilities to regularise their services either with the gewog administration or BDBL or any other relevant agency.

The operators had submitted that this would not only secure their employment, but also ensure the right to fair and reasonable remuneration.

Operators receive a monthly salary of Nu 7,245 with a 10 percent contract allowance and 20 percent corporate allowance. The gross payment comes to Nu 9,419. The operators are on contract.

A statutory deduction of Nu 2,208 as a variable salary is also deducted from the gross salary.

Asked what would happen to the mandate of affordable and efficient public service delivery using technology, Lyonchhen said that the CCs didn’t have a vision document to refer to. He said the CCs role had changed with two different organisations they were put under. 

“The role would be same if they are brought under the CSI bank. They could also cater to other services,” Lyonchhen said.

“However, if anyone shares a better idea on how to manage CCs, I will be more than happy to consider it.”