Nine ministries with new departments

Dechen Dolkar 

To make ministries influential and integrated entities, the Civil Service Reform Bill 2022 proposes to reduce the number of ministries from 10 to nine.

Member in-charge of the Bill, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, presented the Bill in the National Assembly yesterday as an urgent Bill.

Presenting the Bill, Lyonchhen said that the civil service is being revamped for a right-sized, future-ready, efficient and effective civil service that would deliver the status of “Developed Bhutan” aligning to the Royal Kasho to reform the civil service.

Lyonchhen said that the 46 existing laws require amendments ranging from minor name changes to repealing certain provisions to align the laws with the restructuring proposals.

It was therefore submitted that the Civil Service Reforms Bill 2022 is a single standalone “omnibus” Bill containing provisions addressing the restructuring of the agencies with the aim to accelerate the implementation of the Civil Service Reforms in the shortest possible time as the deliberation will be just a single focused Bill.

It was also submitted that the Bill shall provide a legal basis for the restructuring and reorganisation of civil service structures, including ministries, and enable agencies to carry out their mandates and functions.

Further, it states that the tenure of the National Council in May 2023 and the current government by 2023 may affect the timely amendment of the 46 Bills.

The regulatory authorities, commissions, and councils are proposed to be folded back under their respective ministries and to discontinue the concept of autonomous entities. In doing so, the potential conflict of interest between the ministry and the regulatory function will be mitigated by continuing with multi-sectoral/technical advisory authorities or commissions or councils that will provide technical standards and manage appeals and grievances. This will hold the ministry accountable for both policy and enforcement.

The creation of the Board under the existing law shall be repealed by the CSR Bill as the functions of the Board are duplicative with the functions of the ministry.

The functions of the board will be carried out by the ministries. Ministries concerned may constitute commissions, councils, committees, or authority members to carry out delegated functions of the ministries.

The recurrent cost savings would be approximately Nu 500M per annum from the reduction of executives, chiefs and their support staff and other redundant positions, pooling of support services, reduction in the cost of office rentals, and dedicated vehicles.

The staff from the redundant positions will be redeployed against vacant positions.

This Bill proposes nine ministries which are the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment, and Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.

Ministry of Home Affairs

The Department of Culture and the Dzongkha Development Commission shall merge and function as the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development under the ministry and the secretariat to the National Commission for Culture and Dzongkha Development.

The Department of Disaster Management and the Department of Local Governance will merge and function as the Department of Local Governance and Disaster Management under the ministry.

Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources

The National Environment Commission Secretariat in the existing laws shall be construed as the Department of Environment and Climate Change and function as the secretariat to the National Environment Commission.

The Department of Water will implement mandates of the National Environment Commission Secretariat specified in the Water Act and any other functions related to water resources specified in other laws.

Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment will perform such functions in the existing law related to media. The Office of Consumer Protection in the existing laws will be construed as the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority. The Film Commission and Media Council will merge and function with the Bhutan Information, Communications, and Media Authority as the Bhutan Information Communications and Media Authority.

Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport

The Road Safety and Transport Authority and the Department of Roads will merge as the Department of Surface Transport to carry out the development functions related to surface transport. The regulatory functions under the existing laws for the Department of Roads, Road Safety and Transport Authority, and Construction Development Board will merge and function as the Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority.

Ministry of Education and Skills Development

The Secretariat to the National Commission for Women and Children will be under the ministry. The Bhutan Qualification and Professional Certification Authority will be the competent authority for qualification accreditation, professional certification, and National Qualification Framework.

Ministry of Health

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority, Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority, and Drug Regulatory Authority will merge and function as the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority. The regulatory functions under pesticides, seeds, and livestock laws will be carried out by the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority.

The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications in the existing laws will be construed as the Government Technology Agency. The agency will carry out functions related to Information, Communication, and Technology in the country including the formulation of policies, adoption of rules or regulations, and implementation of related laws.

The Judicial Service Personnel working in the Judiciary shall hereby be delinked from the Civil Service. The Office of the Attorney General shall compound petty offences in accordance with the compounding rules.

According to the Bill, the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) will submit an annual report to the Druk Gyalpo, Prime Minister and Parliament within the second quarter of the financial year.  The Ministry of Finance shall forward the annual financial statements to the RAA within three months after the end of the financial year.

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) will determine the tenure and terms of employment of senior civil servants as prescribed in the Bhutan Civil Service Regulations. RCSC may recruit Civil Servants on contract if required in accordance with the Bhutan Civil Service Regulations.

The Bhutan Electricity Authority will be renamed the Electricity Regulatory Authority and report to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

The Good Governance Committee will review the Bill and submit its findings and recommendations to the House today.