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RCSC chairperson disappointed that civil servants approached PM with their grievances on the reform

Administration: One of the main purposes of the recent Bhutan Civil Service System (BCSS) reform on career progression according to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) is to address longstanding grievances of stagnation faced by the majority of civil servants in the Supervisory & Support (S&S) category.

RCSC chairperson Dasho Karma Tshiteem said that prior to the reform, the career movement of civil servants in the S&S category was based on the entry level and qualification for further upgradation. It was only up to P3 (P refers to Professional and Management category) that the civil servants in this category could move up in their career level.

With the new reform in place, RCSC introduced a new concept of Senior Supervisory (SS) to the S&S category. In this concept, all civil servants in the S&S category could climb up to SS1 equivalent to P2 irrespective of the entry level or qualification upgradation, but with subject to minimum performance.  Before the reform, 7,429 civil servants could go up to S1 or P5 only.

However, the reform was not welcomed as some 500 civil servants raised issues with the new SS category. The group’s issue was with the increase of the promotion period from the existing four years to five years.

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Dasho Karma Tshiteem said that the decision to increase the promotion period was determined taking into consideration the average age civil servants in the S&S category enter the civil service, smooth career progression into SS position levels, and the superannuation age for the entire group.

“It is true that the RCSC increased the promotion duration to five years to go from S1 to SS4 and above,” Dasho Karma Tshiteem said. “However, this increase has been more than compensated for by the additional career advancement opportunities for everyone in the group.”

The chairperson said that the reform is more beneficial since the higher pay at the end of the civil servant’s career will translate into significant enhanced retirement benefits, such as gratuity and the pension.

“Calculations will also clearly show that even for the civil servants in the S&S category who entered civil service at S1 and S2 and can now go up to SS1 which is equivalent to P2,” he said.

The commission highlighted the matter during the consultation meetings prior to the reforms, with affected civil servants. “All consulted, agreed that the new system would be better for all; five-year promotion duration notwithstanding,” Dasho Karma Tshiteem said.

More than 2,000 civil servants  in 19 dzongkhags were consulted over a period of seven months of which more than 1,200 were from the S&S category and operational category.

According to RCSC, the reforms undertaken by the present commission did not affect the status of civil servants in the S&S category who have upgraded and obtained a bachelors degree as pointed out by the group.

Dasho Karma Tshiteem said that even before the reform, civil servants who were given the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications did so on the understanding that it will not lead to automatic upgradation of their position level into the P&M category.

As a result, those civil servants had to sit for the BCSE and only those who were successful entered the P&M category. The rest remained in their same position level in the S&S category.

There are 11,248 civil servants in the S&S category. From 2008, a total of 1,118 S&S category in-service with bachelor degrees sat for the BCSE, of whom only 417 were selected. Currently, there are 718 civil servants who have bachelor degrees but remain in the S&S category.

“Therefore, while those who are complaining make it appear like the reforms have disadvantaged them, it is not true. RCSC continues to uphold the integrity of the merit-based entry into the P&M category by bringing into this group only those who are successful in the BCSE,” said Dasho Karma Tshiteem.

Most of the civil servants in the P&M category reach P1 only, said the chairperson. Under the reforms, S&S category civil servants can now reach P2. He said it should be evident that what the commission has introduced is fair to all concerned, and provides sufficient incentives while addressing a major problem.

The chairperson further explained the need to introduce a new system of SS category in the reform. He said that prior to the reform, there were S&S category people in P level (P3 to P5) in addition to S1-S5. These included those civil servants who have bachelor’s degrees but were unsuccessful in their attempt at the BCSE.

Dasho Karma Tshiteem said that while they were in P level positions, they were actually in the career path of the S&S category with P3 as the maximum position level in their career. “Post reforms, they were remapped such that they are in comparable position levels of SS4 to SS2 but with the benefit of being able to rise one position level SS1 which is equivalent in pay and benefits to P2.”

He said that their position titles and responsibilities remain unchanged. He added that such remapping was necessary to reduce the confusion caused by mixing of the P&M category and the S&S category for human resource management and reporting.

The issue on the Vested Right Principle was also explained by the chairperson who said that the present commission has not introduced any new Vested Rights in the present reforms. He said that the Vested Rights issue raised by the group is the legacy of the Position Classification System (PCS) that was implemented in 2006.

According to the PCS, civil servants were placed in the officers’ career path because of the fact that they were holding a particular position, said Dasho Karma Tshiteem.

There are a total of 1,944 civil servants who have benefitted from the Vested Right principle, of whom 1,514 are teachers. “Therefore, there can be no question ten years later of being affected by this concept,” said the chairperson.

Further, the chairperson clarified that prior to the reform, RCSC used to issue the certificate of eligibility for candidates in the general category who met the cut-off percentage for BCSE examination results but were not selected, for possible recruitment by agencies at the S1 position level.

With the reform, the existing civil servants who had entered through eligibility certificate were remapped as P5-B mainly because even before the reforms these civil servants were on the same career path as BCSE selectees unlike the S&S category people. The only difference was that they started one level lower at S1.

However, the present commission has already done away with issuing the certificate of eligibility to graduates starting from BCSE 2014. Since then, all recruitment into the P&M category has been BCSE selected graduates.

The RCSC chairperson also met a group of civil servants to discuss the issues and highlight the rationale behind the reforms. Dasho Karma Tshiteem said: “If reforms to systems have to fulfill every individual’s wants, no change will be possible no matter how desirable. The bigger disservice would have been to ignore the real problem of stagnation faced by a majority of the civil servants in the S&S category.”

The purpose of the reforms is to shape a professional, apolitical and meritocratic civil service and RCSC would always consult civil servants prior to any reforms, as it is being done for their benefit said the chairperson.

“The civil servants, in turn, must be reasonable and support RCSC and be prepared to look at the larger benefit to the system, as with this reform,” he said. “As servants of the state, who must always remain apolitical, the RCSC is extremely disappointed that certain civil servants have approached the Prime Minister with the grievances clarified above.”

The reform that came into effect in March this year has remapped 2,103 civil servants from P (P5, P4 and P3) to the new SS (SS4, SS3 and SS2) category.

Younten Tshedup 

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