Yangchen C Rinzin 

Commissioners and members of constitutional offices will not have to resign from the civil service on their appointment or after completing the five-year tenure. The members and commissioners, otherwise, are detached from the civil service once appointed.

This is included in the Entitlement and Service Conditions Act for the holders, members and commissioners of constitutional office of Bhutan (amendment) bill 2020 that the National Assembly endorsed yesterday.

The House endorsed the amendment, proposed by the National Council (NC), with 24 ‘Yes’ votes and 19 ‘No’ votes.

The NC last year amended Section 4 of the Bill not requiring members and commissioners to resign from their previous posts.  The Section, otherwise, states that “A person appointed as the Holder, Member and Commissioner of a Constitutional Office shall resign from his/her previous office with post-service benefits.”

With the proposed amendment, the Bill was sent back to the National Assembly for endorsement.

However, deliberating the Bill yesterday, some members were not in favour including the members of the Social and Cultural Committee of the National Assembly, who submitted the recommendations.

The committee recommended that the House should retain the original Section (4) of the Act arguing that in 2015, the National Assembly endorsed a new section where members or commissioners may be reappointed, subjected to a maximum of two terms.

“Because commissioners and members have to resign, the new section was endorsed to provide an opportunity to serve a second term,” committee chairperson, Bji-Katsho MP Ugen Tenzin said. “It would also create a conflict of interest if they serve in the constitutional bodies and then return to the same agency to work after five years.”

Some of the members submitted that the sole purpose of creating Section 4 requiring members and commissioners to resign was to ensure that the constitutional body could work independently.

However, a few members supported the NC’s recommendation.

They said that members/commissioners should be allowed to return to civil service because some of the members and commissioners have to resign before their retirement age after the five-year tenure.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjore said that if it was about the conflict of interest, then RCSC could ensure commissioners and members are sent to a different agency to work. “But we must provide the opportunity for them to serve again. A few members and commissioners are working in the civil service after completing the tenure.”

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that resignation is not necessary and that resignation leads to losing of capable civil servants.

“There were cases where after we received a list of civil servants for such posts, we received calls requesting to remove their name from the list,” Lyonchhen said. “They prefer their job because they need not resign after five years. Because of these sometimes we don’t get capable commissioners, members and holders.”

Many members also submitted that the Section would violate Article 31(2) and (4) of the Constitution where it states that they have to resign upon completing the tenure.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that instead of violating the Constitution, the government could increase their entitlement, perks, and provide transfer grants.

The House also endorsed the committee’s recommendation to insert a new section, 4B. It states that “When the post of a Holder, Member and Commissioner of the Constitutional Office becomes vacant for any reason other than the expiration of term, a new appointee shall serve for the full term or until attaining the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.”

Apart from endorsing all the recommendations submitted by the committee, the House also supported NC’s recommendation to pay salaries, allowances, benefits and other entitlements of the holders, members and commissioners as per the Pay Revision Act of Bhutan.

The Bill will be tabled for adoption today.