National Assembly endorses amendment proposed by National Council

Parliament: Commissioners and members of constitutional offices may be reappointed for a maximum second term but they will have to resign from the civil service on their appointment. 

This is in line with the Entitlement and Service Conditions Act for the holders, members and commissioners of constitutional office of Bhutan (amendment) bill 2014 that the National Assembly endorsed yesterday.

The assembly endorsed the amendment, proposed by the National Council, with 31 ‘yes’ votes, while four voted ‘no’ and one abstained.  The National Assembly, on November 26 last year, amended chapter 2, section 4 of the entitlement and service conditions (amendment) bill for holders, members and commissioners of constitutional office Act, 2010, not requiring members and commissioners to resign from their previous posts.

However, the National Council did not accept the amendment that the National Assembly had endorsed.  Instead, the council endorsed that members and commissioners may be reappointed, subject to a maximum second term.  With the proposed amendment, the bill was sent back to the assembly for endorsement.

Deliberating on the bill yesterday, most members spoke in favour of the council’s amendment.

Drametse-Ngatshang’s representative Ugyen Wangdi said, as commissioners and members were not governed by the civil service Act, he supported the council’s amendment on giving commissioners and members a second term.

As desired by the government, commissioners and members now have the opportunity to serve a second term, he said.  “If commissioners and members are appointed at the age of 45, they are eligible to serve until 65, whereas the tenure is five years for secretaries to the government,” he said.

When finance minister Namgay Dorji introduced the bill for amendment in the assembly in the last winter session, the argument was that the prevailing Act needed to address issues regarding the resignation of members and commissioners of constitutional office, because it deprived qualified and experienced individuals from serving the nation when they had to resign before they reached their retirement age.

As stated in article 31, chapter seven of the Constitution, Wamrong’s representative Karma Tenzin said there was no need for discussions on members and commissioners as it was clearly mentioned in the Constitution.  “I support the amendment the council proposed,” he said.

However, the finance minister and the economic affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, reminded the house of the reason for the amendment which, they said, was endorsed with full support from the house in the past session.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said the additional clause that the council included on the second term for commissioners and members was not in line with article 31, chapter four of the Constitution that states that holders of constitutional post holders shall not be eligible for reappointment. “As a small country with a small population, we’ve limited competent people from which the commissioners and members of constitutional offices are recruited,” lyonpo said. “When framing laws and policies, if it doesn’t benefit competent people, the legislation wouldn’t be considered wise.”

The commissioners and members of constitutional offices, lyonpo said, were selected from the best of the best, with an equally important responsibility to shoulder upon. “It’s not fair when their services is limited to five years after which they don’t get any opportunity,” lyonpo said.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the discussions at the National Assembly on the amendment of the bill were based on the Civil Service, Election and Anti-Corruption Acts, besides the Constitution. “Based on these, the council must have chosen a middle path,” he said.

By Kinga Dema