Cabinet instructs secretaries to the government to meet as and when required
Cabinet: On the recommendation of the task force that was formed to review its functions, the Cabinet on April 7 this year decided to dissolve the Committee of Secretaries (CoS), an institutional arrangement that was in place for the last 14 years.
Cabinet secretary Kinzang Wangdi said the task force’s review found that dissolving the CoS would avoid duplication of works and reduce unnecessary burden and demand of time on secretaries to the government.
He said the review also found that dissolving CoS did not entail any structural membership difference since the cabinet secretary and the 10 secretaries to the government are members of both CoS and Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC.)
Cabinet secretary Kinzang Wangdi explained that the GNHC was instituted after merging the former planning commission and the CoS in 2008. “Since the sole purpose of forming the GNHC was by merging the two, having a GNHC and CoS now would mean bifurcating what was merged then,” he said.
The Cabinet order however instructs that should there be a need for coordination between the secretaries and the cabinet secretary, they should hold meetings to discuss issues as and when required.
“The CoS is as such dissolved and in its place is this arrangement of meeting as and when there are issues that need discussing,” he said.
On December 12 last year, the Cabinet discontinued CoS stating that it had “exceeded” its mandate by discussing issues outside the scope of its terms of reference, and has purposely withheld information, including important decisions from the government.
The CoS had discussed the allegations of corruption against a government secretary by an Indian magazine, Enertia and had decided to request the government of India’s intervention on the allegations.
A task force was formed to review the functions of CoS and recommend if and how the committee needs to be reinstituted.
On August 1, the cabinet secretary informed the decision on CoS to the 10 secretaries and also discussed on how they could move forward, besides implementing the government’s instructions to hold the meetings when required.
“It was also expressed by the members that some form of coordination meeting on a regular basis may be desired,” he said. “We may not call it CoS but first we will try out what the government has instructed.”
He said the secretaries could have suggested the need for a more regular meeting on issues that needed collective wisdom and where an agency could not implement it unilaterally. “There may be coordination issues that needs discussion and also the need for the secretaries to keep abreast of what each ministry is doing,” he said.
The CoS was first instituted in 2000 to address the issue of misuse of pool vehicles in the government and its terms of reference were approved in June 2011.
The December 12 press release from the Prime Minister’s office had stated that CoS is an important institutional arrangement established to enhance good governance and promote transparency, accountability, efficiency and professionalism.
CoS meets once a week to ensure that the executive functions of the government are implemented efficiently and effectively by coordinating government policies, program and projects among the ministries, the press release had stated.
By Sonam Pelden