Yangchen C Rinzin
To decongest the core area in Thimphu, a taskforce has recommended that any new government office construction in Thimphu could be in Gamchey, Babesa.
Gamchey has about 20 acres of land and the report stated that constructing the new offices there would also develop the peri-urban area.
The taskforce for consolidation of government offices recommended that if new office buildings are located in the same area, the facilities could be designed in such a way that there is a resource sharing among the agencies.
The Cabinet, in November last year, appointed the taskforce to conduct a detailed study to find out the possibility for consolidation of spaces in existing office buildings, as some office buildings today are spacious while others are congested.
The taskforce was also formed to address the increasing number of agencies seeking to construct new buildings as the government had only Nu 2.27 billion (B) for new constructions in 12th Plan and to frame a guideline for allocation of government office spaces.
It was learnt that while some offices were not fit for occupying, others had spaces that were under-utilised.
The taskforce found that without proper guidelines, many agencies that propose for new constructions have the liberty to design, reorganise or relocate their office as desired.
“This has led to some offices enjoying the luxury of excess spaces while some agencies have to make adjustments in limited spaces available,” the taskforce report stated. “Many agencies propose for new office buildings as the existing buildings are either in dilapidated condition or do not meet the changing requirements of the agencies.”
Meanwhile, the taskforce conducted studies on all government office buildings in Thimphu including 10 ministries and 23 autonomous agencies. It did not include the armed forces and judiciary in the study.
It found that Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs has the highest excess space of 6,559.57 square metre whereas Ministry of Finance has the lowest space of (-) 28.63 square metre with the highest staff strength.
Of the agencies, Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has the highest excess space of 12354.99 square metre whereas Royal Institute of Management (RIM) has the lowest space of (-)2637.12 square metre.
Ministries for agriculture, education and foreign affairs, dzongkhag development centre and National Council have proposed for construction of new office building in the 12th Plan.
The taskforce has worked on the actual space requirement of these five agencies and carried out mapping exercise to recommend if these agencies could be adjusted with other existing office buildings of ECB, Office of the Attorney General and Centre for Bhutan Studies that has excess space.
It found that accommodating the whole ministries and agencies in the spacious office buildings would be difficult unless the departments are split.
The study also observed that those existing offices that have excess space can accommodate only some of the departments, which would possibly lead to fragmentation with the parent ministry and cause functional difficulty in coordination.
It was also observed that consolidation might create a major problem given the extreme difference in their nature of function and additional cost for re-modelling the offices. “The consolidation is difficult given that excess spaces are scattered all over the building, vertically as well as horizontally and re-modelling would require major dismantling and reconstruction work.”
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering told Kuensel that they could not do like how the government had thought or planned of consolidation of clubbing small offices with big offices that have space.
Lyonchhen said consolidation would be difficult structurally, even surface and area wise. “We’ll now have to use the taskforce report and follow the guidelines.”
The task force also further recommended for the need of a guideline, following which, office space guidelines for government office buildings have been now developed and approved.
This, according to the works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering, means any proposal for office construction should follow the guidelines.
“This is to bring uniformity in the office spaces, as many offices are grappling with limited space with more staff while some are enjoying luxurious space with less staff,” Lyonpo said. “The government has not yet approved any new office constructions. We have to look into it.”
The taskforce has also claimed that if new offices are designed using guidelines, the cost of construction will be less than Nu 2.7B allocated for new constructions.
It also recommended to institute a nodal agency that will look after the approval of new office construction and coordinate with the related agencies to ensure compliance with the guidelines.
Today, many office buildings, particularly government agencies are designed either by the professionals of respective agencies or outsourced to the private consultants and in fear of disobeying, the designer follows and incorporates the client’s irrelevant instructions.
“This is why the guideline is expected to promote equity among agencies in the utilization of space, allocate right space to right employee, effective utilisation of space, and acts as a reference point to approve the space,” the guideline stated.
This guideline will also be applicable in case of government agencies hiring private buildings for office use. Department of National Properties (DNP) and Ministry of Finance has only a fixed rate to calculate the monthly rent payable as of today.
The guideline will ensure all the office to have uniform types of offices, space allocation, meeting space, and support spaces.