Cooling-off period for ex-politicos cut down to one year

The new dispensation comes into effect immediately

RCSC: Those wanting to join the civil service after withdrawing from a political party need not wait for three years to cool off.  The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has reduced the “cooling-off” period to one year from three.

The decision came after the commission amended section 7.5.1.12 of the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations, 2012 (BCSR) during its 26th commission meeting on April 7.   The section stated that a candidate shall not be eligible to appear BCSE if he/she has participated in politics and not completed the required “cooling-off” period of three years.

RCSC chairman, Karma Tshiteem, said the cooling-off period was reduced to one year because, upon reviewing, three years was found “unnecessarily long”.

“Moreover, the most affected people were youth, who may not be fully aware of such consequences for signing up to a party,” he said. “Many graduates affected by these rules, following the last elections, have often claimed that they weren’t aware of such cooling-off period rules.”

RCSC has also requested the Election Commission of Bhutan to make it mandatory for political parties to include the information, requirement of one year cooling-off period before joining civil service, on the forms used for party membership registration.

Chief election commissioner, Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi, said, ECB welcomed the decision.

Chairman Karma Tshiteem also said there was a real need felt for a cooling-off period for people leaving apolitical institutions, such as the civil service, National Council and local government, to join political parties.

“If civil servants and other apolitical public servants are allowed to join political parties without any ‘cooling-off’ period, as allowed currently, it does raise the question of what implications such movements will have on the integrity of apolitical institutions,” Karma Tshiteem said.

The chairman added, “Unfortunately, while desirable, this isn’t something the RCSC can address but we do hope lawmakers will take it up soon.”

The amended cooling-off period comes into effect immediately.

The Bhutanese civil service is a closed system, once a civil servant separates from it.  And there is no coming back as a regular civil servant, the chairman said.

The BCSR states that civil servants, who have been compulsorily retired or terminated from civil service, shall not be eligible for re-appointment into civil service.

However, he said, for those senior civil servants, who voluntarily resigned to join political parties in the last election, may be recruited on contract through open competition, if their services are required.

The cooling-off period was initially introduced to ensure that people leaving the political field and entering apolitical institutions, do not compromise the apolitical institution because of their political affiliation.

To do so for the civil service, the RCSC had kept a cooling period of three years.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

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