Benefits: While local leaders, as per their local government members’ entitlement Act are not entitled to gratuity for retiring before the five-year term, Members of Parliament (MP) are eligible for gratuity even if they vacate the post before completing their term, as per the amended parliamentary entitlements Act 2014.

This is because of the amendment made in 2014 to the parliamentary entitlements Act, 2008.

Before the amendment, like in the local government members’ entitlement Act, MPs retiring before the expiry of their five-year term were not entitled to gratuity.

Parliamentarians retiring before completing their term were entitled to gratuity only after the Act was amended in 2014. As a result, the MP who resigned recently to pursue studies will be entitled to gratuity even though he served only for three years.

According to National Assembly general secretary, Sangay Duba, the former MP will be entitled to all retirement benefits including gratuity as enshrined in the parliamentary entitlements Act 2014.

While section 30 of the parliamentary entitlements Act 2008 stated that an MP upon completion of the five-year term shall be entitled to gratuity.

Section 31 of the Act, stated that no gratuity is payable if a member retires before the completion of the full term or if the MP’s services are terminated.

Under the amended provision, gratuity will not be paid to an MP only if their service was terminated.

The amended version of this section states that an MP upon retirement, on completion of the full term, illness, death, premature dissolution of the National Assembly, in the event of a motion of no confidence vote against the government being passed in the National Assembly, or declaration of the Supreme Court, shall be entitled to such amount of gratuity as provided for in the parliamentary rules and regulations.

Section 9.3 of the parliamentary entitlements rules and regulations states that a member, on completion of one’s term, shall be entitled to receive gratuity at the rate of one and half (1.5) times of the last monthly salary for completed number of years on production of an audit clearance certificate. The gratuity shall be payable to the nominee(s) of a member in case of his/her demise while serving the term.

Going by the rules and regulations, the former MP who recently retired would be entitled to Nu 308,565 gratuity. Though the former MP would have to refund Nu 483,333, the MP will have to repay only Nu 37,628 since Nu 308,565 would be adjusted from the gratuity.

That said, the former MP will however walk home with around Nu 1.23 million from the provident fund.

National Assembly speaker Jigme Zangpo said that the provisions on the gratuity of the parliamentary entitlements Act was amended following a row over it in 2013, when a group of National Council members who wanted to either re-contest or join politics had to forgo their gratuity.

“It was amended to create a more level-playing field for the parliamentarians and to give benefit to people who have served even two-three years,” Speaker Jigme Zangpo said, adding the provision was amended in line with the Constitution as it provides the members with retirement benefits.

However, the local leaders who resigned on July 28 could not be awarded their gratuity since they did not complete their term.

His Majesty The King had to grant gratuity as kidu to local leaders of the 205 gewogs after 176 failed to complete their five-year term when the gewog tshogde and dzongkhag tshogdu were dissolved on July 28.

As per the order from the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, the first local government completed its term on July 28 this year going by the holding of the first gewog tshogde on July 28, 2011. But since 176 gewogs had not conducted their gewog tshogde on July 28, 2011, they could not complete their five-year term, when the dissolution came to effect.

Hence, no gratuity could be awarded to the local leaders of these 176 gewogs as per the local government members’ entitlement Act.

Although chapter two of section five and six of the local government members’ entitlement Act states that a member of the LG shall be entitled to salary, allowances and retirement benefits, the gratuity for local leaders who retired from July 28 could not be issued because the 176 gewogs did not complete their five-year term. It was found that the gewogs had failed to conduct gewog tshogde one month after their election as instructed by the Election Commission of Bhutan on July 28, 2011.

Section 26 of the Local Government Members’ Entitlement Act states that except under circumstances like discontinuation from the service because of prolonged ill health, being differently-abled or death, the members will not be entitled to benefits if they retire before the term or are terminated.

Meanwhile, it also remains unclear if the new MP elected through bye-election from north Thimphu constituency would be entitled to vehicle quota since the former MP already used the previous quota. “The law is unclear on whether the new member of Parliament will be entitled to vehicle quota,” Sangay Duba said.

Tempa Wangdi