Yangchen C Rinzin

The draft 21st Century Economic Roadmap recommends thromde should be delinked from the civil service and given full autonomy over collection of revenue and its expenditure.

The task force recommends that the authority and accountability on both governance and financial matters between the thromdes and central agencies be further delineated. This is to ensure that thromde can pro-act and embrace new visions and initiatives.

“Lack of clarity over autonomy and authority will thwart initiative and enterprise,” the roadmap states.

However, this is not the first time the recommendation has been made. Many thromde officials told Kuensel that talks to delink thromde from civil service has been there for many years.

One of the former thrompons said that the issue was long overdue because there have been several rounds of talks with Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) on the issue.

The RCSC’s OD exercise had also mentioned the need to delink the thromde and it was expected to begin with Thimphu Thromde. There was also a proposal of having officials at the chief level and executive secretary from civil service on deputation and the rest of employees on a three-year contract and renew based on the performance.

The official said meetings were held and the proposal accepted. The proposal is with the Cabinet.

“The delink request was especially for autonomy in human resources and not from the works and human settlement ministry,” an official said.

Except for the thrompon and thromde thuemis, the rest are civil servants. Thimphu thromde office alone has almost 200 civil servants.

With many officials from the civil service, a thromde official said that even to recruit or transfer officials, the thromde needs to depend on the ministry, which takes time thereby affecting service delivery.

“When they do not perform, we can’t do anything because we don’t have any authority,” the official said. “The least thing RCSC does is transfer the non-performing official to other agency instead of taking action.”

An official said that having autonomy would mean thromde can institute a hire and fire system so that the system becomes efficient.

If autonomy is granted, thromde can give incentives to officials based on performance and improve the system which would benefit the service users as a result.

Some said there is no need for additional civil servants instead the autonomy would give thromde an authority to reduce workers because many services have been digitised.

“Civil servants hardly take risk and always stick to the bureaucratic processes thereby remaining complacent,” an official said. “When services are poor, people blame the thromde office.”

The autonomy, according to thromde officials would also mean the thromde could be efficient and improve services because everything would be based on their performance. There were also cases where thromde proposed transfer of a particular officer, but the ministry supported the official and rejected the request.

“Sometimes if we require extra staff, we don’t get and thromde can’t do anything,” he said. “We don’t need many civil servants where some of the works are duplicated.”

For instance, a building inspector could also inspect the sewerage, but there is another sewerage inspector.

Thromde has partial autonomy in revenue collection. Captial budget is met through the block grant from the finance ministry. The use of the block grant is decided among the tshogde members.

Works and human settlement ministry and thromdes work together for different plans like structural plans. The ministry’s experts guide in making plans, and thromdes implement.

Former member of economic roadmap taskforce, Kinga Tshering, said that the taskforce after consultations felt that if thromde offices were to operate efficiently to deliver service, delinking from civil service is important.

He said delinking would also mean there will be accountability on the poor services. “Right now there is no say on the staff from the civil service whether they perform or not.”

If human resources autonomy is given, thromde office could hire the best people.

He added that if thromde have the autonomy to collect the revenue there will be an accountability when the service is not met. “Otherwise, the common excuse right now is they did not have enough budget when they don’t meet certain services. Autonomy cannot give them such space to blame on budget.”

The taskforce recommends thromde council could keep checks and balances to ensure autonomy is not misused.

The taskforce members met almost 60 offices and agencies where some shared on the thromde’s autonomy over the human resources.

“There is also a requirement for proper linkages between finance ministry, MoWHS, RCSC and thromde offices. The global trend is that almost 25-45 percent of gross domestic product is from the urban centres through various economic activities,” he said.

He added if delinked, then the thromde in particular urban can use the revenue generated through this economic activities, which is not happening right now.