Many Gewog Administrative Officers (GAOs) serving in various parts of the country, are concerned regarding a letter the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) sent to the home secretary last month.

The letter, dated March 14, stated that the commission does not recommend or encourage GAOs to leave their positions as their role is critical.

It has been learnt that the letter was a response to the home ministry’s request for formal directives from the commission to not issue No Objection Certificates (NOC) to GAOs looking to move to other positions.

The letter stated that it was a temporary arrangement until an alternative solution is in place.

A GAO, who did not want to be named, said it was disheartening to receive the letter, as the letter binds GAOs to the same position.

The GAO, who served in remote places for more than a decade, said he decided to start his career from the grassroots level so that he would have good knowledge when deciding to move to another job. “The letter has shattered all my hopes,” he said.

Another GAO said that the letter was demotivating, as GAOs are now deprived of lateral transfers or the right of changing jobs when all other civil servants can.

“RCSC’s justification that it is a critical position is not at all convincing, as sometimes they allege GAOs are under utilised in the gewogs,” he said. “They are depriving us of opportunities.”

A GAO, who serves in one of the remotest gewogs, said at the time of their initial appointment, officials briefed them that they have good career prospects as they serve at the grassroots level. “But if concerned agencies keep changing policy, there is no hope for us.”

A GAO, in his 11th year in the same position, said many GAOs with influence have switched jobs and found better prospects. “I don’t think any of our GAO friends would want to remain as GAOs always,” he said. “Such policies, be it temporary, will have an impact on our career, as we might miss opportunities.”

Another GAO called the RCSC’s decision irrational and discouraging and said that like all other civil servants GAOs should be given the choice to apply for other positions based on one’s competency and skills. “RCSC or the home ministry never discussed the matter with the GAOs.”

RCSC’s director, Tashi Pem, said the letter was an internal affair and questioned how it reached the media.

She said RCSC’s objective in sending the letter was to ensure service delivery at local governments, as the local government election was held six months ago. “GAOs have an important role to play in carrying out the institutional memory.”

The director also said that RCSC recruits GAOs at the beginning of the year and when they leave in the middle of the year, they face difficulties in finding replacements.

She said RCSC, however, is trying to streamline and strengthen the position of the GAO. “Until we have a measure in place, we have to keep the GAOs in the same position. They are civil servants and have to serve the people.”

The director general for Department of Local Governance (DLG), Lungten Dorji, said the home ministry had to seek RCSC’s directive, as there is a high attrition rate for GAOs. “There is one GAO applying for transfer or leave every month.”

He also said DLG and RCSC is looking for career provisions for GAOs and until that takes place, they will not be allowed to move.

Tashi Dema