.. By allowing the recruitment of required personnel at the market rate

MoIC: In a major move that will settle a longstanding issue for the civil aviation sector, the Ministry of Information and Communications will be able to recruit an airworthiness officer and an air safety officer.

The decision for immediate recruitment of the two officers, according to MoIC officials, came after the ministry, Royal Civil Service Commission, and the finance ministry met at the prime minister’s office earlier this month.

The two officials will be on contract. The air safety officer is a pilot and an airworthiness officer is an engineer who periodically inspects and certifies that an aircraft is fit for operation.

MoIC secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji said, “What took more than 17 years to resolve was decided within half an hour and all of us returned with a huge sigh of relief.”

The problem until now has been that the government lost its trained officials to the two airlines.

“When the government pays them (the pilot) Nu 21,000 and the private sector and corporations pay Nu 400,000, we can’t retain them,” Dasho Kinley Dorji said during the presentation of the ministry’s annual performance agreement last week in Paro.

The Department of civil aviation has only one each of the flight safety and airworthiness officer.

The issue of human resource shortage for these critical positions were raised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation since the 1990s.

The secretary said the recruitment was needed to meet the ICAO’s requirements and to maintain safety in the aviation industry.

A recent letter from ICAO to the government highlighted a lack of effective implementation of its requirements in all eight critical areas required for effective oversight, but was mainly concerned with shortcomings in four specific areas, including organisational weakness.

However, civil aviation department officials maintained that it does not mean Bhutanese airlines are unsafe.

“If our airport is deemed unsafe our aircrafts won’t be allowed to land in the other airports which is a serious concern for the ministry and the country,” the prime minister said. Bhutan could lose tourists too.

The prime ministry said it was a case of ministries or agencies working in isolation and strictly within their mandates.

He said this is important for other ministers to be aware.

Every ministry is doing their job wholeheartedly, and which may prevent the realisation of the other ministry’s objectives.

Lyonchoen said that the ministry wrote to the RCSC, which was willing to recruit on contract but as this recruitment required to pay beyond the regular contracts, they asked the ministry to seek the approval from the finance ministry that was denied until the meeting took place.

“While everyone was doing their job, our only international airport could be rendered unsafe with devastating implications,” he said. “When the three agencies came together and after the MoIC presented their case and the gravity of the situation, every one saw the issue in a different light.”

Finance ministry agreed to make resources available, while RCSC agreed to carry out immediate recruitment and also train officials to avoid similar issues in the future.

By Tshering Palden