Four years after the government launched its performance management system (GPMS), Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the system has helped in the implementation of the 11th Plan.

He said that despite the Plan being much larger in terms of budget than the last Plan, the system has ensured timely release of budget and execution of works.

Speaking at the midterm review of the 10 ministries on February 7, Lyonchhen said budget planning and discussion are done ahead of the previous schedule to ensure budget release at the beginning of the fiscal year.

“In the 10th Plan, budget was released only a few months after the fiscal year started, affecting the progress of works,” Lyonchhen said.

He said all developmental works were on track because of civil servants who collectively adopted the GPMS and used the annual performance agreements faithfully.

Lyonchhen spoke at length about the civil servants’ collective support in the implementation of the system, which was a crucial factor in its success.

One of the biggest outcomes of the GPMS was quality data, he said.

“Without having good statistics, we’ll not know whether we’re going in the right direction or not,” he said. “Some might be able to play with the data but not for long. By the second year it becomes more difficult, and by the third, it becomes almost impossible.”

Agriculture ministry, government performance management division, National Statistical Bureau (NSB), and GNHC produce quarterly statistics from this year. “This is a huge step forward,” Lyonchhen said. “So far nobody took data seriously.”

Agriculture secretary Rinzin Dorji said the field staff hereon would not wait till the end of the year to submit data. “At the end of each harvest season, the staff punch in the data,” he said.

The system has been fine-tuned as ministries and agencies raised issues in accomplishing their targets after each annual performance agreement.

The agriculture ministry asked the Prime Minister and the GPM division that the dzongkhag targets and ministry targets need to be integrated. Lyonchhen agreed that it must be done and that the responsibility lies with the ministries.

Lyonchhen said it shows that until now there has not been any interaction between the centre and the dzongkhags.

The GPMD will also look into grading the utilisation of budget. The issue was that if agencies did not use 100 percent of the budget, then they are rated poorly. “But some projects are done with less than the allocated budget,” the agriculture secretary said.

Rinzin Dorji said there is a need to assess the impact and requirement for mandatory success indicators (SI) before assigning SIs for all agencies.

Hydropower and power systems director general, Sonam P Wangdi, said that while the project implementation is out of their hands, and usually have slow progress, the officials in the department are being judged on their progress, which is unfair and was demoralising.

The national technical committee comprises of representatives from the GNHC, GPMD, Ministry of Finance (MoF), National Statistical Bureau (NSB), and Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC). The committee reviews plans, policies, and targets in the beginning of the year, and evaluates achievements at the end of the year.

The system, lyonchhen said, takes the whole-of-government approach in planning, budgeting, accounting and human resources assessment by integrating national systems and processes for these functions.

Lyonchhen said the GPMS is not a new system.  The system of performance agreement and compact signing was prevalent in Druk Holding and Investments and similar versions were in practice in few private organisations too for more than eight years now.

However, he said the system has proven to be effective. He said that the present GPMS is not much different from the compact signing that was initiated by the international consultation, McKinsey and Company except for implementation.

The McKinsey compacts did not include all the civil servants to be rated. “This has demoralised them,” he said. “Those that were made to sign the compacts thought they were made to overwork.”

The biggest difference is that the McKinsey hired consultants from outside, some of whom were just out of college, to tell civil servants how to do their work. The GPMS covers the entire government organisations and is built by locals.

He said that despite the system being productive, it is not used in any country.

Lyonchhen said that in most governments, civil servants can work at their own liking and don’t support implementing such performance management systems “Our experience has been different because everyone supported,” he said.

Lyonchhen claimed that the implementation of the system in Bhutan has received international acclaim.

Following a Cabinet order, a steering committee and a task force were established in December 2013 to institutionalise a GPMS in the country. The task force comprises of senior government officials and experts from various ministries were tasked to study and develop the system.

The system was piloted in 2014-15. In 2016-17, the system went nation-wide with proper planning, identification of targets and results, midterm review, and at the end, the national technical committee reviewed the assessment reports by the respective agencies and the GPMD, lyonchhen said.

“Not a single agency challenged the results. This is the level of support the system has received.”

Lyonchhen said there were agencies that were disappointed but overall it appears to be supported. “The most difficult part of the system cycle was grading the civil servants as not everyone would be outstanding.”

He also said most works are going well, at least as per the APA, with only few activities at risk of not meeting the targets. “These at-risk activities are not failures but at risk of not scoring outstanding.”

He said that not everyone can achieve outstanding in all the targets or targets are set too low. The system, lyonchhen said, gives unending opportunities to analyse the results and improve on them.

Tshering Palden