Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu

Public service delivery in the country remains in a sorry state despite significant reform efforts that have been in place for the past year. Citizens continue to bear the brunt of ineffective initiatives, experiencing delays and frustrations when trying to access essential services.

Although efforts have been made to manage out ineffective executives in the civil service and re-organise government agencies, concerns about responsibility and accountability in service delivery have been growing. Executives and senior officials attend numerous meetings, often without producing significant outcomes. This inefficient meeting culture has contributed to decade-long delays in service delivery, leaving citizens disillusioned and dissatisfied.

Civil servants and elected representatives have come under fire from frustrated individuals who complain about unanswered calls and a lack of courtesy. Many people have resigned themselves to accepting this customary practice in the country, without reacting seriously to it.

One concerned citizen highlighted the lack of effective implementation of various service improvement systems, including rules and regulations for civil servants. He pointed out that these procedures seem to apply only to those from poorer backgrounds, suggesting that favouritism and nepotism, facilitated by the thuenlam custom, still very much rampant.

Many say that negligence and the tardiness of officials, particularly in rural gewogs and dzongkhags, have also contributed to the failure of timely service delivery. Another citizen expressed frustration at having to wait for hours due to officials’ absence or their inability to arrive at the office on time.

A senior civil servant emphasised that civil service reforms need to start at the individual level for lasting change. He said that individuals must transform their attitudes and take ownership of the reform process. “Robust systems have been in place for a long time, but the issue lies in the service providers not adhering to them. We are also confused about how the reform is being implemented,” he stated.

Recognising the urgent need for improvement, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has introduced the Service Evaluation Tool (SET) to address public complaints in public service delivery. Under this initiative, the RCSC has identified public service delivery as one of the thematic areas for its third commission, aiming for faster, better, and cheaper services.

The RCSC encourages citizens, as beneficiaries of government services, to contribute to the improvement of service delivery and hold service providers accountable by providing genuine feedback on their experiences. They believe that by implementing training programmes for service providers, focusing on empathy skills, they can enhance the overall experience of citizens by fostering courteous and professional interactions.

While acknowledging that meetings can be streamlined, the RCSC maintains that they remain an important platform for policy-making, debottlenecking, and coordination, especially regarding critical service delivery decisions. Meetings, according to the RCSC, are an integral part of an executive’s responsibility and cannot be entirely eliminated.

To address the persisting challenges and inefficiencies, the Committee for Coordinating Secretaries (C4CS) has proposed a thorough evaluation of all public services by ministries to identify areas that would benefit from privatisation. “Stocktaking of All Public Services” has asked the ministries to submit a list of potential services to the C4CS for review and eventual submission to the cabinet by July 14.

In this context, Cabinet Secretary Kesang Deki stated, “Public services play a fundamental role in promoting the well-being and progress of our society. The C4CS firmly believes that it is our collective duty to continuously evaluate and improve the quality and accessibility of these services.” 

Acknowledging that certain challenges and inefficiencies persist, hindering the ability to meet the evolving needs of communities, the letter underscores the necessity for ongoing evaluation and improvement.

Despite these reform efforts and initiatives, it is evident that much work remains to be done to address the systemic issues and inefficiencies that plague public service delivery.