Being the single biggest employer of the workforce in the country, maintaining a small, compact and efficient civil service remains a daunting task for the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).

According to its annual report released last week, the commission states that the civil servant to population ratio of 1:25 (735,553 PHCB 2017) appears large when compared to other countries.

In the past 15 years, the civil service has almost doubled in size despite an increase in the number of civil servants separating every year.

The strength of the civil service as of January 31, 2019 was 29,442, comprising 26,355 regular civil servants and 3,087 contract employees. On June 30, 2018, the civil service’s strength was 28,973.

A total of 929 civil servants separated from the civil service in the last five years. The annual growth rate for 2019 was 1.62 percent compared to 2.67 percent in 2018. Voluntary resignation accounted for 66 percent of all separation according to the report.

Challenges as a result of constitutional obligations placed on the government like free education and primary health care services and optimising human resources, among others would still remain, the report states.

Of the total, 80 percent of the increase, which is 4,628 civil servants, was in the health and education sectors since 2013. The increase is attributed to meet the human resource standards in both the sectors.

“A major concern for the RCSC has been that most of the Acts governing various institutions prescribe specific positions as mandatory which, at times are not utilised fully but contributes to the unnecessary growth of civil servants,” the report states. “The sharp increase since 2008 is attributed mainly to the proliferation of such positions emanating from new Acts, policies, expansion of infrastructure and executive decisions.”

The report states that RCSC in the past was generally not consulted during the creation of new agencies even if it had manpower implications. However, the creation of protocol such as Agencification Framework is expected to solve such issues. But the government has approved the framework only in principle.

While the government is yet to decide on the gaydrung post, the report states that politics has become a concern. Citing this as an example, the report states that although RCSC has assessed the post as unnecessary, the RCSC has not been successful in getting the government’s support.

“On the other hand, the RCSC faces constant pressure to employ more people, regardless of actual needs. In addition, suboptimal staff utilisation, an empire building attitude, compartmentalised mindset, non-realisation of financial implications and sentiments attached to redundant positions also attributed to the challenges.”

The growth of civil service also puts pressure on the government exchequer.  According to the report, 41.3 percent of the total current budget is currently utilised to meet pay and allowances and contribute towards provident fund.

“Additional request for staff are subject to great scrutiny and if numbers are large, the option of contract staff is given in order to assess the workload and seasonality of the job before providing or approving more permanent positions,” the report states. “The Commission commits to keep 10 percent of the teachers on contract.”

The commission has come up with various measures to keep the civil service small, compact and efficient, the report claims. Optimising HR through multitasking, re-skilling, performance and accountability enhancement programmes, periodic OD Exercise and HR audit, adopting contract recruitment for time bound projects and programmes are some of the measures

“However, in the future, with the changing socio-economic and political environment, these strategies may have to be revisited from time to time.”

Yangchen C Rinzin