While the LG entitlement Act has been in force since July last year, it has not been implemented 

LG: If the incumbent local government (LG) members are to reap their retirement benefits, the government will have to endorse the LG entitlement rules and regulations immediately.

The Department of Local Governance (DLG) has submitted the draft subsidiary legislation to the finance ministry to be reviewed by a committee. According to officials,  the document will then be sent to the finance minister, who will table it in the Cabinet for endorsement.

However, the endorsement of the rules is likely to be delayed. The committee is yet to review the draft document as the committee members are engaged in preparation of the national budget for the upcoming financial year.

DLG officiating director Wangdi Gyeltshen said the rules and regulations was drafted as per the LG entitlement Act. He said it will depend on the government when to implement the Act.

The Act, which guarantees retirement benefits for local leaders on completion of their term, is in force for eight months currently. However, its implementation has been delayed due to a lack of rules and regulations.

Even if the government implements the Act before the upcoming LG elections in July, it is not clear whether or not retirement benefits such as gratuity will be calculated from the day of enforcement of the Act or from the day the LG members assumed office. The entitlement Act came into force on July 20 last year.

Normally, an Act is implemented with effect from the enforcement date.

Retirement benefits in normal cases comprise the accumulation of some portion of earnings. However, no such deductions have been made from the local leaders’ salaries.

The committee is also expected to delve into this issue although officials did not share the details of the rules and regulations.

On the other hand, provident fund and other deductions were made from the salaries of the members of the first Parliament in 2008 even without the parliament members’ entitlement Act in place. It has been over eight months now since the LG entitlement Act came into force.

Meanwhile, with only two months left for the completion of their tenure, LG members are anxious over the delay in implementation of the Act.

Gongdu gup from Mongar, Kencho Tshering said he is expecting that LG members will get retirement benefits as per the law. “Why have they passed the law if it is not to be implemented?” he said.

A gup from Dagana said the issue is expected to feature in their upcoming dzongkhag tshogdu (DT). “If my friends agree, we will pass a resolution in the DT calling the government to finalise the issue before our tenure ends,” he said.

“We hope to receive our retirement benefits as guaranteed by the entitlement Act,” he added.

Although the Act prescribes that gratuity will be paid only on completion of term of office, a member will be entitled to gratuity if his or her discontinuation from the service is due to prolonged ill health or death.

Earlier in February, the foreign minister Damcho Dorji shed some hope for the incumbent local leaders, saying that elected members of the local governments would be entitled to benefits as the entitlement Act has been passed. He said they are entitled even without the rules and regulations since the Act is already in place.

He was of the view that the rules and regulations of the entitlement Act need not pass through cabinet or parliament.

Local leaders in all dzongkhags, except in 10 gewogs, are expected to resign in June to set the stage for the second phase of the LG elections.

MB Subba