For want of rules and regulations, implementation of LG entitlement Act has been delayed

LG: The elected members of the local government (LG) will complete their tenure in June. But as expected before, they would not reap the benefits of the much-debated LG members’ entitlement Act.

The entitlement Act, which was initially drafted by the former government, was passed in urgency during the fifth parliament session in June last year to benefit the present local government post holders.

However, for the want of rules and regulations to prescribe the details of the Act, implementation was delayed. Home and cultural affairs minister Dawa Gyaltshen said a draft rules and regulations has been prepared and that the ministry is yet to discuss the draft with the finance ministry.

Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said the entitlement Act will be implemented after consultation with the finance ministry. However, the entitlement Act will not apply retrospectively.

“The Act will be applicable from the date of its implementation,” he said. “We have framed a draft of the rules and regulations. We will discuss it with the finance ministry,” lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said.

Those provisions relating to retirement benefits that require a member of local government to complete a full term would not be applicable. For the current batch of local leaders, the home minister said, “Some sections of the Act will apply while some will not.”

Citing an example, he said even if the rules and regulations is implemented before the current local leaders resign, they would not be eligible for certain benefits such as provident fund (PF). However, they would be entitlement for benefits such as voucher allowance  after the adoption of the rules and regulations.

He did not reveal when the discussion on the rules and regulations would be complete. But officials earlier told it is expected to be in place before the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Implementation of the Act is estimated to cost the government about Nu 20M (million) annually, as mobile voucher allowances and earned leave encashment for local government (LG) members. The earned leave encashment alone is estimated to come over Nu 16M.

Without the entitlement Act, there were no fixed allowances for LG members, and all allowances depended on the government.

Dogar gup from Paro, Lhab Tshering, said since the Act is already in place, they expected that the retirement benefits would come during their tenure. “Retirement benefits are like gifts from the government for our service to the people,” he said.

Barp gup Wangchuk said he would not regret for not being paid the retirement benefits although he was expecting it. “I would be satisfied for having served the country and the people,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) believes that local government elections should be held before the expiry of their term so as to ensure that they are reconstituted on the date of expiry of the existing government. The recently concluded Thromde elections in Thimphu, Gelephu and Phuentsholing was an example of this.

This means that even if the rules and regulations was in place, members wishing to re-contest would not be eligible for retirement benefits as they would have to resign before the expiry of their term. This makes them ineligible for retirement benefits.

However, a member will be entitled to gratuity if his or her discontinuation from the service is due to prolonged ill health and death.

According to the entitlement Act, an elected member of LG only on completion of his or her term of office will be entitled to gratuity. The first ever LG elections were held on June 27, 2011.

MB Subba