Yangchen C Rinzin 

Beginning September 1, the finance ministry has asked all agencies funded by the government to adhere to a uniform monthly travel allowance for all staff irrespective of position levels.

This, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said was to rationalise the current budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 considering the Covid-19 situation.

The ministry notification applies to both central and local budgetary agencies.

The finance ministry in a notification instructed that for any official travels like sensitisation or awareness programmes, in-country training, retreat, workshops but other than Covid-19 related duty, the public servant would be eligible for Nu 15,000 in the first month.

“Then the travel allowance would be Nu 10,000 per month for subsequent months,” the notification stated.

The finance ministry has clarified that the monthly lump-sum allowance of Nu 15,000 is for travels involving continuous stay at a particular place and the allowances are for official travels.

The allowance would be applied on pro-rata basis, meaning the official who travel officially other than Covid-19 related duty for less than 30 days irrespective of the number of months, would be eligible for Nu 500 a day.

The allowance of Nu 500 would apply to all officials irrespective of position levels.

“The monthly lump-sum allowances are only for daily allowance and for travel allowance,” the notification stated. “The concerned agencies will have to arrange government vehicles or hire private vehicles for all officials’ travel in lieu of mileage for official tours.”

Mileage rate, however, will remain the same at Nu 16 a km. The agency can permit carpooling with a minimum of two officials travelling in the same vehicle.

Considering the cost of travel, the ministry has also advised agencies to minimise the authorisation of travel by an individual official and to conduct meeting or monitoring of projects through virtual platforms as much as possible.

The ministry’s decision states that 20 percent of revised allowances would apply to all officials if food and lodge are provided.    

The agencies are advised to arrange food and lodge in the guesthouse or other facilities or manage the costs within apportioned annual block grant allocated. .

However, it was decided that officials on Covid-19 related duty including the Covid-19 Task Force members in Phuentsholing and Samdrupjongkhar would be paid a lump sum of Nu 15,000 a month irrespective of the duration of duty.

The individuals have to manage their own food and lodge. “This rate would be applicable for any new task forces or committees that would be established by the government hereafter,” the notification stated.

The ministry also notified that the revised rates would also be applicable to activities funded by donors.

The ministry has also advised all the agencies to host meetings or seminars and training in hostels if the donor agencies require to conduct meetings.

“This was decided given the domestic revenue situation, and the agencies should prioritise donor-funded mandatory meetings/seminars/training over similar activities funded by the government.”

Porter and pony charges of Nu 1,200 per dholam have also remained unchanged, which is applicable to all civil servants including those on Covid-19 duty.

Meanwhile, the finance minister Namgay Tshering said that this was just an interim measure given the current situation and also to rationalise the expenditure apart from making the travel allowances uniform across agencies.

Lyonpo said that this measure would remain until the situation improves or as and when the government’s revenue performance improves.

“Although it was not a strict notification it was important to have such uniform ceilings in travel allowances,” Lyonpo said. “This is in no way intended to supersede the Pay Revision Act 2019.”

Lyonpo said that this decision is only to advise and make all budgetary agencies to be prudent and to cope up with the situation where the country’s domestic revenue had fallen due to Covid-19.

“This decision was also made after many agencies shared concerns and proposed to keep uniform allowances to make sure block grants are used optimally. The agencies can spend the grant themselves, but such uniformity would ensure the budget on travel is spent judiciously.”

The finance minister said that the decision was taken to meet expenses with the given budget, as there is no income from the domestic revenue.