Yangchen C Rinzin

The finance ministry will soon issue an amendment to the previous notification on the uniform monthly travel allowance to employees of all central and budgetary agencies.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering told Kuensel that the amended notification, which is still being drafted will clarify on the implementation of uniform travel allowance. The notification will be effective from December 1.

The amendment comes after numerous issues were raised by few agencies including the Members of Parliament (MP) of both National Assembly (NA) and National Council (NC) on the implementation of travel allowance notification.

Some questioned the government for not applying the notification on MPs. Kuensel learnt that NA and NC secretariats had also sought for clarification from the finance ministry.

The clarification was sought after few members raised the issue that the notification was pertaining to only civil servants and that they did not fall in the civil servant category.

However, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering clarified that the notification will also imply to both the Houses including the MPs.

“The uniformity decision was mainly for disparity and uniformity in the travel allowance and that it was a temporary measure. The measure would remain until the situation improves or as and when the government’s revenue performance improves,” Lyonpo said.

Kuensel also learnt that few members objected that Nu 500 travel allowance would not be fair when other austerity measures were already in place owing to the pandemic.   

The internal austerity measure included capping the travel duration to 21 days for NA members. It means the members can claim travel allowance only for 21 days.

An official from the NA’s finance unit said that although members sought clarification, the NA secretariat has decided to stick with Nu 500 allowance after the finance ministry clarified on October 28.

“It’s decided that MPs would be provided Nu 500 travel allowance. A few who have visited constituency have already claimed at that rate,” the official said.

As for National Council, Chairperson Tashi Dorji said that to rationalise the budget and reduce the expenses, the secretariat has identified certain days for different constituencies based on the number of gewogs for each MP.

He said that on an average, MPs can claim travel allowance for only two days for each gewog irrespective of the days they spend in a particular place. “This adjustment is being made to ensure the available budget is used well.”

MPs are mandated to visit their constituencies two times in a year as per the NA and NC Act.

Finance minister said that the notification was not a strict notification and that agencies, depending on the available budget, could come up with prudent measures.

“The notification was issued, as it was important to have such uniform ceiling in travel allowances and ensure block grants are used optimally,” he said. “The agencies can spend the grant themselves, but such uniformity would ensure the budget on travel is spent judiciously.”

The finance ministry had issued a notification in September asking all agencies funded by the government to adhere to a uniform monthly travel allowance for all staff irrespective of position levels.

This was to rationalise the current budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 considering the Covid-19 situation that has impacted the government revenue.

The finance ministry had 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 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. Today, all public agencies have implemented a uniform travel allowance. Mileage rate, however, remains at Nu 16 a km.