Phub Dem

Whether or not to have a chapter on the Cabinet Secretariat in the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill 2020 sparked a lengthy debate at the National Council (NC) yesterday.

Some members said including it would be a duplication of the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC)’s Organisational Development Exercise (ODE), which elaborates the roles and responsibilities of the civil servants including the Cabinet Secretariat (CS).

Lhuentse’s MP Tempa Dorji however, disagreed. He said that there was a need for a permanent office that would ensure the continuation of major policies and work. “The policy changes with the change in government. Therefore, there is a need for a permanent CS to maintain momentum.”

Social and Cultural Affairs Committee’s member, Lhaki Dolma said that the committee decided to recommend inserting the chapter that provides the rules of procedure for the CS the legal standing. “The chapter gives a clear synopsis of the role of CS because the role was not clear in the RCSC Act.”

It came to a vote and the majority decided to deliberate on the proposal of the committee. The House will decide whether to retain or remove the chapter during final deliberations.

Of the seven sections in the chapter, the committee proposed the recruitment of a maximum of three national employees outside of civil service under the Prime Minister’s Office to meet specialised manpower requirements.

Referring to international best practices, Tempa Dorji said that there were practices of including experts and advisors from outside the civil service.

He said that the civil servants’ mandate of maintaining apolitical nature would contradict the provision if a civil servant was included in the CS. “We should not include such practice in the country.”

There were major issues of recruiting private employees in CS’s office due to the lack of specific laws regarding recruitment.

Deputy chairperson of NC, Jigme Wangchuk said that the first government recruited four non-civil servant employees. He said that despite NC reminding the then government about the recruitment breaching the law, the private employees continued working in the office until the end of the government’s tenure.

Eminent member Phuntsho Rapten raised a similar issue over the recruitment of a press secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.

He, however, said: “PM clarified that the government sought Attorney General’s (AG) advice on the recruitment and was not breaching the law.”

According to Article 29 of the Constitution, the AG as the chief legal officer shall be the legal advisor and legal representative of the Government. Section six of the Article states that the Attorney General shall have the right to appear and express opinions on any legal question in Parliament.

He said that if the employee was a civil servant there was a clear Act. “However, when it comes to a private employee, there should be a clear guideline and the House should seek the possibility for internal discussion on the issue.”

Some members raised the concern of its legitimacy, while others proposed for its removal. 

The Committee was directed to re-deliberate Section 75 along with other sections and prepare for final adoption. The Bill is expected to be adopted on March 4.