National Council (NC) yesterday decided that the members would deliberate Government to Citizen (G2C) services and to further recommendations to the government.

After members proposed numerous recommendations on the various issues with the services, NC Chairperson Tashi Dorji instructed that Member of Parliament from Bumthang, Nima and a few others to discuss the issues with the G2C services.

NC had made numerous recommendations to create more awareness and citizen education programmes on the online services, determine faster turn around time for services, and better community centres.

The NC deputy chairperson and Samdrupjongkhar MP Jigme Wangchuk presented the response from the Cabinet secretariat to the NC’s recommendations on G2C services passed during the previous session.

The Cabinet secretary’s response said that advocacy has been completed in 14 dzongkhags and 25 community centres (CC).

Radio talk shows were held, and advocacy materials such as manuals and guidelines were being developed.

To ensure monitoring of the services, an online tool, EDesk, was instituted, which tracks to the individual application.

The 200 community centres are equipped with fiber optic connectivity, distributed from the dzongkhag. “However, the strength of the connection is determined by the usage and uptime dependent on the stability of the power. The infrastructure has dependency on the factors such as weather conditions (especially in the southern parts where frequent lighting damages the equipment) and human elements (cutting off and misuse of the fiber optic cables),” the Cabinet secretary letter stated.

To address the concerns, Department of Information Technology and Telecom (MoIC) is underway with plans to provide connectivity from the gewog administration (GA) to strengthen the ease of management in view of most of the CCs being located in the gewog premises. “Furthermore, efforts are underway to explore options to increase the Internet bandwidth supply to the gewog centre or CCs and strengthening the infrastructure setup to ensure maximum connectivity uptime,” it stated.

On the capacity enhancement of the CC operators Bhutan Development bank Ltd , Public Service Grievance  Redressal division (PSGRD), DITT, and Department of Local Government are collaborating to enhance the competencies of the CC operators, for them to be able to delegate their responsibilities.

New recruits are oriented and regular trainings given including periodic training by the dzongkhag ICT officials. However, one of the challenges in the human resources aspect of the operation and management of the CCs is the issue of retention given the high attrition rate. 

“To address this concern, BDBL ensures minimal or no disruption in the services of the CCs by assigning the replacement at the earliest,” the Cabinet secretary wrote.  

Fund constraint is a challenge in not being able to provide HR-related activities. However, the management is working on submitting a comprehensive subsidy proposal to the cabinet, which is currently being reviewed by finance ministry.

Of the eight MPs who spoke at length on the issues, most of them said that while the services benefitted the rural populace, there were still many areas of improvement.

Thimphu MP Tshewang Rinzin said that while the buildings housing the community centres belonged to gewog administration, Bhutan Telecom looked after the Internet connectivity, and the centres are operated by BDBL.

He said that there has to be better collaboration among the stakeholders.

“The government needs to give subsidy to the BDBL as soon as possible the services are to become efficient,” he said.

Members from Chukha and Gasa said that the forms that service users avail from the centres should be given free.

Haa MP Ugyen Namgay said that issues with internet and electricity connectivity need to be dealt urgently.  “We need to see some more details of the progress on making the services better,” he said.

Other members said that there has to be more operators at the centers. “Sometimes the operator is on leave and the people cannot avail of the services,” a member said.

Samtse MP Tirtha Man Rai said that in larger gewogs the government should establish two such centres.

Today, NC members will attend the joint sitting of the Parliament on the disputed clauses of the Audit Bill 2017, a review of Financial Audit Report, and implementation status of 10th session resolutions.

Tshering Palden