…communication allowance provision was removed by NA

Thukten Zangpo

National Council (NC) yesterday retained the communication allowance (CA) as proposed in the Pay Structure Reform Bill 2022 contradicting the National Assembly’s (NA) decision to remove it.

However, since it is a money Bill the recommendation of the National Council on the provision is not mandatory for NA.

The National Council adopted the Pay Structure Reform Bill with 19 Yes votes and 2 abstains of the 21 members present for the voting.

NC’s Chairperson of the Good Governance Committee and Bumthang MP Nima said that the committee has found it feasible to provide the CA.

He said that the allowance was provided as per the responsibility of the officials and was work-related, which even tshogpas are eligible for the allowance.

NA decided to remove the allowance after Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering made the submission to the House to discontinue all communication allowances including internet data charges. The Bill was forwarded to the NC for deliberation.

Supporting Lyonchhen’s submission, the NA’s Economic and Finance Committee’s Chairperson and MP of Gangzur-Minjey, Kinga Penjor also proposed to remove all CA including for other public servants. “Discontinuing the CA could save the government Nu 2 million annually.”

However, the NC’s good governance committee supported Section 16 of the Bill which entitles the Prime Minister to a CA on the actual expenses incurred per month.

Ministers, chairperson of the NC, speaker of the NA and opposition leader are entitled to a CA of Nu 5,000 per month.

Heads of Constitutional Offices, the Attorney General, drangpons, deputy speaker of NA, the NC Chairperson and MPs are entitled to Nu 2,000 per month.

Similarly, CA of Nu 500 per month for Dzongrab, Drungpa, Drangpon Rabjam. The principal secretary, communication specialist, personal secretary, and personal assistant of the prime minister are entitled to Nu 1,500 per month.

Personal secretary and personal assistant of the Cabinet ministers and equivalent positions are allowed CA of Nu 1,000 per month.

Thrompons get Nu 1,000 per month; tshogpa and thromde thuemi get Nu 200 and Nu 100 per month respectively.

Bumthang MP to NC, Nima said that the recommendations on discontinuation of CA from the NA do not include civil servants. The House adopted that the CA for civil servants would be included in their monthly salary.

The Cabinet and government secretary are eligible for Nu 2,000 as CA, and civil servants between EX-3 and above, Nu 1,000 monthly.

As recommended by the NA, the House supported doing away with the internet data charges.

As per Section 17 of the Bill, the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers, Chairperson of the NC, Speaker of the NA, Opposition Leader, heads of Constitutional Offices and the Attorney General (residing at Lhengye Densa) are entitled to internet allowance based on the actual expenses.

Nima said that the committee recommended that the chief justice and chairperson would be entitled to only Nu 5,000 as CA without Nu 2,750 as data charges.

The House also made recommendations under Section 20, professional allowance for nurses, clinical staff, teaching allowance, and aviation staff on an experienced basis for nurses and clinical staff.

For designated vehicles for MPs, the House recommended maintaining the designated duty vehicle as existing level to position level EX-3 and above until reviewed and rationalised by the government.

However, the House included a new section that stated that each MP shall be provided with a designated duty vehicle or a one-time lump sum grant for the purchase of the vehicle along with the driver, and fuel and maintenance allowances.

The House recommended an SUV vehicle with FWD up to 2,800cc or Nu 20,000 allowance per month for the driver, fuel, and maintenance with a lump sum Nu 1M vehicle purchase allowance.

The House reverted disputed sections to discuss during the committee’s internal meeting by involving relevant members.