For the past two weeks, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has been on a marathon of meetings, visiting agencies and ministries to review the targets and deliverables in their annual performance agreement (APA).

He is not impressed most times. During a review meeting with the departments in the agriculture ministry yesterday, Lyonchhen said that he was not convinced with the quality of the contents of the agreements drafted.

Since July 22 the Prime Minister has reviewed the APAs of health, agriculture and education ministries, tourism, water and organic flagship programmes, Thimphu Thromde and the departments of forest, livestock and agriculture.

Almost all of them have been asked to rework on their targets and activities based on priority and relevance to the need of the public.

Lyonchhen said that although the APA system has been there for some time, the system was not doing so well as people were not sure of what it actually was, and how it was supposed to look like.

In the long run, APA should guide everything starting from funding sources to the intended activities. This should be the ultimate goal for signing the agreements, said Lyonchhen.

Lyonchhen said that during the last APA signing some of the directors and dzongdags were not aware of the contents of the documents they were signing.

“When the government proposed to monetise APA and IWP up to 10 percent of the income, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) was reluctant,” he said. “They said that we are still in a learning phase.”

In most of the review meetings Lyonchhen pointed out that the weightage given to a particular activity was loosely allocated. He also said that most of the activities that are easily achievable were given higher weightage.

One of the success indicators of the agriculture department for the 2019-2020 fiscal year stated that it would conduct seven regional and national coordination meetings to strengthen planning and monitoring system. The indicator was given a weight of 2.

Prime Minister said that the national needs have to be prioritised and difficult targets have to be given more weightage. “Conducting seven meetings can be easily achieved in about three months,” he said. “My expectation from the APA is what would be the outcome of the seven meetings.”

He said that the weightage given to an activity should be in line with the proportion of the budget allocated. “Agriculture ministry has a budget of about Nu 337 million (M) for in-country travel in one year,” he said. “The amount is almost half of what the labour ministry has for the current financial year.”

Lyonchhen added that the departments and agencies have to reprioritise the budget and use it efficiently.

DoA has set a target to produce 91,479 metric tonns (MT) of paddy in the current fiscal year.

Lyonchhen said that the agriculture ministry and department alone cannot make the country rice self-sufficient. “We have to target the dietary habit of the public and involve other relevant stakeholders to achieve that,” he said.  “To decrease the consumption of rice, health ministry should also be involved, and similarly for other activities agencies concerned must be coordinated with.”

He said that multi-sectorial coordination among different ministries, agencies and departments should also be considered in the APA for effective implementation of the planned activities.

During the review meeting with the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) yesterday, Lyonchhen said that the government over the years have invested millions in planting trees, but has not carried out any studies on the benefits of the investments.

He said that the trees that were planted along the Kuenselphodrang area in the past had to be replaced at least three times because all the saplings had died.

Starting this fiscal year, the Prime Minister said that the budget from the government would be invested in assessing the impact of planting thousands of trees over the years during the social forestry day. “We will run a nationwide programme where everyone would be planting a tree themselves. However, the government approved budget would be used to carry out the impact assessment from the previous plantations.”

The department in its APA stated that it would assess five forest fire prone areas to reduce fire incidences in the current fiscal year. 

However, Lyonchhen said that instead of focusing on reducing the fire incidences, the department should have included that it would stop forest fires in the five identified locations.

“For example, to control forest fire incidences in the Drametse-Udzorong area for a year would be a great achievement for the department,” he said. “Although the idea is same, let up change our approach to addressing the issues.”

The Prime Minister added that the APA targets should be more result oriented and should also add value to the components.

Younten Tshedup