Panbang’s Member of Parliament (MP), Dorji Wangdi during the question hour at the National Assembly questioned Prime Minister, Dr Lotay Tshering the basis of appointing a press secretary and how the position’s pay and allowances were fixed.

Dorji Wangdi emphasised policy corruption being prominent as per the Anti Corruption Commission report. According to him, the pay scale of the press secretary exceeds government secretary’s salary and that the preference for the post should be given to a civil servant.

The concern of conflict of interest was also raised because the appointee worked with Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa during the election.

Lyonchhen disagreed.

He said that as per the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), the prime minister’s office gets four media personnel but there was only one when he took office. As per the RCSC rule, the PMO floated vacancy for the post twice.

“The office floated the vacancy in December last year and another in January this year. However, none applied for the post,” he said. The RCSC, he said, instructed the cabinet secretariat to appoint a reliable candidate on contract.

On the basis of the pay scale, he said that the documents clearly stated that the prime minister could fix the pay scale. The former governments have been following the same procedures and cited the example of the first elected government, which appointed a press secretary in 2010 at a pay scale of Nu 60,000.“Based on the role of press secretary and capability, the government decided to pay Nu 75,000.”

MP Dorji Wangdi also questioned the prime minister of few incidences of harassing journalist. He said that the opposition was approached with voice recordings of the situation. “This is a concern. We can’t undermine the importance of free and independent media in a democracy.”

The prime minister clarified that the government did not harass any journalist as far as he was concerned. He asked the MP to name the particular journalist, and then he would clarify accordingly.

If journalists were harassed, there are responsible authorities such as Bhutan InfoCom and Media Authority, and Bhutan Media Foundation, rather than the opposition. “I am surprised to hear such allegations. We have been asking the media to correct us whenever we make mistakes. We want to work together.”

Meanwhile, MP Dorji Wangdi said that during the first government’s time, the four media personnel were placed in P1 and P3 but the post was vacated sooner. He added that discussions were held during the second parliament and it was made mandatory for a civil servant to fill the position.

Lyonchhen said that if there was a rule against such an appointment, he was willing to follow it. He also clarified that the first government appointed eight people in the PMO and not four.

Phub Dem