RCSC struggling to maintain “small, compact and efficient” civil service

Yangchen C Rinzin

The biggest challenge for the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC)  today is maintaining “small, compact and efficient” civil service.

The Commission’s aim is to keep the ratio of civil servants to the population at 1:25 or lower in the 12th Plan.

Apart from challenging topography and dispersed population, the policy of free health care and education to citizens were the reason for the increasing number of civil servants, according to RCSC’s annual report 2019-2020. “The injection of more civil servants was to provide and sustain optimal services.”

The record with the Commission shows that of the 31,278 civil servants, more than 40 percent are in the health and education sector. The report mentions that it is necessary to have people from the civil service to provide essential primary health and education.

This is an increase from 30,032 civil servants recorded until December 31 2019, consisting of 25,852 regular civil servants and 4,180 on contracts. Most civil servants on contract are in the teaching profession.

The total number of civil servants constitutes 4.05 percent of the country’s total population. A total of 2,287 civil servants were recruited, 5,306 promoted, and 866 separated with a net increase of 1,421 civil servants from January to December 2019.

The Commission’s recent staffing assessment with agencies also revealed that substantial increase in the civil service was mostly due to changes in policy initiated by the government.

The report specifically pointed on the education ministry’s policy changes in the last few years which has implicated human resources growth.

In the 11th Plan (2013-2018), the growth of human resources in the education ministry due to change in policies showed there was an increase of 2,667 human resources with an expenditure of Nu 18 million (M) for the whole career span.

Some of the significant policy changes made by the previous government were a reduction in student-teacher ratio from 22 to 18 hours, dedicated Dzongkha teachers for Classes PP-III, the introduction of central schools with boarding facilities, and opening of Early Childhood Care and Development centres and special needs teachers.

In the 12th Plan, as per the report, the government introduced a policy to provide admission to class XI for all students, the introduction of formative assessment for primary level, and reducing the admission age for pre-primary to five years old from six. “RCSC received new requirement of teacher assistants.”

Some of these policy changes led to the growth of additional 1,829 human resources with an expenditure of Nu 16,642M. However, the staffing for the 12th Plan is still under discussion.

Although the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat (GNHCS) has defined the process of policy making with screening protocols, the Commission in the report stated that there are inconsistencies in the application of protocols, bypassing the process. “The policy screening tool does not take into account the cost implication from the human resource perspective.”

The RCSC has already informed the issue with GNHCS and raised the same issue to the Prime Minister during regular meetings with Chairpersons.

“The Commission has also raised that any policy decisions such as upgrading facilities of health and education, which are human resources intensive should be objective and not driven by populist decisions,” the report stated.

Sharing the challenge in maintaining its target, the RCSC stated that many agencies such as GNHC and the finance ministry are most of the time reluctant to downgrade certain facilities despite under-utilisation. This was mostly attributed to the public’s resistance.

Apart from education and health, the other major challenge RCSC is facing is the Acts governing various institutions that spell out to create a specific mandatory position, which sometimes is not utilised fully, according to the report. “This has contributed to the unnecessary growth of civil servants. RCSC is faced with constant pressure to employ more people, regardless of actual needs.”

However, RCSC will conduct periodic organisational development exercises along with the staffing review of agencies to ensure that the employment of new civil services is rationalised. The Commission has also asked relevant agencies to involve RCSC and consult before creating new agencies.

There has been significant growth in the size of civil servants in the last decade. The cumulative growth from December 2008- 2019 showed an increase of 53.88 percent.

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