The commission finds an acceptable middle path between ‘separation’ and ‘reinstatement’

Governance: Despite procedural lapses and poor judgment, the three government secretaries and the committee of secretaries (CoS), had acted in good faith on the ENERTIA allegations, the Royal Civil Service Commission’s (RCSC) investigation has found.

Based on the findings, the commission has decided to reassign the cabinet secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, the economic affairs secretary Dasho Sonam Tshering and the foreign secretary Yeshey Dorji, in accordance with section 76 of the Civil Service Act and chapter 19, section of the civil service rules.

Reassignment, as per the civil service rules, is a major penalty imposed on a civil servant.

Any minor or major penalty is also entered in the civil servant’s service record.

While the secretaries refused to comment on the decision, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay yesterday tweeted saying, “I welcome RCSC’s decision to ‘reassign’ three secretaries in accordance with Section of BCSR 2012.”

The commission also found that the two extreme administrative actions, of mandatory separation from the civil service (as the government had wanted), or having the three government secretaries continue in their current positions (as the secretaries had wanted), were not tenable.

The decision comes more than a month after the Cabinet surrendered the three secretaries to the commission for action.

There were three charges against the cabinet secretary, seven against the economic affairs secretary, three against the foreign secretary, and five jointly liable charges against all three.

It was also established that, following the ENERTIA allegations, the economic affairs secretary had informed his minister about what he had planned to do, and also put up the matter to the committee of secretaries (CoS), out of concerns that the allegation could have negative implications on Indo-Bhutan relations, and the future of hydropower development. “Subsequently, the CoS had also deemed it important enough to be pursued.”

In an earlier press conference, soon after the Cabinet surrendered the secretaries, economic affairs minster Norbu Wangchuk had said that the letter asking the government of India (GoI) to resolve the issue was a “letter of protestation”, demanding the GoI take ENERTIA to task.

“The government is deeply concerned about the language and the tone the letter carried, which could potentially dampen the good relations that the two countries enjoy at all levels,” he had said.

While, the commission’s investigation established that the secretaries had acted in good faith, it pointed out that the matter revealed weakness in the working arrangements between the two most important bodies of the government – the Cabinet and the CoS.

“In particular, it highlighted the structural failure for effective communication between these two bodies,” it states. “In addition to the CoS terms of reference (ToR) requirement for the cabinet secretary to keep the prime minister informed, the minutes of its proceedings should also have been systematically shared with the cabinet to ensure proper information sharing and coordination.”

It was found that the whole matter originated from the economic affairs secretary having followed his minister’s instructions to inform ENERTIA about the minister’s inability to attend the 7th hydropower conclave on August 27, 2014 in Thimphu.

The commission determined that the three secretaries should have ensured the explicit approval of their actions by the cabinet/prime minister, as they deemed the matter to be of national importance, and especially since it involved a foreign entity. “As the top bureaucrats, there is no room for such lapses.”

However, in determining the appropriate level of disciplinary sanction to be imposed, the press release states that, the commission considered all the facts and circumstances surrounding the matter, the intent and actions, as discerned from the available evidence, and their service track records to date.

Meanwhile, as directed by the government, the Anti Corruption Commission has started its groundwork on the case of misuse of public fund and/ or corruption involved in requiring and appointing BHEL agent in Bhutan.


Sonam Pelden