…  following Royal Command in recognition of their efforts and contributions

LG: All local leaders who retired on July 28 will get their retirement benefits after His Majesty The King granted kidu, despite not all of them having completed their five-year term.

The former thrompons of Thimphu and Phuentsholing thromdes will also be given their retirement benefits.

“In order to enhance our collective pursuit towards strengthening democracy and in recognition of the efforts and contributions made by the LG members during their tenure in office, as a benevolent kidu to the LG members and their families, His Majesty The King has graciously granted retirement benefits,” an August 8 letter from the Cabinet Secretariat to the dzongdags states.

“Please inform the local government members of the special kidu granted by His Majesty The King,” the letter adds.

The local leaders will however be entitled to only gratuity. “They won’t be given provident fund (PF) because no PF was deducted from the local leaders,” Department of Local Government (DLG) director general, Lungten Dorji, said.

The letter states that based on the Royal Command, the home and finance ministries will work out the amount to be paid as retirement benefits for the actual duration of offices held by each member of the local government.

“The local leaders will be entitled to the retirement benefits depending on the number of years or months they have served in the local government,” Lungten Dorji said.

For instance, a local leader elected during a bye-election will be entitled to gratuity of at par with the number of months or years served.

The basic salary for a gup is Nu 20,000. Mangmi’s get Nu 15,000 and tshogpas, Nu 7,000.

Those local leaders who have served their full term will get their gratuity of around Nu 100,000. It is estimated that the government will have to shell out Nu 76.415 million on the retirement benefits of local leaders including gups, mangmis and tshogpas of the 205 gewogs.

Local leaders were not eligible for their retirement benefits since some of local governments did not complete their five-year term on July 28 this year. “Some of the local government have not completed their five-year term because save for 29 gewogs, most didn’t convene their first gewog tshogde one month after their election,” Lungten Dorji said.

According to the office order from the home ministry on August 1, the gewogs were supposed to convene on July 28, 2011. But most had not convened within one month after their election, with some meeting only in August and September 2011 or January 2012.

The letter from the Cabinet Secretariat states that the five-year term of the local government is considered from the first sitting of its dzongkhag tshogdu, gewog thogde and thromde tshogde. “Unfortunately, 176 local governments failed to conduct their first sitting within 30 days of their elections as prescribed under the LG Act. This, therefore, has created discrepancies in the completion of tenure of the members of local government,” the letter adds.

As a result, when the office order to dissolve local governments was issued on July 28, most were yet to complete their full terms.

“Therefore the government was not in a position to give retirement benefits because it was unconstitutional without completing the five-year term,” Lungten Dorji said.

Chapter two of section five and six of the Local Government Members’ Entitlement Act states that a member of the LG shall be entitled to salary, allowances and retirement benefits. But  section 26 of the Act also states that except under circumstances like discontinuation from the service from prolonged ill health, differently-abled or death, the members will not be entitled to benefits if they retire before the term or are terminated from service.

According to DLG, the discrepancies occurred for a number of reasons. But one cause was because of the confusion over the 10-day petition period. For instance, the five-year term didn’t include the 10-day petition period after the poll day. Going by the June 27 poll day, the local leaders took over their office only on July 8, 2011 after the completion of the petition period. If the 10-day petition period was considered, the local government should have convened their first sitting only by August 8 against July 28.

The DLG hence is going to pursue talks with the Election Commission of Bhutan to consider including the 10-day petition period and public holidays into the one month period after the election to meet for the first sitting of gewog tshogde, dzongkhag tshogdu and thromde tshogde.

The Cabinet Secretariat also wrote that the second pay commission established in 2013 had also not considered the post retirement benefits for the LG members because of lack of clarity in the Act.

Tempa Wangdi