Thinley Namgay 

The National Council (NC) members, during the meet the press on July 5, said they were not satisfied with the decision of the National Assembly Speaker while presiding over the human resource (HR) independence for Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on July 4 at the joint session.

Members claimed the Speaker didn’t follow session procedure.

NC members said that during the joint session, the Speaker used a voting machine instead of show-of-hand procedure while deliberating  the HR independence for ACC.

The Bill was not passed.  There were 62 members of the 72 at that time. Only 20 members supported the Bill; 37 said “no” and five abstained.

The agenda on providing HR independence for ACC was put forward by the joint committee on the ACC (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021 through mutual consensus.  The joint committee consists of three members from the opposition party, four from the government and five from the NC.

NC’s deputy chair, Jigme Wangchuk, said the speaker deliberately used a voting machine so that the ruling government MPs who did not support the Bill would not be seen by the ACC.

“This is not the procedure. Voting machine is supposed to be used only at the last minute.  I have not experienced such a decision as an MP in 15 years,” Jigme Wangchuk said.

Chukha MP Sangay Dorji said that the Speaker’s decision to use a voting machine contradicts section 68 of the Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017, which says that no vote shall be held on a separate session of article of a Bill which has been resolved by the joint committee.

He claimed HR independence for the ACC is necessary and expected that all the members would support it. “ACC depends on the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) today.  ACC as an agency will become like a training ground for employees if they have no independence.”

However, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that he decided as per the procedure.

Speaker said that complaint by the NC was expected as they couldn’t fulfil their aspiration to offer HR independence to ACC.  “If the Bill was passed using the voting machine, would the NC members have complained.”

Speaker said that as per section 61 of the Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017, he tried to give further room for discussion by the joint committee.   “I told the house to raise hands on this.   Only a few did. It gave an understanding that the house can decide the matter.”

Section 61 states that the motion moved by a member to amend the Joint Committee’s recommendation is supported by a simple majority of the members present. The House shall refer the proposal to the Joint Committee for its review and recommendation.

Speaker also cited Section 62 of the Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 regarding  his ruling.

Section 62 says: “the final report shall not be open for further amendment at the Joint Sitting and after the report has been submitted by the Chairperson or Member, the Bill shall be put to vote by the Speaker. It shall be passed if endorsed by not less than two-thirds of the total number of Members of both the Houses present and voting.”

Gasa MP Dorji Khandu said that the issue of human resource independence for ACC is not new and it concerned him. “How can the ACC uphold check and balance if they have no independence?  For instance, the Election Commission of Bhutan has HR autotomy and they are conducting their duty well.”

The MP said the attrition rate in ACC is high and it is vital to give HR autonomy to ACC.