All available evidence found that the three secretaries and the CoS adjudged the allegations to have national implications and therefore, acted on it in good faith

Breaking News: The Royal Civil Service Commission has decided that the three secretaries to government, who the Cabinet surrendered last December, will be reassigned.

In a press release, the Commission issued today, the decision to reassign the Cabinet secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk, the economic affairs secretary Dasho Sonam Tshering and the foreign secretary Yeshey Dorji is in accordance with section 76 of the Civil Service Act and Chapter 19, section of the civil service rules.

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.

“Overall, the Commission found that the two extreme administrative actions of mandatory separation from the Civil Service or having the three government secretaries continue in their current positions, is not tenable,” the press release states.

On December 12 last year, the Cabinet had surrendered the three secretaries to the Commission for action.

The Commission constituted an investigation committee after formally receiving the administrative charges against the three secretaries on January 12 this year. 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.

Following a thorough deliberation on the investigation committee’s findings, the commission has established 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 hydro power conclave on August 27, 2014 in Thimphu.”

The press release states 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 made by ENERTIA could have negative implications on Indo-Bhutan relations and the future of hydropower development. Subsequently, the press release states that the CoS had also deemed it important enough to be pursued.

Based on the investigation, the Commission determined that “there have been procedural lapses and poor judgment shown in thus serious matter by the three government secretaries.”

“In particular, they 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,” the press release states. “As the top bureaucrats, there is no room for such lapses. All available evidence show that three government secretaries and the CoS adjudged the allegations to have national implications and therefore, acted on it in good faith.”

The press release states 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.”

“The presence of such a system would not have allowed this situation to arise and therefore, it has been recommended to the government,” it states.

Regarding the case of misuse of public fund and/ or corruption involved in requiring and appointing BHEL agent in Bhutan, the commission states that it didn’t consider this case since the government has already directed ACC to investigate it.

The Commission also said that, pending the investigation and in the interest of good governance, the Commission placed the three secretaries under “authorised absence.”

“This was done after careful consideration and henceforth, will, where necessary, be used to deal with similar situations, the press release states. “This was necessary for the simple fact that where the matter pertains to the top civil servants, it is the RCSC which has to investigate and where required take disciplinary action.”

Therefore, it states that, “pending the investigation that must precede such action, in the interest of good governance on one hand and ensuring the top civil servants are not judged or presumed guilty ex-ante (before the event) on the other hand, it was important to introduce such a provision.”