Cabinet yet to decide on pool vehicle management 

Pool vehicles: Desperate situations of some ministers and an improved state of the economy have made the government procure four new Toyota Prados costing Nu 3M (million) each.

This, the prime minister said, in response to procuring the duty vehicles of ministers of agriculture, home and cultural affairs, works and human settlement, and the information and communications.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay, during the meet-the-press yesterday, said it had become “dangerous” for the ministers to travel long distances in old vehicles.  Albeit the risk, he said that preference was given to the National Council chairman, National Assembly speaker and the leader of the opposition party.

When the vehicles came in for the three, he said, nobody criticised.  The moment vehicles for the ministers came in, lyonchoen said, it was made an issue.  In fact, he said that ministers were the ones mostly travelling.

The prime minister said that all ministers were entitled to a Prado each and the prime minister to a Land Cruiser, as per the parliamentary entitlement Act.

While the government did not procure Prados for all the ministers, as a prime minister, he said he had been using his old vehicle, which he surrendered as the opposition leader prior to the last elections. “… I’m happy with it, it serves the purpose right now but, for long distance, I borrow.”

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said, compared with the past government, he didn’t use escort vehicles. “What used to happen is PM has a brand new land cruiser and he was driving a Crown-two vehicles.”

“I was driving a Tesla, which didn’t cost the government anything, and which didn’t cost the government anything to maintain,” he said.

However, the government has not decided anything on the pool vehicle management that has been long awaited since the time of pay revision.

The Cabinet has deliberated the pool vehicle issue on at least three occasions, most recent being about two weeks ago.  But nothing has been decided as yet. “It looks like we know what we want to do,” he said.  He did not disclose any of the possible outcomes.

The second pay commission’s report on the salary revision recommended that doing away with the pool vehicle system in its entirety could save Nu 1.6B (billion) to finance the pay revision, and lyonchoen said it did not have any implication on financing the pay and allowance of the civil servants till now.

It was also recommended that a separate corporate entity be created to manage these pool vehicles. The corporate entity thus created should rent and provide the transportation services at a fee to government agencies requiring such services.

During the last session of Parliament, the finance minister, Namgay Dorji, announced that the government, in the interim period, decided not to withdraw some 932 commonly used pool vehicles.  The finance ministry was supposed to come up with a clear policy on the pool vehicle system, including a strategy on procurement of vehicles.

By Tshering Dorji