Commenting on “No blank cheque!”, one reader, going by the name “justmyview”, asked what I thought about the government’s proposal to create a separate secretariat for energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. In particular, “justmyview” asked if the Parliament’s approval was needed to create the proposed secretariat, and elaborated:
Constitution clearly says that addition or reduction of ministry requires approval from parliament but doesn’t say anything about creating secretariat. Whether separate energy secretariat is necessary or not is altogether a different issue, but is it necessary to get parliamentary approval for creating secretariat? This is, yet, another important issue which will set precedence for the future government. Now the question is, should secretariat be treated like ministry? Or are there some differences? So, in this regard, what is honorable OL’s honest view on whether it is necessary to get approval from parliament or not? Who should have a final authority? Should it be with RCSC or Cabinet or parliament?
A week later, and “justmyview” was still waiting for my views:
I am still waiting to hear HOL’s view on constitutionality issue between government and RCSC regarding energy secretariat. Or HOL has no view on this issue?
First things first: Let’s drop that “H” before the “OL”. It serves no purpose.
Now for my views: Does the creation of the proposed energy secretariat need the Parliament’s approval? Yes.
The proposed secretariat will be headed by a secretary to the government and will have a separate PPD and a separate AFD in addition to whatever other departments have been proposed. By this proposal, the energy secretariat will be a secretariat of a ministry. And its structure (AFD, PPD and departments under a secretary) will be like that of any existing secretariat under any ministry.
By placing the proposed secretariat under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, that minister would, in effect, be in charge to two ministries – a ministry of economic affairs, and a ministry of energy. Whether the two secretariats report to two separate ministers or, as proposed, to a common minister, they are essentially two separate secretariats of two separate ministries. And this, incidentally, is exactly what I had said when, more than two years ago, I first heard about the government’s intentions to establish an energy secretariat.
According to Article 20 Section 2 of the Constitution, “… Creation of an additional ministry or reduction of any ministry shall be approved by Parliament.” Therefore, the creation of the energy secretariat (by which a new ministry, the ministry for energy, would be created) must require the Parliament’s approval. So I’m concerned that the government seems convinced that they do not need the Parliament’s approval to establish the new secretariat.
But I’m also concerned that the government seems ready to recklessly expand the civil service.
According to the latest figures we already have 20,838 civil servants. Add to that the 1,180 drivers and 4,895 general and elementary support personnel, and the total number of civil servants becomes 26,914. That works out to about one civil servant for every 22 citizens. That should make us wonder if our civil service is small, compact and efficient.
But that’s not all. If we add the armed forces, government corporations and politicians (MPs and members of local government) to the number of civil servants, we could already have one public servant for every ten citizens! And that should convince us that that’s not small or compact or efficient.
Now back to the proposed energy secretariat. If the government is determined to have a separate secretariat, or even a separate minister, so be it. Just submit the proposal to the Parliament. And, along with it, submit another proposal to reduce the number of ministries and ministers.
Ten ministries and ten ministers, plus a prime minister is not small or compact or efficient.