Not small or compact or efficient

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.

 

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  1. Thanks for your view and sorry for using abbreviation “H”. Not intended for disrespect.

  2. I wasn’t offended, so no apology needed.

    But I had to point out that that “H” is totally meaningless and unnecessary…I think you’d agree, no?

  3. Nop I totally disagree with the RCSC’s stand on obtaining a prior parliamentary approval prior to establishment of the an secretariat. if it is for a new ministry we should follow the constitution. RCSC is just trying to flex their muscles and making their presence felt. anyway with their empire is shrinking with the acc, ecb, raa and the judiciary staff being autonomous. The suit will follow with other agencies too.
    the rcsc’s stand is totally baseless, they are simply following the OL’s case on tax which is genuine.
    I think RCSC chair requires a better legal advice and it is also important to know that if this Govt. want they could also get the parliaments approval, given their sheer majority in the parliament. it will happen like the Tax case.

  4. This is an important and interesting topic to discuss.

    I agree with what OL has said, “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.”

    For a small population of around 700,000 people, a civil service strength of more than 20,000 is definitely not compact and efficient. Also, the expansion of civil servants strength will mean digging deeper into the national exchequer for their salaries, allowances, misuses, etc. My first worry is when we are still so dependant on donor supports, do we have enough cash reserves to meet the expenditure expansion of new Secretariats/Ministries and salary revisions (which is always the top agenda of our parliamentarians). In any case, our OL is so protective of the Haves Society by not letting the Govt. increase taxes on them.

    On the other hand, one unresolved problem remains the unemployment. Creation of a new Secretariat would perhaps solve one lot of the unemployment group. My sincere suggestion as an alternative to OL’s “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.” would be to screen out worthless civil servants in the line ministries and replace them with active youths. There are so many old blocks shelfed in various ministries consuming the benefits without any output. One such example is Home and Culture Affairs Ministry’s Deputy Secretary Nob Tshering. God knows for how long he has been in this post. I myself served more than 23 years in the civil service. The day I joined the civil service, he was there as DS. Today, even when I retire, he is still in that post. Why can’t govt. think of doing something about such redundant people.

    Lastly, my question to OL for his statement, “Ten ministries and ten ministers, plus a prime minister is not small or compact or efficient.” had PDP won the votes to form the government, was it to reduce the number of Ministries and Ministers? Wouldn’t that creat more unemployment?

  5. Pema Wangchuk says:

    Ten ministries and ten ministers, plus a prime minister is not small or compact or efficient.
    I disagreed with this small sentences!!!!!!!!!

  6. The Minister of Economic Affairs must be a very capable man. If he is so, he can manage more than ten things at a time flawlessly. If he is not capable, no matter we have a seperate secretariat for energy under him, it will not only be a waste of human resources and money.

    The questions are:

    1.How capable is our Economic Affairs Minister?

    2.Can the government go on creating secretariats, departments, divisions and so on whenever they feel like they are over worked? The government/politicans must always remember that unlike all the other civil servants, they are all VOLUNTEERS!! If they can not bear the burden of work and they think that they can not handle a job, they can resign. Nobody is compelling them to do the work.

    Lastly, I say, put the right man in the right place and everything will work out well. If you put the wrong guy in the wrong place, no matter you provide him with a seperate secretariat and supply him with a hundred support staffs, it will only lead to disasters!!

  7. “How capable is our Economic Affairs Minister?”

    HE Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk may be a capable Minister to handle two Secretariats. Will future MoEA ministers be equally capable is something that the government need to consider seriously.

    Tangba’s “I say, put the right man in the right place and everything will work out well.” is fully supported.

  8. Apologies… the issue I m raising is outside of the discussion here.

    Going by the strength of on-line forum such as a blog, I think it would be good for all MPs to have their blog that people of their constituencies can visit, share information, make suggestions/grievances.

    OL’s blog show we can actually make us of this forum.

  9. without a separate energy secretariat bhutan can kiss goodbye to the 10,000 mw by 2020 plan

  10. Pema Wangchuk says:

    I have one question to our laudable OL
    Is there any punishment for OL if the verdict from Supreme Court passed out by supporting our government??
    I mean if OL win, government will have to refund the tax and this will be gainful for OL but what about OL losing??? is there punishment fro the defendant?

    I am asking OL since i do not understand???

  11. Pema Wangchuk says:

    I have another question la
    Do politicians are allowed to act in a movie as well as produce movie????????????????

  12. There is a blanket application of small, compact and efficient civil service policy regardless of need assessment. I am sure if proper need assessment is made there are some professional agencies, departments or institution that are suffering due to lack of adequate numbers of qualified professionals. In my own organization, we can not do pests/diseases surveillance simply due to lack of professionals trained in such field, and when request is forwarded to relevant organization, the response is” government can not expand number of civil service strength owing to current policy”; On the other hand we have many redundant civil servants in several organizations who are simply there doing petty clerical tasks.

    In the similar line, i would see a need for more engineers to man Bhutan energy sector. Energy demand is growing and we have to find more sources including hydro-power to meet growing demands. Energy secretariat may not necessarily be with MOEA. It can be established as independent authority and mandated with independent decision making powers. When we can afford agencies like Drug and narcotic regulatory authority we can equally afford “Energy Authority”, which to me is very very important for economic development of Bhutan.

    Cheers

  13. Going through the last edition of the various papers, there seems to be agreement between the PM, the OL and the CEC on the constitutionality of the change in the qualification criteria of LG candidates with regard to MITSI. Their argument is that if the intent is good, then it is ok for the CEC to make exceptions to the provisions of the Constitution and the Elections Act. Now, my understanding was that, you OL, based your argument for opposing the government’s tax proposal on the procedural lapses and not on the intent of raising taxes. Similarly, the CEC delayed the LG elections because of the requirment of Yenlag Thromdes as per the Constititon. If such dispensions can be made, why make all this fuss about the Constitution?

  14. reducing the number of ministries is a great idea! I think the first ministry to go should be the MOLHR. They can just cancel the NGOPs, hand over the VTIs to education or RUB, outsoource small time trainings to private sector, and now loden foundation is doing entrepreneurship training. They are definitely not helping solve the unemployment problem, so thats not going to matter anyways. And the foreign ministry can look into joining ILO. anything i missed? Oh, yeah. Last and most useless. Enforcing the employment act. the act is already there and the ministry’s success rate in enforcing that act must be dismal. it is better if employees got smart and looked through the act and took employers to court for major violations, which is what the labour ministry does anyways.

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