Good news

The National Assembly has endorsed the government’s proposal to increase the salaries of public servants. Here’s the good news:

Civil Servants will get a 20% raise over their pre-2009 salaries. Pre-2009 is used as a base as that was when salaries were last increased (by 35%), taking the total increase to 55%. Civil service salaries will now range from Nu 7,067 (for GSC II staff) to Nu 52,654 a month (for EX-1/ES-1 level).

Secretaries to Government will draw Nu 55,490 a month. And the Cabinet Secretary will get Nu 63,000. That makes the Cabinet Secretary Bhutan’s top civil servant.

The pay scale for holders of constitutional offices, including members of the Judiciary, have not changed as they were fixed recently.

Members of local government will also receive a 20% increase over their pre-2009 levels, taking the salary for gups to Nu 14,355. The salary for thrompons has been fixed at par with EX-2 level (Nu 44,175). In addition, thrompons will get a house rent allowance of 20%.

The salary for Members of Parliament has been increased from Nu 36,000 to Nu 55,490. The Deputy Chairperson (of the National Council) and the Deputy Speaker (of the National Assembly) will draw Nu 63,000.

All that is good news.

But there’s more good news: the prime minister, chief justice, speaker, chairperson, cabinet ministers, and opposition leader have not taken salary increases. Their salaries will remain unchanged at Nu 78,000 per month.

The proposal to increase salaries will be discussed by the National Council today. They should endorse it, in which case the increases will come into effect on 1st January 2011.

Polling McKinsey

During question hour today, I asked the prime minister to explain what work McKinsey were doing that couldn’t be done by our own civil servants. And in my leader to the question, I’d reported that the civil servants I’d spoken with had confided that they were not impressed with the work that McKinsey had done so far.

Naturally, the prime minister saw it differently. He claimed that every civil servant he’d talked to had been impressed with McKinsey’s work and had lavished praise on the world’s leading consultancy firm.

Perhaps.

But still, let’s conduct a poll – we haven’t had one in quite a while. Today’s poll asks,  “Are civil servants impressed with McKinsey’s work?”

About administrative action

The second issue in “Administrative action” asked if prime minister had the authority to issue “… directives to the home ministry, the judiciary and the police to take appropriate actions against the senior dzongkhag officials.”

Again, several of you felt that, as head of the government, the prime minister does have this authority. And again I refer to the laws of the land.

Chapter 19 of the BCSR is dedicated to administrative discipline in the civil service. And in its pages are contained procedures for the identification, investigation and adjudication of offenses by civil servants, all powers for which are vested in the RCSC. According to Chapter 19, Section 2.2.1 of the BCSR:

The RCSC shall enforce all rules & regulations and laws governing the discipline of a civil servant.

Section 2.5 of the same chapter goes on to state that:

The powers to impose both minor and major penalty on the Secretary and Head of the Autonomous Agency shall be exercised by the RCSC.

And, as noted in the previous post and defined in the BCSR, agencies include dzongkhags.

If civil servants transgress, they must be punished. But, for better or for worse, existing rules dictate that RCSC should levy the punishment. Not the home ministry. And not the prime minister.

And what of the judiciary? If judges misbehave, they too must be bought to account. And, in their case, in accordance with the Judicial Services Act. But can the prime minister “direct” the judiciary to take action against a senior judge? Absolutely not. Not if the judiciary is independent of the executive.

Administrative action

The Samtse Dzongdag has been transferred to Haa. His transfer, which was decided by the home ministry, is meant to be an administrative action against him.

But Article 2, Section 19(q) of our constitution states that:

The Druk Gyalpo shall, by warrant under His hand and seal, appoint: … Dzongdags on the recommendation of the Prime Minister who shall obtain nominations from the Royal Civil Service Commission.

If it is the Druk Gyalpo who appoints dzongdags, then how is it that the home ministry has appointed a new dzongdag for Haa? And a new one for Samtse? Kuensel raised this point more than a year ago. And so did I.

I will ask the RCSC if due process was followed in the appointment of the two dzongdags.

And I will ask the RCSC if their rules permit the prime minister to issue “… directives to the home ministry, the judiciary and the police to take appropriate actions against the senior dzongkhag officials.”

420 for McKinsey

Dasho Kinley Dorji to Kuensel, last week, defending the government’s decision to hire McKinsey:

I was told that the total amount of money the government spends on consultants in a year is actually more than the amount made public. It’s about what you are getting for what you are paying. We need to define what is too expensive and too cheap.

That we hire too many consultants is common knowledge. But that the government spends more for them than we are led believe is not.

We should be very concerned if we suspect that the government is misleading the public. And we should be doubly concerned if the government uses that very transgression to justify spending even more money to hire even more consultants.

McKinsey is costing us US$ 9.2 million. That’s about 420 million ngultrums.

420 million for 17 McKinsey consultants. But they are not even full-time consultants. Eight of them will work in Bhutan only in the first year. And, five of them will be available only in the second year.

And the remaining four? They, we are told, are “…top leaders at the prime minister’s level who fly in and out of the country.”

Incredible!

Incidentally, the government spends Nu 440 million a month on pay and allowances for the entire public service.

That’s 440 million for the more than 21,000 full-time employees of the government. And that includes all civil servants, ministers, members of parliament, constitutional post holders, local functionaries, and those serving abroad.

Now back to McKinsey. The government is paying them 420 million. That’s a lot of money. Let’s hope that they are worth it. If not, we’ll be forced to shout: “420!”

Adverse opinions

Should civil servants be allowed to express adverse opinions about the Government? 93% of those that took the the last poll answered with a resounding “Yes!”

Now our polls are not scientific, and their results may not necessarily represent popular opinion. Still, and particularly on this issue, legislators, the Government and the RCSC would do well to reflect on the results.

The Constitution grants every Bhutanese citizen with the fundamental right to “…freedom of speech, opinion and expression.” And yet, the Civil Service Bill, which the National Assembly passed last year, requires civil servants to “Refrain from publically expressing adverse opinion against the Royal Government.”

The Civil Service Bill will be discussed in the National Council during its next session, sometime in May this year. So if you feel strongly about this issue and if you want to protect the “freedom of speech, opinion ad expression” of civil servants, talk about it to senior civil servants. And tell them to discuss the matter with the Royal Civil Service Commission.

But, more importantly, talk to your representatives in the National Council. And tell the how you feel. Telephone them. Write to them. Meet them.

On my part, I will request the Human Rights Committee to review if the Civil Service Bill undermines the fundamental rights of civil servants.

Missing incentives

M.I.A

Two months ago, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the Tourism Council of Bhutan signed “performance compacts” with the Prime Minister. The contracts outlined important work that the agencies would do during the next three years, and set specific targets that they would have to achieve.

Some countries – India, France, Kenya, and Malaysia are examples – have used performance contracts successfully to improve the overall performance of government agencies. And any practice that improves efficiency, accountability and transparency in our government must be welcome.

But for the contracts to work, the targets must first be realistic. And they must be achievable. The TCB’s target of “attracting 100,000 ecological and culturally conscious tourists” is unrealistic and impossible. In 2009, only 23,480 tourists visited Bhutan. To quadruple it in three years is farfetched, especially since the Government has also mandated that all hotels catering to tourists must have at least a 3-star rating.

Setting achievable targets is important. But it is not sufficient. Adequate incentives must also be provided for achieving the targets. And, as far as I know, the performance compacts that were signed did not offer any incentives.

To be sure, the Prime Minister’s incentive is clear: votes. So he would obviously want the “compact” signatories to deliver.

But what about the officials, the civil servants? What’s in it for them? Why would TCB officials work four times harder if they can’t see any immediate reward?

PCS postion

your position?

your position?

The results on our last poll, on banning the sale of tobacco products, is in: of 210 voters, 199 (that’s 57%) think that prohibiting the sale of tobacco products is not a good idea; 83 of you (40%) would support the ban; and 8 voters don’t care either way. While those against the ban win by 17 percentage points, the last poll was the closest so far. Thanks everyone for participating.

Our new poll is on the civil service. The position classification system continues to spark debate among civil servants, so I’m asking if the system has support. Please give me your views. They will help me prepare for the upcoming discussions on the Civil Service Bill.