Appointing dzongdags

My last post generated a lot of discussions. Good.

Most of you feel that the cross transfer of the Samtse and Haa dzongdags does not represent new appointments. That they are merely transfers of existing dzongdags. And, that the home ministry has the authority to transfer existing dzongdags.

I disagree. The home ministry cannot transfer existing dzongdags for two reasons: One, dzongkhags are not under the home ministry – they are independent, autonomous agencies. So, the home ministry does not have legal administrative authority over dzongdags. According to Chapter 16, Section 2.1.3 of the BCSR, only the RCSC can execute “inter-ministry/agency” transfers. And the BCSR defines agency as “the Ministry, Dzongkhag, and Autonomous Organisation…”

And two, according to Article 2.19(q) of the Constitution, dzongdags shall be appointed by the Druk Gyalpo “by warrant under His hand and seal.” But does this mean that the Druk Gyalpo appoints dzongdags in general, as a cadre of civil servants not meant for specific dzongkhags? Or, does it mean that the Druk Gyalpo appoints dzongdags to specific dzongkhags?

The RCSC favours the second interpretation. Hence their announcement:

His Majesty the King has appointed Rinzin Dorji, Chief Planning Officer, GNH Commission as Dzongdag, Samtse Dzongkhag; Karma Dukpa, Sr. Drungpa, Phuntsholing Dungkhag as Dzongdag, Zhemgang Dzongkhag; and Sonam Jigme, Chief Trade & Industry Officer, Regional Trade & Industry Office in Samdrup Jongkhar as Dzongdag, Gasa Dzongkhag.

The above appointments have been made in accordance with Article 2, section 19 (q) of the Constitution.

His Majesty’s warrant is specific. Rinzin Dorji was appointed as Samtse Dzongdag, not as any dzongdag. Karma Dukpa as Zhemgang Dzongdag. And Sonam Jigme as Gasa Dzongdag. So they cannot be transferred to other dzongkhags.

But that does not mean that they, and other existing dzongdags, can never serve in other dzongkhags. If the RCSC and the government feel that moving a particular dzongdag to another dzongkhag is desirable, all they’ve got to do is follow procedure. Follow Article 2, Section 19(q) of the Constitution.

And why is procedure, especially those enshrined in the Constitution, so important? To ensure checks and balances. And to ensure respect for law and transparency.

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.”

Open Letter to Dasho Dzongdags

Calling on chief executives

Dear Dasho:

I am writing about a matter of grave importance: the involvement of political parties in local governments.

You will recall that, during your recent annual conference, the Prime Minister called for party workers to be involved in the development process at the local levels. And, that he requested for party workers to be invited to observe the sessions of the local governments.

Article 22 of the Constitution clearly defines the powers, objectives, structure and functions of local governments. It also ensures that local governments remain nonpartisan. As such, political parties cannot be directly involved in the development process at the local levels, and allowing them to do so would seriously undermine the integrity and authority of local governments.

Chapter 8 of the Local Government Act empowers the chairpersons of local governments to invite any person as an observer during their sessions. So nobody else, including the government, should be permitted to decide who must be invited as observers. And nobody, especially party workers, should be allowed to receive automatic invitations based on their positions. I firmly believe that giving in to the government or to party workers on this matter would compromise the powers of the chairpersons, and encourage party politics to influence local governments.

Local governance has been carefully and steadily strengthened during the past three decades, beginning with the establishment of Dzongkhag Yarkay Tshogdus in 1981. The introduction of parliamentary democracy should further strengthen local government institutions, and the Constitution, which requires power and authority to be decentralized and devolved to local governments, provides the legal instruments to do so.

I would, therefore, like to request you, Dasho, as the Chief Executive of your Dzongkhag, to protect local governments to the best of your ability, and to prevent political interests from corrupting this important institution.

With my best wishes,

Yours faithfully,

Tshering Tobgay

Copy: The Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of Bhutan

Photo credit: Kuensel

High time

Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk announced that the government has called all the dzongdags to Thimphu. And that in January, the government will meet all them. Very good.

It’s almost nine months since the new government took office, and they haven’t yet briefed the dzongdags. So I was getting seriously concerned. Dzongdags, after all, are the chief executives in the dzongkhags, and are responsible for translating the government’s policies and plans into action.

He also announced that a meeting with all the gups and the DYT chairmen would follow. Very, very good.