Bonded teachers?

Teachers matter

Suppose you’ve just completed college. And suppose that you are a topper – that you’re in the top 5% of the graduates. Would you consider becoming a teacher?

You should. For the sake of our children, you should. That, at least, is what McKinsey & Company suggest.

About five years ago, McKinsey sought to find out why some schools succeed while others don’t. They did that by studying the school systems of 25 countries, including 10 of the top performers, to identify the common characteristics of high-performing school systems.

McKinsey’s year-long study revealed that increased spending and ambitious education reform do not necessarily improve school systems. Instead, they singled out teacher quality as the most important attribute affecting student outcomes, and suggested that:

“The three factors that matter most are:

  1. getting the right people to become teachers;
  2. developing them into effective instructors;and
  3. ensuring the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.”

Teacher quality matters and matters a lot. That’s why South Korean schools make sure they attract the top 5% of the graduates. That’s why they boast one of the best school systems in the world. And that’s why the Koreans claim that: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

Similarly, other countries that have great school systems also attract the best teachers. Finland, for example, attracts the top 10% of graduates. And Singapore and Hong Kong each attract the top 30% of their graduates.

The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. That’s right. So that’s why we should do more to encourage our best graduates to become teachers. That’s why we should – as suggested by McKinsey – get the right people to become teachers, train them well, and then enable them to teach.

If we really want to improve our school system, we should get serious about attracting and then training and retaining the best possible teachers. That, unfortunately, is not the case right now.

And the situation is about to get even worse.

The RCSC has recently announced that, except for posts that require a teaching background, teachers will not be eligible to apply for other vacant positions in the government.

Our schools need to attract the best of our graduates. But the best will not opt for teaching if they know that they will never be able to apply for other government posts.

There’s no doubt that the RCSC’s rule is meant to address teacher shortage. But the rule is shortsighted – by preventing teachers from competing for other government positions, teaching is going to become even more unattractive and the best teachers will stay away from teaching in the first place. That will not be good for our schools. And that will not be good for our children. So the RCSC should rescind its rule.

Teaching should be attractive. It should not be forced, even for teachers.

Bonded teachers is not a good idea. The RCSC and the Education Ministry may wish to read McKinsey’s “How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top” to understand why.

Vice ministers?

What? The prime minister wants to call secretaries vice-ministers?

Why? Who do we want to impress?

Shouldn’t we focus on streamlining the civil service instead? Shouldn’t we be working towards making the civil service small, compact and efficient?

Where did the prime minister get this idea from anyway? Where would vice ministers draw their legal basis from? And under what legal authority would they function?

What? The RCSC is in the dark? Really?

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.

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.”

Managing performance

Chapter 12 of the BCSR is dedicated to performance management.

It provides a detailed prescription of how civil servants must plan, review and rate their work in order to improve productivity and accountability in the civil service. The general idea is good: it is to cultivate a performance-based culture that rewards meritocracy and professionalism. It is also intended to boost morale in the civil service.

So the RCSC’s performance appraisal system should be implemented faithfully. But, we are told, it isn’t. Civil servants say that the appraisal system is not taken seriously, and that it does not work. They also admit that appraisal forms are routinely completed ex post, when it’s time for promotions and trainings.

Now there’s a bigger danger: performance compacts. The government, with McKinsey’s guidance, has started signing performance compacts with several agencies. Unfortunately, the RCSC is not involved; they have not even been consulted. So, these compacts will just add to redundancies in the government.

But it’s more than mere redundancy. Our civil servants are confused. They cannot understand why only a few agencies and, within them, only a few officials must sign binding compacts with the government. Most of them don’t understand the new system. And, many of them don’t feel a sense of ownership.

If the performance compact can improve efficiency in the civil service, if it can increase productivity, if it can lift the morale of civil servants, it must be pursued. But for it to succeed, it must first be understood, and then fully accepted by the very people who must ultimately implement the compacts, i.e., the civil servants.

Equally important, the new system must involve the agency that is legally mandated to manage the performance of civil servants, i.e., the RCSC.

Yes, we need to allow our civil servants to improve the way they work. But what we do must be effective. And must be legal.

Performance compacts, as they are currently being implemented, are neither.

Educating officials

Yesterday, during the NA’s Question Hour, I asked the Education Minister:

On 30th June 2009, the RCSC terminated (without benefits) seven civil servants from the Ministry of Education for embezzling Government funds. However, the RCSC and Ministry of Education had already taken various disciplinary actions against each of them. So the termination of these education officials may be in contravention to Chapter 19, Section 10.2 of the RCSC’s BCSR which states that “Only one penalty shall be imposed in each case.”

How has the Ministry of Education sought to redress this possible injustice against the Education personnel?

All seven officials had tampered with accounts to include TA/DA for people who had not participated in the workshops that they had conducted. The officials claimed that the accounts had been manipulated to cover workshop expenses.

What they did is wrong. They must accept responsibility for their actions. And they must be fully accountable.

Four of the seven officials had manipulated less than Nu 30,000 each. The others between Nu 100,000 and Nu 200,000. All of them were terminated. And without benefits. The benefits (government contribution to the Provident Fund, and gratuity) for some of them total Nu 12,50,000.

If the penalty for misusing Nu 29,000 is termination from service and loss of more than Nu 13,00,000 (as in one official’s case), so be it. That the penalty appears excessively high is no excuse to argue in favour of officials who misuse public money. The law must be obeyed.

But that’s where it gets complicated. The law (in this case the BCSR) clearly states that only one penalty can be imposed on each case. And in this case, all seven officials received multiple penalties.

The first penalty was imposed by the RCSC and Ministry of Education jointly. They had decided to withhold the promotions, increments and further training of the officials involved. These penalties were applied because the RCSC and Ministry of Education had decided not to take the officials to court.

But after applying the penalties, the officials were taken to court. The District Court ruled in favour of the officials. But, the High Court ruled against them. And charged them with sentences for misdemeanor. Now the BCSR states that civil servants charged with misdemeanor will be terminated (without benefits) from service. So the seven officials were terminated – they lost their jobs and their benefits.

But, in terminating them, the RCSC violated BCSR, which prohibits the application of more than one penalty per offence.

Hence my question.

The Education Minister’s response was encouraging. He reported that he was pursuing the matter, and that the “case is not yet over.”

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.

Protecting our judiciary

Wanted: more protection

Well protected?

On 9 June, Kuensel reported that the selection of the new DDC secretary may have violated the RCSC’s position classification system. If this is the case, RCSC should look into it.

I have no problem about a member of the judiciary applying of a civil service post, and the RCSC accepting that person’s candidature, or selecting that person. No problem that is, as long as both the Judiciary’s rules and the RCSC’s rules are followed.

So the RCSC may wish to ensure that due process was followed.

RCSC should also consider if it has infringed on the independence of the Judiciary. Earlier the RCSC had issued a “transfer and appointment order” transferring a senior judge out of the judiciary and appointing him as a secretary in the civil service. But, according to the Constitution and related laws, RCSC does not have administrative powers on the Judiciary. So it cannot order the transfer of a judge. Doing so would compromise the independence of the Judiciary. And that, put simply, is very dangerous.

So the RCSC must retract its “order”. And apologize.

About the constitution

Kuensel is correct for being concerned that the 12 “dzongdags’ transfer flouts BCSR rule”. The newspaper is also correct for being concerned that RCSC rules may have been broken. And correct for pointing out that our government is “not above the law.”

But, as serious as Kuensel’s concerns already are, we should be even more seriously concerned. Why? Because our cabinet’s offense is not limited to breaking BCSR and RCSC rules. Instead, our cabinet may have knowingly broken the provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

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.”

All 12 dzongdags who recently received transfers are qualified and experienced. And they probably make very good chief executives in the dzgonkhags. But, for democracy’s sake, respect the rule of law. Respect our constitution.

So the government should apologize for their transgressions; rescind the transfers of the 12 dzongdags; and follow due process to appoint the 12 dzongdags as enshrined in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.