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A not so apolitical civil service

It was yet again another year of reforms in the civil service in the dog year. But what stole the show was the politicisation of civil service and grievances against Individual Work Plan (IWP).

The biggest achievement among the reforms initiated in the civil service was the launch of the revised Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSR) 2018.

Apart from major changes such as introduction of the Super Structure to bring integrity to the entry system into the civil service as well as to ensure that civil servants are trained and specialised in areas they are recruited for, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) also introduced doctor’s career path reforms to help attract, retain and motivate doctors who are in critical shortage.

Despite the complaints and confusions, the Commission stuck with its decision to have civil servants go through a moderation exercise, which is now mandatory and included in the BSCR 2018. A civil servant gets a meritorious promotion if he or she gets outstanding for three consecutive years but a civil servant shall be compulsorily retired if he or she gets need improvement.

For all the measures, reforms and creation of more government agencies, maintaining a small, compact and efficient civil service posed a challenge for the commission. The civil service grew by 92.51 per cent between September 2003, with 15,050 civil servants, and June 2018. In the fiscal year 2016-17 alone, it marked growth of 4.8 percent. A total of 717 civil servants had put in their resignations to date since January 2017 until 2018.

The dog year is likely to be remembered most for politicising the civil service. As civil servants started resigning to join political parties, the “best and the brightest” according to former ruling party, PDP, concerns were rife on how dangerous such a phenomenon could be.

As debates on its politicisation raged, the Commission came under much flak for initiating the Individual Work Plan (IWP), which many felt was irrelevant and unrealistic and more so for the education sector. The education ministry even proposed to give the monitoring of the IWP to the ministry reasoning difficulties in the implementation of IWP for teachers.

The Commission defended that IWP as necessary in education because teachers are part of the civil service and every individual is required to make a clear plan of action. Not much has changed despite all the howling.

But the Commission deserves credit for successfully instituting the  “Go to Person” (GtP) to help civil servants report incidences related to sexual harassment at the workplace. The commission hasn’t shared on the cases reported though. In another milestone, the Commission also launched a competency-based framework for public service programme.

It aims to guide government agencies to identify skills need of employees, assist in continuous development and professionalisation of civil servants to deliver responsibilities effectively and enhance efficiency.

However, the Commission could not implement their plan to make mandatory annual health checkup for civil servants. It reasoned huge implication on the administrative cost and implications.

The civil service got a boost when His Majesty on National Day reminded the civil servants on the enormity of the development plans and commanded them to render unstinted support to all of the government’s endeavours aimed at the welfare of the people and country. It was a call for the civil service to be more effective in the new system of government because they represent continuity.

With a massive plan and a mandate to change, the pig year is likely to test the civil service like no other sector.

Yangchen C Rinzin

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