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The oath taking ceremony for 408 graduates selected through the Bhutan Civil Service Examination was held at the RUB Convention Centre yesterday in Thimphu
The oath taking ceremony for 408 graduates selected through the Bhutan Civil Service Examination was held at the RUB Convention Centre yesterday in Thimphu

Bhutan Civil Service Rules revised

The commission added three more chapters 

Starting January 1 this year, a civil servant who returns after a long-term study and wishes to resign will either have to serve the entire study obligation period or refund the entire expenditure to the government, according to the revised Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSR) 2018.

According to the BCSR 2018 that was released yesterday, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) would provide pay but study obligation would be increased unlike in the past where civil servants could go on studies without pay.

RCSC Chairperson Karma Tshiteem and Leytshog Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang release the revised BCSR 2018
RCSC Chairperson Karma Tshiteem and Leytshog Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang release the revised BCSR 2018

RCSC Director, Tashi Pem, said a civil servant who goes for studies for the first time must serve double the study period duration and when they go for the second time, they will have to serve three times the study period.

“Earlier when a civil servant returned from study leave, the rule allowed one to not complete the study obligation and resign by refunding the cost of the remaining service obligation,” Tashi Pem said. “For instance, if the obligation is eight years, a civil servant could serve for four years and resign by paying for the remaining four years.”

Tashi Pem said with the new rules, this is different. A civil servant can now go to study any number of times but after completion, they will have to remain in service. Should they choose to leave, they will have to refund the cost of the entire study duration even if they have already served half of the obligation period.

Another reform in the BCSR, Tashi Pem said is the reporting time for civil servants after their long term training. One rule mandates a civil servant to report to work within 21 days after returning from a long-term training. But another rule also states that a civil servant could resume service within three months.

“The rule was not clear and to make it clear, we’ve removed the three months rule because RCSC has realised that civil servants either do not come back or surrender their salary and take their time to join service,” Tashi Pem said. “But now a civil servant should report back within 21 days and if they report on the 22nd day, they will have to compulsorily retire and pay the entire financial obligation.”

The BCSR, which came into effect from yesterday emanates from the five reforms the Commission introduced since 2014, to strengthen the civil service and bring about greater transparency, professionalism and meritocracy.

The major changes in the BCSR was derived from reforms such as the OD Exercises carried out across government agencies from June 2014 and the implementation of its recommendations, launch of Civil Servants Welfare Scheme as well as the Civil Service Support Desk, retirement planning services and mentoring programmes for young civil servants.

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

The enhancement of maternity and paternity leave, executive performance management, and the introduction of a new Performance Management System called Managing for Excellence are also included in the BCSR 2018.

Although the extraordinary leave (EOL) pattern has remained the same, the condition of EOL has changed in the revised BCSR. For instance, now a civil servant can work while on EOL, but the condition is they shall not work for full-time employment or consultancy that conflict with his/her civil service roles and responsibilities or be employed by/ for government works and project.

“Earlier, civil servants couldn’t do anything during EOL but now there are exceptions. While we made some rules flexible, there are some rules, which are now stringent,” Tashi Pem said.

The BCSR also sees a change in the waiting list, which is now catagorised into interim transfer and waiting list. Interim transfer is for those who had to leave their position in the interest of public to work elsewhere but their position is not protected.

Such cases would be categorised in the interim transfer list and as and when a vacancy arises, the official would be placed back to their position. The waiting list however, is for those who are not active in service.

“For instance, somebody who has gone on EOL for personal reasons could return to their position if its vacant,” the director said. “But now, if that agency does not have a vacancy, then all those who have gone for long term studies or EOL, will be put on a waiting list for six months. If no vacancy arises within six months, they will have to go for voluntary resignation.”

Civil servants will also  have to go through a moderation exercise where all the civil servants will be assessed through a bell curve, where the agency will have their own ratings drawn from the government’s performance management system.

“If a civil servant gets an outstanding rating continuously for three years from the moderation committee, they would automatically be considered for meritorious promotion. But a civil servant with performance rating of “need improvement” for three consecutive years shall be compulsorily retired from service.”

Tashi Pem added that most do not get need improvement rating earlier because most of the ratings were lenient. But now the moderation committee will rate the civil servants.

A significant change under the transfer chapter is that all new appointees should stay in the first place of appointment for a minimum of three years. Another change is, when both spouses are transferred to the same place, both would be entitled for transportation allowances as per their positions.

Meanwhile, 408 new civil servants took their oath of service and joined the civil service yesterday. The new appointees should join work within two weeks.

The BCSR was revised following consultation with more than 3,800 civil servants and 680 online feedback from March to December 2017.

Yangchen C Rinzin

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