NC and NA remain at odds on whether commissioners/constitutional post holders need first to resign from civil service
Amendment: The National Council did not accept the amendment that commissioners and members of constitutional offices need not resign from the civil service on their appointment, as endorsed by the Assembly to the Entitlement and Service Conditions Act for the holders, members and commissioners of the constitutional office of Bhutan (amendment) bill 2014.
Instead, the Council endorsed that members and commissioners may be reappointed, subject to a maximum of second term. This is the new amendment, sub section 4 of the Act that states “a person appointed as the holder, members and commissioners of a constitutional office shall resign from his or her previous office with post service benefits.”
Finance minister Namgay Dorji introduced the bill at the Council yesterday. The National Assembly, during its winter session last November, endorsed that commissioners and members of constitutional offices need not resign from the civil service on their appointment, and sent the bill to the Council.
The National Council, during the 14th session, directed its legislative committee to review the amendments proposed by the National Assembly. Besides keeping the resignation clause (section 4) as it is in the 2010 Act, the legislative committee proposed three amendments to the bill, of which the House endorsed two.
The first was the preamble and the two sub sections. Section 4(A) states that constitutional post holders shall not be eligible for reappointment, while a member or commissioner may be reappointed subject to a maximum of second term. Section 4(B) states that, for a constitutional post holder, member and commissioner, who completes his or her term before the superannuation age, the government shall provide a fair compensation package, taking into consideration the number of years until the superannuation.
On the government providing a fair compensation package to constitutional post holders, members and commissioners who complete their term before the superannuation age, most members disapproved it, citing several issues.
Lhuentse’s council member Tempa Dorji said, as the constitutional post holder, members and commissioners is not necessarily appointed from the civil service, how the compensation would be made after their term needs to be considered. “It needs to be seen on what basis would the compensation be made, like which retirement age to be considered, for instance,” he said, adding he was not in favour of the clause.
Paro’s council member Kaka Tshering also said that the government should be very rich to be able to compensate all constitutional post holders, members and commissioners with various benefits. “As constitutional post holders, they’re entitled many benefits during their term, so there’s no need for this clause,” he said, adding this could set a precedence.
Thimphu’s council member, Nima Gyaltshen, felt that there was no need for the government to rush to endorse the bill when the government couldn’t consult relevant agencies for the amendment of bill as stated by the finance minister when presenting the outline of the bill. “This isn’t the first time that the government has done that, citing their busy schedule, as though we’re the ones here without any work,” he said.
Nima Gyaltshen said he was not in favour of both clauses, as irrespective of the competency of the constitutional post holder, members and commissioners, they are still eligible for a second term. “It’s not justified if they have to be provided compensation until their superannuation age, irrespective of their capability,” he said.
Others suggested that a regulation for compensation could be framed for constitutional post holders, members and commissioners, while some said the compensation should depend on the performance during their term. Some members also questioned the eligibility of the compensation should constitutional post holders, members and commissioners join the private sector on completion of their term.
Eminent member Dasho Tashi Wangyal, who spoke in favour of clause 4(B), said the main contentious issue of the bill was whether or not members and commissioners should resign. “As the house endorsed that they must resign, the constitutional post holders should be well compensated to ensure independence,” he said.
Dagana’s council member Sonam Dorji said that the constitutional post holders, members and commissioners should be eligible for compensation. In response to some members’ view that the country’s economy must be considered on the compensation aspect, Sonam Dorji said there would never be a time when the economy would fully recover to be able to compensate constitutional post holders. “Only competent people are recruited in constitutional offices,” he said. “The two clauses would mean extra responsibility for the committee to recruit the constitutional post holders.”
Meanwhile, finance minister Namgay Dorji said that the prevailing Act needed to address the issues regarding the resignation of the members and commissioners of the constitutional office, which deprived qualified and experienced individuals from serving the nation as they were to resign before they reach their retirement age. Lyonpo said civil servants are young, and the pool of candidates, from where the nominations were made, was from the civil service. “The average age for members of the civil service is becoming younger, meaning they have many years of active service,” lyonpo said.
Lyonpo also said that the current system would lead to a steady loss of good civil servants, which will be inimical to the interest of the government. “Early resignations would only reduce the pool of competent civil servants.”
Following the introduction, members raised questions as to whether public consultations were conducted before amending the act, issues related to resignation and appointment of the members and commissioners, and selection of the members and commissioners including their tenures and salaries.
The council rejected section 4(B) but endorsed the other amendments through a majority vote. The bill was passed with 24 ‘yes’ votes. The bill will now be sent to the National Assembly.
By Kinga Dema