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Monday, May 25th, 2015 - 1:17 PM
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The gup-GAO overlap

Lack of delineation of their separate roles all too often hampers developmental activities

Symposium: A few provisions in the local government Act and regulations on the roles of gups and gewog administrative officers (GAO) often hampered implementation of developmental works.

The administrative officers raised the issue, while discussing the lack of clearly defined roles of gups and GAOs at the symposium held in Thimphu.

GAOs said, although it was clearer now, several provisions overlapped, which created confusion.  Many GAOs said it was better not to follow the regulations.

Citing several clauses of the local government (LG) regulations, Phuntshopelri GAO in Samtse said roles were defined but it was not applicable.

“It’s more appropriate that GAOs carry out the role of implementing developmental works, as it wasn’t appropriate for gups as elected leaders,” he said.

For instance, the local government rules under section 293 states that a gup, as the chairman of the gewog tshogde, oversees the affairs of the gewog, including enforcement and implementation of development plans, orders, and decisions.

On the other hand, section 348 states that the GAO, under the supervision of the gup, be responsible for the developmental programmes and projects implemented in the gewog.

Bumthang Tang GAO Sonam Dhendup said, such inconsistency in regulations led to issues.

“In the process, we feel gups will monitor the works, while gups feel GAOs would do it,” he said, adding that they don’t follow the regulation due to lack of clarity.

Although the LG Act states that a GAO shall be the joint signatory with the gup for the operation of gewog accounts, except for a few gewogs, it’s otherwise in most gewogs.

Some GAOs said, most of the time, they were left unaware of the budget released.

“If GAOs can sign cheques as mandated by the rules, it would lead to more transparency and accountability,” one said.

LG department’s director general, Dorji Norbu, said the roles were clearly defined, but it may not be the perfect delineation.

Dorji Norbu said developmental works could not be left alone for GAOs.

“It’s important for gups to take charge as they have to participate as an elected representative,” he said. “If not, they won’t take ownership and, if they don’t, then the community won’t take responsibility either.”

Although the existing rules were made as comprehensive as possible, Dorji Norbu said GAOs should know better, as they are the ones implementing it.

“We’re open to feedback and suggestions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the second batch of 94 GAOs from the central and eastern districts attended the three-day symposium, which ended on April 17.

By Kinga Dema

Public road or private parking lot

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Municipal officials agree many buildings in Thimphu violated the parking requirement rules and admit their helplessness

Thromde: While Thimphu residents have benefitted the convenience of the many internal road networks that connect the city, the good is only half reaped.

The other half of the benefit has gone to private individuals.

Either side of the public roads are used as parking spaces of buildings that have sporadically sprouted in various parts of the city today.

Municipal officials said this was because residential buildings were unable to comply with the Bhutan building rules that mandate every residential building to have a parking space in keeping with the number of dwelling units within their plot.

Thimphu thromde officials said they were unable to enforce the rule because the road network still did not connect some buildings because of which it was pointless to create parking spaces at the basement.

An official from city’s urban planning division said the problem existed for years and there is no immediate solution.

“If building owners have not provided parking spaces, where else would tenants park their cars?” he said, adding it was difficult for them to disallow parking on the roadsides if they could not point to a designated parking area.

A city official who requested anonymity said in their drawings, landowners had provisions for appropriate parking at the basement and in keeping with the laws.

“However, on completion of the construction, the basement parking would have turned into a storage space or residential units,” he said.

Municipal officials also said some landowners built additional structures on the provisional parking space after acquiring occupancy certificates.

“When we ask them to dismantle them, they approach higher authorities and prolong the process,” he said.

Thromde’s executive secretary Minjur Dorji said where basement parking have been turned into anything but parking lots were allowed temporarily until they were connected with road.

He explained that a minimum of 13 decimal land was required for construction of a house of which three decimals came under land pooling and other 60 percent was saved for parking space.

Meanwhile, some urban planners said it was difficult for them to work according to their plans and rules because of pressures from different agencies. “Today, we have many elected members who have short term visions against our policy’s long term ones,” he said “Somewhere, we must weigh individual interest against public interest.”

By Nima Wangdi

Talking turkey

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There are plans afoot to rear the bird in Sarpang and Tsirang farms as a pilot project

NPDC: As an alternative to poultry farming, soon, turkey farming will be introduced in districts of Sarpang and Tsirang.

The turkey farming, which national poultry breeding centre (NPDC), Sarpang is going to initiate as a pilot project in the country starting this year, is geared towards boosting rural economy.

About 50 farmers, members of Dunglagang broiler’s and Tsirang poultry cooperatives, were trained and made aware of turkey farming yesterday.

Interested farmers will initially be provided with four female and one male turkey.  NPDC has 250 birds available.  To rear on trial, the centre had brought 16 parent-stock from Thailand’s department of livestock development services in 2012.

Another parent stock of 200 birds will be imported from Thailand.  Only then will the farmers be provided with the birds.

Officials from the centre said the project would start from two south central districts of Sarpang and Tsirang; and in the second phase, which will begin next year, it would be introduced in Dagana, Chukha and Samtse.

“We’re in the negotiation stage with the department in Thailand, and we’re planning to import them soon,” program director of NPDC, (Dr) Karma Wangdi, said.

(Dr) Karma Wangdi said the turkey is popular, particularly for its lean and tender meat. “We have high potential, especially in the high-end hotels, with increasing number of tourist from western countries,” he said.

It is also, he said, more lucrative and easy to manage compared with poultry.  Betsulle and American bronze turkeys are the two types identified for the farming in the country.

“Turkey also has higher return compared to broiler chicken, and consumes less feed, as they depend 50 percent of their feed on grasses,” (Dr) Karma Wangdi said.

He said it costs as high as baht 200 in Thailand. “The price here would be determined by market forces,” he said.

The national breeding centre will be opened at Relangthang under Gakiling gewog, Sarpang.  A shed, which can accommodate 400 birds, has been constructed.

The five districts were chosen based on the performance in poultry farming. “They have a good name established and, besides, the climate is suitable,” (Dr) Karma Wangdi said.

(Dr) Karma Wangdi said, should the project succeed in the farms, there was a plan to form groups and cooperatives in future.

Meanwhile, most of the farmers, who attended training, were curious and enthusiastic to try it out.

“I want to quit poultry and shift to turkey, because it’ll be much easier and cheaper to manage,” a member, Roshan Kafley, who owns a poultry farm with around 150 birds, said.

By Tshering Namgyel 

Volunteer teachers dominate bike race

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The three-time holder of the trophy was pipped to the post by 50 seconds

DANTAK: Three-time DANTAK open mountain bike race winner, Sonam, lost the race this year to Tom Horniblow by 50 seconds.

The 90-km race on Saturday, organised to commemorate DANTAK’s 53rd raising day, saw 121 participants, who raced till Paro from Changlimithang ground and back to the Clock tower square.

Tom Horniblow, a volunteer teacher with the Australian volunteers initiative for development finished the race in two hours 30 minutes and 58 seconds.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Tom, adding he did not expect to win the race. “When I was riding uphill nearing the finishing point, beneath Lungtenzampa (bridge), I realised I was winning the race.”

Tom, who stood seventh in the Tour of the Dragon last year, said biking was not his first sports, but an interest he developed since childhood.

He said local participants gave stiff competition, which he claims to be the toughest part of the race.  The 38-year old volunteer teacher said he had all the sympathy for a local participant, who rode along with him right from the start to end. “He was supposed to finish second, but he fell off just few metres away from the finish line.”

First runners up Sonam said he was happy that his record of two hours 27 minutes remains unbroken, although he couldn’t win the race for the fourth time.

“I was confident about the race, but it also has to do with luck,” he said.  Sonam said he too fell down before reaching the finish line while overtaking two bikers.

“But I’m happy that I was able to participate and I thank my sponsor in Singapore,” said the winner of last years’ Tour of the Dragon.

Jigme Tenzin came third, completing the race in two hours 32 minutes and 47 seconds.

Two Japanese dominated the women’s category.

Reika Yoshi, another volunteer teacher, came first, finishing the race in three hours five minute and 48 seconds. Emi Tsukamoto, came second and Yeshey Dema came third.

DANTAK open mountain bike race was first organised in April 2011 to commemorate the golden jubilee of project DANTAK.

A total of 121 bikers, including 14 females, took part in the race.  The winner in the men’s category was awarded a cash prize of Nu 50,000, the first and second runners up got Nu 30,000 and 10,000 each.

In the women’s , the first prize was Nu 40,000 and Nu 20,000 and Nu 10,000 were awarded to the second and third bikers.

There were also prizes for the youngest biker, who was 13-years old, and the oldest, who was 57.

By Tshering Dorji

 

City and Drukstar draw in 6-goal thriller

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Football: League leaders Thimphu City thrice came from behind to share the spoils with Drukstar in a nervy 3:3 draw.

Drukstar went in front in the 17th minute when left back Pema Khandu sent a free kick into the six-yard box and found skipper Jigme Tshering who headed the ball into the net.

Drukstar doubled their lead after seven minutes. Striker Ngawang capitalised on a thorough pass from his striker partner Tshering Tobgay.

Thimphu City’s striker Yeshey Dorji got the best chance to pull one back but Drukstar’s goalkeeper Hemlal stopped his solo effort to round up the first half with a 2-goal lead.

“I think in the first half we were not switched on. Our team was very sloppy,” said Thimphu City’s club president, Yeshey Tshering.

League leaders City came back strong in the second half and pulled one back two minutes into the second half.  Winger Tenzin dribbled past two defenders and sent a well-measured cross for striker Biren to just tap it in to make it 1:2.

Two minutes later the game was all-square when City’s centre back, Jamyang headed the equaliser.

Drukstar restored their lead in the 66th minute when striker Ngawang scored his second for the day and left City players arguing the ball had not crossed the line.

Thimphu City’s Yeshey Dorji thought he had scored the equalizer when he headed in a rebound only to be ruled out for an offside. City pressed for an equaliser and their effort paid off when their two wingers combined to score in injury time.

Midfielder Passang crossed the ball into the box from the right flank and his partner Tshering Dorji executed a neat half volley to take one crucial point.

“On the whole the game was ok. Our major problem is we have a very young goalkeeper. I think their tactic was to keep attacking and make him a little nervous,” said Yeshey Tshering.

On Saturday, Dzongree beat 1:0.

Today Drukpol will play U 18.

By Karma Loday Yeshey

Pay revision needs an alternative model

It seems that the Pay Commission has proposed to the government a 20% pay revision for civil servants like previous pay revisions, which I think is not the best available option especially in the context of minimizing income gap.

Therefore, in order to address the problems of people in the vulnerable income groups, it is necessary to look at a modest and alternative model of pay revision, which is somewhat different to the previous pay revision model.

 

Current Situation Analysis

The need for a pay revision is more felt among civil servants in the lower income group. People in the lower income bracket are more disadvantaged in terms of meeting their day to day basic needs such as food and shelter.

For a family with a single income earner, house rent alone takes away about 70% of the monthly income. Thus very little is left to spend on food and other needs. I have come across many civil servants in the lower income group doing part time job as taxi drivers after office hours to supplement their income.

On the other hand, civil servants in the higher income level are in a more comfortable position. Most of the senior civil servants own buildings and are financially better off than the lower level income people.

Why a flat % increase is not the best option 

When a flat percentage increase is applied across all income levels, it further widens the income gap. While the crisis is dire in the lower income bracket and the prices of commodities in the market are the same, this flat percentage increase doesn’t really help solve the problems. The following table would show the pattern of salary increase for a 20 % flat salary revision:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the table, it clearly shows that increase in 20 % for someone earning Nu 50,000 is five times the increase of another with a salary Nu 10,000. This clearly indicates that a flat percentage increase only helps to widen the income gap.

4. Suggestions

To minimise income gap and also to address the problems of people at the lower income bracket, an alternative approach of salary increase may be undertaken. The basic element of this approach is to ensure that the increase in salary for the higher income levels are controlled and fixed based on the increase for the lowest income level.

 

The basic features of this approach are:

Using a lumpsum and percentage combination.

A minimum lumpsum amount may be fixed for the lowest income level.

A flat % increase may be applied in general to all income levels.

The final increase may be affected to fulfill two main criteria i.e to ensure that people at the lower income level gets the minimum fixed lumpsum amount and the increase for people in the higher income level are not given more than the maximum ceiling.

The ceiling may be fixed at 1.5 or 2 times the minimum lumpsum amount meaning that increase in salary for people in the higher income bracket are not paid more than the upper ceiling amount.

The table below shows the possible minimum amount and the maximum amount for upper ceiling of 1.5 times and 2 times of the minimum lumpsum amount.

 

 

 

 

 

For a combination of minimum amount of Nu 4,000 and 20% increase, this is how the increase would be affected for the various income levels as shown in the table below:

From the above table, it can be explained and summarized as follows:

Column 3 shows the increase in pay for pay range starting from Nu 10,000 to Nu. 50,000. With only the flat 20% increase, we can see that increase for pay scale of Nu 50,000 is Nu. 10,000,which is 5 times the increase for the pay scale of Nu 10,000 at Nu 2000.

Column 4 shows the pay increase when a minimum lumpsum amount of Nu 4000 is applied with maximum upper ceiling increase of 1.5 times the minimum lumpsum amount. Therefore, with this criteria, all civil servants with a pay scale of Nu. 30,000 and above will only get Nu 6,000.

Column 5 shows the pay increase when a minimum lumpsum amount of Nu 4000 is applied with maximum upper ceiling increase of twice the minimum lumpsum amount. Therefore, with this criteria, all civil servants with  a pay scale of Nu 40,000 and above will only get Nu 8,000.

 

Contributed by  Chheku Dukpa 

dukpachheku@gmail

Focus point

GAO-name

Nu 427M spent on 2nd parliamentary elections

More than half the money was spent on travel and daily allowances of election officials 

Expenditure: The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has spent Nu 426.87M during the second parliamentary election held last year, including the by-election in Nanong Shumar constituency

Of the total expenditure, about 52 percent or Nu 222M was spent on travel and daily allowances of more than 9,800 election officials, including security personnel, for National Council and National Assembly elections.

However, even with two rounds of elections in 2013, expenditure incurred decreased by about Nu 50M, compared with the first parliamentary election in 2008.

The chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, attributed this to the purchase of the electronic voting machines, delimitation services and mock elections in the first election.  If the costs of these were excluded, the expenditure during the 2008 elections would be Nu 340M, Nu 87M lesser than in 2013.

According to the election expenditure report, part of the saving was attributed to the expenditure borne by the international agencies like Australian electoral commission, Swiss Development corporation, UNDP and DANIDA.

A total of Nu 60M was spent from the state fund to finance the campaigns for both NC and NA elections.

Each party was eligible to avail Nu 130,000 per demkhong (constituency) for the primary round, and the same amount per candidate for the NC and general elections.

However, parties and candidates refunded a total of Nu 1.2M, which were not utilised.

In the primary round, the People’s Democratic party (PDP) claimed Nu 5.7M from the state fund, spent another Nu 162,143 from the party fund and refunded Nu 363,284.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) availed Nu 5.8M state fund, it spent Nu 46,086 from party fund and refunded Nu 225,690 to ECB.

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has the highest expenditure from the party fund of Nu 252,946 and it took Nu 5.8M from the state funding.  It refunded Nu 268,612 to ECB.

Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) used Nu 161,625 from the party fund and refunded Nu 155,912.  It used Nu 5.9M of the state fund.

For the general elections, 47 PDP candidates took Nu 130,000 each, totalling to Nu 6.1M, but the total expenditure was Nu 5.9M, and thus it refunded Nu 123,214.

The Khilkorthang-Mendrelgang candidate, Yogesh Tamang, refunded the highest amount of Nu 40,295, while 16 of its candidates fully used the fund.  The finance minister, Namgay Dorji refunded the least, Nu 13.

ECB also disbursed same amount of fund to all the DPT candidates, who spent about Nu 6M and refunded Nu 71,347.

The Khilkhorthang-Mendrelgang candidate, Yangku Tshering Sherpa, refunded the highest amount, Nu 33,985.  Eight DPT candidates fully exhausted the fund and Dokar-sharpa candidate, Chencho Dorji, refunded Nu 1.

In the NC elections, Nu 8.7M was disbursed to the 67 candidates, who to spent Nu 8.3M, and 55 of them refunded Nu 393,453.  The Wangduephodrang candidate, Sonam Yangchen refunded the highest amount, Nu 60,907.   Chukha candidate, Pema Tenzin refunded Nu 5, and 12 candidates used the fund completely.

The disqualification of Bhutan Kuenyam Party also saved Nu 6.1M from the primary round.

“The conduct of election is universally accepted to be neither easy nor cheap,” said Dasho Kunzang Wangdi speaking at the launch of the report yesterday.

Procurement of election materials and stationery cost the ECB Nu 29M and it spent another Nu 11.8M in voter and civic education.

While, the ceiling for state fund for each party or candidate for campaign was raised to Nu 130,000 from Nu 100,000 to provide “equal footing” and avoid “money power”, extension of postal ballot facility abroad also added to the expenditure.

To ensure effective and efficient management of fund, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said ECB deliberately issued a guideline for maintenance of financial record and accounts prior to the conduct of the elections.

Meanwhile, the accounts ECB released yesterday were unaudited accounts.  The Royal Audit Authority will be auditing the accounts starting end of May.

By Tshering Dorji | Thimphu

Having second thought about Amochhu

The uncertainly comes after the government of India raised security concern

Hydropower: Whether the 540MW Amochhu project in Phuentsholing, which was supposed to start last year, will ever come through is uncertain.

While a senior government official said although Amochhu project was one of the most technically feasible and economically viable among other hydropower projects, it was being shelved for other reasons.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in a recent interview said the government of India, like in the case with most hydropower projects, had not decided on the financing of Amochhu, but that it was included in the 10,000MW electricity target.

“As of now, financing for only the intra-government projects for joint ventures is confirmed,” he said.

However, it was learnt that the government of India raised concerns the Amochhu project was close to India’s tri-junction, the point where boundaries of three nations meet, and that it posed security issues.

A government official said they needed to establish if there really were security concerns and if in deed there were, the government would have to decide. “But right now nothing has been finalised,” he said.

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk said while talks with government of India was still on to finance Amochhu project, it was not in the government’s priority list.

“Since the project is within our 10,000MW target, it would be constructed anyway,” he said. “But nothing conclusive was drawn as of now and we do not have a tentative date of when the construction would begin.”

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk also said despite security reasons, there were other concerns that needed closer look, like social, environmental and economic issues.

The project’s detailed report, he said showed that it was likely to affect the highest number of households among the projects.

The report that an Indian firm, M/s NPTC Ltd. prepared showed 12 villages of three gewogs in Samtse and 21 villages of two gewogs in Chukha would be affected.

Meanwhile, many officials were of the view that the Nu 43M project would be of immense benefit to the country and perhaps most easy and cheapest to construct because of its proximity to the raw materials and labour.

“It’s considered economically viable because besides being cheap to transport electricity to India, the construction cost would be much lower,” an economic affairs ministry official said.

The project’s uncertainty, in the mean time has hampered Amochhu land reclamation project.

Officials explained that because of the delay in finalising the detailed project report, plans on river protection work for land reclamation could not be pursued.

“We were told the hydropower project is not coming through, although DHI Infra and Phuentsholing thromde are working on the land reclamation,” he said.

By Tashi Dema | Thimphu

Picture story

A two-storey traditional house in Jyenkana, Haa was razed to the ground yesterday. No casualties were reported although the family lost all the belongings