The Royal Civil Service Commission168
Historically, Bhutan had various forms of civil servants. It was classified as “Pangkola”, “Zingarp”, “Chhandap”, “Chhangarp” and different officials in the Palace, regional and Local Governments. The highest-ranking officer were Chilas or Penlops in the regions and under them there were Dzonpons, Dronyer, Zimpon, Tapons, etc.
The erstwhile Royal Civil Service Commission supported by a non-elitist civil service under the guidance and direction of the hereditary Monarchs had been successful and effective because it was accountable directly to His Majesty.
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, said that the importance of the civil service would be even greater after the introduction of democracy. It is important that the small, compact, professional, and independent bureaucracy established by His Majesty be maintained and strengthened. The bureaucracy has to live up to the faith of the people.169
Throughout the world, civil servants are operating in a very challenging and fast changing environment. The public has higher expectations than before and is far more demanding. Public accountability of individual civil servants is increasing steadily. Advances in Information Technology have brought new challenges and vulnerabilities. The information revolution is creating the ability to transform bureaucratic Government to E-Government. E-Government has the power to reduce the cost of Government, increase citizen input and improve official decision-making. All this is taking place in an increasingly complex global environment where national borders are becoming less significant and multinational companies are becoming dominant. Political problems are becoming more complex and less predictable. Any attempt to address a problem is subject to the competing advice and opinions of special interest groups, advisory bodies and think-tanks. All these factors challenge the traditional process of policy making and its implementation and delivery, and have implications for the competencies, skills and experience that civil servants need to exhibit. Therefore, the creation of a professional and apolitical civil service is a very vital component of any effectively functioning state.
Bhutan has recognized that an apolitical civil service is necessary for effective democratic governance. Failure to develop a cadre of civil servants to provide stability is one of the impediments that many young democracies face. Civil servants have to advise elected officials without constraint. They must provide stability and continuance of Government services ignoring the political winds that will occur in democratic Bhutan. An apolitical civil service must ensure that governmental services are provided without regard to political affiliation. The Constitution seeks to have an effective and efficient civil service well respected by the public.
Bhutan retained the title Civil Service rather than changing it to Public Service. Civil servants are those in the administrative branches of a Government, who are recruited through open competition and selective examinations, promoted on merit and held accountable through performance evaluations. They are career employees, recruited and promoted on the basis of their administrative skill and technical expertise.170 The civil service consists of those who are appointed and governed by the Civil Service Act and Acts governing employees of public statutory authorities, whose salaries and entitlements are paid by the Royal Government of Bhutan from the public fund.
The Royal Civil Service Commission and its civil servants are mandated to be efficient. This means that they have to render decisions without delay, be transparent, be accountable and be responsible.
The members of the Royal Civil Service Commission are not appointed at random. The Constitution dictates that Commission members must be eminent in their respective fields and without any political affiliation. Politicians or ministers may come and go but not the secretaries, directors, and other functionaries. In fact, they are the ones, who maintain the continuity of our system in the governance of the country.
Their Majesties during the public consultation meetings mentioned that:
(a) With the coming of democracy, the Royal Civil Service Act is very important. If the Civil Service Act is weak there is a danger that civil servants may be influenced to work for the political parties. Otherwise with the commencement of the democratic form of Government, it is important that we prevent these kinds of problems from creeping in, for which the Royal Civil Service Commission should be an independent body. The civil servants are very important. If the civil servants are efficient, the Government will be strong and efficient. With regard to the parties, some members may be efficient and some may not. The most important is the civil servants. For that we should have a strong civil service Act.171
(b) It is very important to make the Royal Civil Service Commission strong and efficient. In future, the civil servant must shoulder a huge responsibility. With the start of the new democratic Government system, I expect that our civil servants will serve the Government with sincerity, dedication and honesty. Good thoughts are not enough, we need capable and competent people in the civil service and if this happens, then they will be able to serve the country well.172
James Burnham advocated a theory of bureaucratic revolution. Human Resource Development is enunciated as a top priority in our country. Bhutan has built educated and professional civil servants. To quote the words of His Majesty, “Bhutan needs a small, efficient and compact administrative service”. The development of effective human resources has been recognised as national objective, not only to support the developmental process, but also as an important objective in itself.
Bhutan had advocated for dedicated and professional civil servants, who will serve the nation best and its people par excellence. Public administration and personal management are based on meritocracy. Through merit, a person can achieve what one mind can perceive. Truly, Eric Hoffer said of becoming a leader. “… In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.”173 His Majesty trained and accorded the highest priority in human resource development to the development of the best and the brightest civil servants.
Development, good governance, clean environment and access to justice must flourish in Bhutan. Serving the Nation is not doing favour. To seek reward for performing duty and propensity to claim credit is the sterilization of national character. As Shakespeare said, it is “too little payment for so great a debt”174 It is a duty that the country has thrust upon the civil servants as responsible public servants. Dereliction of that duty is the breach of that sacred trust and moral bankruptcy. Bhutan deserves best of many and the civil servants should be one of them.
Contributed by Sonam Tobgye, Thrimchi Lyonpo
To be continued
168 “Beaucracy”:- The original French meaning of “bureau” was the baize used to cover desks. The term bureaucracy came into use shortly before the French Revolution of 1789, and from there rapidly spread to other countries. The Greek suffix -kratia or kratos – means “power” or rule. Bureaucracy thus basically means office power or office rule, the rule of the officialdom.
169 Refer Kuensel dated 28 December 2005.
170Sun Yat-son (1867-1925) – The foundation of the Government of a nation must be built upon the rights of the people, but the administration must be entrusted to experts.
171 Public consultation in Thimphu on 26/10/2005.
172 Public consultation in Lhuntse on 24/12/2005.
173 Eric Hoffer (25th July 1902-21st May 1983), Reflections on the Human Condition.
174 William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act 5, Scene 2, line 163.