A lesson for the Civil Service from the Gyelpozhing verdict

The harshest blow from the Gyelpozhing verdict falls on the 14 Committee members who are all long serving civil servants, and except for one who is retired, all 13 stand to be terminated without any benefits.

This is because both the Civil Service Act and Rules list out termination for conviction on criminal charges. Commission members have also made it clear that all 13 will be terminated without any benefits.

There have also been several other cases where Civil Servants have been dealt with severely for not following the laws and rules even though they may have been following ‘orders’ from their seniors.

In contrast the Speaker and Home Minister will complete their term and get their full benefits and in all probability with the government and their party’s help try and contest for the 2013 elections.

The take away from the Gyelpozhing case for civil servants is that the law does not distinguish between illegal acts committed under compulsion from senior bureaucrats and politicians and those committed for personal benefit.

Under a democratic system of checks and balances civil servants high and low can no longer afford to take wrong or illegal decisions under pressure from their seniors and then expect mercy from the law or sympathy from the public.

The simple reason is then even if they don’t benefit personally their wrong decisions have a negative impact on the lives of ordinary citizens in addition to violating laws. They also have a clear choice to say no and the laws will support them.

Current and aspiring civil servants should realize that democratic institutions like the Royal Civil Service Commission, Anti Corruption Commission, Royal Audit Authority, Election Commission of Bhutan, Judiciary and Media are all there to safeguard them if they are honest and fair.

However, the moment they violate laws to please their bureaucratic and political masters then the civil servant can expect any of the above or all of them to come knocking.

Civil Servants should also realize that when push comes to shove they will be all on their own while their seniors either pass the blame down or rush to protect themselves.

For example when the Anti Corruption Commission suspended the Speaker, Home Minister and the Committee Secretary Dechen Singye, the government deployed everything in its power to ensure that the Speaker and Home Minister are not suspended while the Committee Secretary remained suspended.

In some cases the civil servant maybe direct beneficiaries of illegal decisions.

In other cases it could be for long term benefits like promotion or postings. In some cases it could just be to avoid the wrath of the boss or be in their good books.

However, all of the above ultimately leads to the politician-bureaucrat nexus that has become the bane of societies, economies and countries across the world.

If the worry in 2008 was how newly elected political leaders and senior bureaucrats would work together the concern in 2013 is how remarkably comfortable and close political leaders and senior bureaucrats have become.

Some senior bureaucrats in their language and action may even be mistaken for one of the 45 MPs of the ruling government.

There are also troubling and growing instances of senior and middle level civil servants going beyond their normal and legal duties to help their political masters with confidential information or extra legal actions.

These actions point to an unhealthy and dangerous trend of growing politicization of some sections of the civil service.

The erring civil servants can enjoy short term benefits for such actions which include trainings, promotions and also other favors from their political bosses.

However, the long term implications are stark and risky. Apart from the loss of personal and institutional credibility the Civil Servants will set themselves up for investigations and also possible conviction in court.

Also in a democratic system where a civil servant in his or her career will see many governments come and go, those civil servants and also institutions that are seen as being politically supportive of a party or open to political interference will lose the trust and faith of a new government in power.

These civil servants and institutions may also find themselves at the wrong end of the law in Court or under the ACC microscope.

In the bigger picture a politicized civil service will lead to more corruption and abuse of power which will make the lives of ordinary Bhutanese miserable and also greatly weaken the nation. A politicized civil service will also do tremendous harm to our nascent democracy.

It will also let down the most important institution of Bhutan which is the Monarchy. His Majesty the King has time and again stressed the importance of an apolitical civil service, and for good reason given the civil service’s important role in good governance and service delivery.

QUOTE

“To oppose corruption in government is the highest obligation of patriotism.”
G. Edward Griffin

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21 comments

  1. Apolitical civil servants neither benefited from the democratic government nor from the politicians they chose.The story would continue remain same even after 2013 election. Hence, forget democracy and get back to monarchy.  Few smart people who attempted to replace our great monarchs have miserably failed. For your own ease, you may call an ox a cow, but the horn would remain on the head.

  2. You sign today and pay up years later, God knows when. Be careful fellow civil servants.

  3. good reminder to all those who are not aware and will be doing it unknowingly!!!!

  4. A lesson for the year 2013 for all civil servants. Well said and to be reminded ourselves time and again from this lessons. An in-depth and through analysis done.

  5. 1. As someone has pointed out- Dechen Singye and Tshogpen’s case should be non-bailable or without an option for thrimthue. They have forged, cheated and tampered the documents thereby Dechen Singye able to get land in the name of his sister which he later sold and Tshogpen registering land in his maid’s name and sons’ names. This has been proven by the court and now they should be in the jail for violation of NA-1 of Thrimzhung Chemo as was applied to people from MOE, Gelephu court, Samtse mining case, AWP, Thimphu City Corporation.
    2. There is no forgery and tampering of documents by Home Minister, we agree with the verdict of the court that his could be with an option for thrimthue. 3. We do not agree the penalty given to the innocent committee members. These people have not forged the documents, not benefitted personally like Dechen Singye. I think, at the most these people could be heavily warned only instead of penalising same as Dechen Singye. Dechen Singye as a member Secretary has messed up the project for his selfish motive which he achieved through forgery and tampering of documents as reflected in the court verdict.

  6. The civil servants who were members of the committee, most likely as per the RCSC, will get terminated from their service. Can a civil servant who has been terminated from service become a candidate in any elections in Bhutan? If they can’t then how can the two politicians implicated because they were the chairman of the committee be allowed to re-contest irrespective of what a bunch of party workers feel.

  7. The politics people say is very dirty.This article itself has lot of politics. The two chairmen were not politicians during 2002 and 2005. They were civil servants then, further the democracy was introduced from April 2008 only. Readers may read the article in between the lines.

  8. Whatever noble intention it maybe,if you don’t follow procedure you will be criminalized and demonized at the end. So, be procedure oriented and not result oriented! we are in democracy and anyone will sue you anytime for whatever reason it maybe. so, be aware of it all civil servants!!!

  9. laws & rules are all made for the lower level civil Servents, If Government want to terminate all with out benifit than how about two ministers, they also have equal risk on it.

  10. Politicians are outside Civil Service Rules, hence no termination and suspension. Moreover, they did not commit the mistake when they were Ministers.

  11. So at the end, the lesson is to just keep doing what’s in front of you and if u need to make decision …DONT take risk coz one day Acc is going to put you thro all that whether is was with good intention or not,,,I am not even sure if Acc has all the capacity to prove someone wrong,,,,just be coz their mandate is to erase corruption,,,do they have capacity to look at from every angle, from any background ..medical or engineering,,,dunno abt that…so the bottom line s just take ur salary and do what’s required,,,

    • This is exactly what is going to happen, no body will be willing to take any decisions for fear of being pulled up by the ACC even after a decade has passed by. On the other hand, there are so many cases in the public domain that the ACC even refuses to act on. 

      Some examples are:

      Bhutan’s Ambassador to the EU who hired a maid or gardener and the money was being pocketed by his spouse.

      Dagana Dzongda who employed someone as a Dzongkhag staff but was being made to work as his maid and maybe even pocketing her salary.

      Foreign Ministry official at Bangkok who misused over 20 million Baht.

      For all the above cases, no action from ACC or the RCSC.

  12. Simple lesson to civil servants – be clean and you will be safe!!!

  13. Personally, Gyelpozhing at that time was malaria infested jungle nobody wanted to buy. Besides, people might have refused because they failed to see the long term benefits. Now they see the benefits, they made noise.

    If Speaker and Home Minister were not politician, there wouldn’t be media coverage, political games and motives as it is now. The case might be buried like any other unearthed case.
    The standard of yesterday wouldn’t have been measured by yardstick of today.

    The advice for civil servants; Follow rules. If rule say ‘don’t barge into house you don’t own.’ Don’t enter even if you see somebody being raped…Follow the procedure….After all, civil servants are overworked and underpaid. Public can’t see the result like they see in corporations because works are so complex, the result are not known in immediate future.

  14. DEFOX hit the nail right on the hammer. Well said!

  15. Can we punish people who had sold cigarretes in 1990’s based on the tobacco act we have today??

  16. I think the the writer here is totally giving a biased views. He also writes a report which is like a class room teaching. Civil servants know what is wrong and waht is right. The duty of the media is to inform the people but not to preach. I find the biased reporting of THE BHUTANESE so disturbing.

  17. ACC’s Mandate: “Investigate all complaints and make case out of it even if there is no case at all and prosecute them”

    Mission: “become so powerful by putting all peoples behind the bar at no fault”

    Vision: “Become powerful institution and bring all institution under the scanner and control them”

  18. Well, Bhutanese have this inborn tendency to go and have a run for easy money.. a character not totally seen only in us the Bhutanese, of course.
    I would say it was harsh verdict on the committee members but it is a timely and apt reminder to all the civil servants that we should do the right thing for the salary that is deposited monthly into their personal account, Stop yielding to the demand of big bosses.

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