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