A proposal to do away with Govt Drivers and Pool vehicles: Draft Clean Wage Document

The Draft Clean Wage Document of the Ministry of Finance in phase two of the Clean Wage reform recommends exiting all in house drivers from the civil service, remove office cars, do away with the system of of traveling in private cars and claiming mileage.

It says this service could be outsourced, utilization tracked digitally and expenditure hard capped.

As of 2021 there are more than 1,800 government drivers. This represents almost 6% of the total civil service population.

The document says that in 2018-2019 Nu 365 mn or nearly 1% of total government expenditure was spent on maintaining vehicles.

Nu 130 mn was spent on operating expenses of transportation and Nu 270 mn was spent on purchasing government vehicles.

This is a total of Nu 765 mn representing almost 2% of government expenditure.

The document gives an example of how there is unethical and corrupt practices in this sector and how vehicles and drivers are also contributing to a bloated civil service.

It says government drivers are colluding with workshops and fuel depots.

In one incident, one of the drivers took the brand new government vehicle assigned to him to the workshop and replaced the new parts with old ones.

The spare part was bought by the workshop at a rate lower than the market price. Workshops are incentivised to collude with the drivers.

Some drivers would claim reimbursement for new vehicle tyres when in fact they only resoled the old tyres or replaced them with used ones.

There are also instances where drivers colluded with fuel depots to claim higher reimbursements from their offices.

However, it is not clear if the drivers are proposed to be removed entirely or put in a new corporation that will look after these vehicles and drivers in a corporate manner.

The Royal Civil Service Commission has clarified that no civil servant will lose their job due to the restructuring and instead people may be reskilled or re-deployed and so it is not clear if the drivers will get a golden handshake or be transferred elsewhere.

The 5th Pay Commission will have to look at this and then the cabinet will take a final call.

Second Pay Commission proposal

The proposal to do away with pool vehicles is not a new one as it was brought out in the second Pay Commission report in 2014.

The second pay commission report recommended on doing away with the 932 pool vehicles out of the total 1,484 government vehicles keeping back only 448 vehicles.

It had said that designated vehicles should be assigned only for the PM, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice, NA Speaker, NC Chairperson, Opposition Leader, Chairperson of Privy Council and Dzongdas.

The Pay Commission had factored annual maintenance savings of Nu 378.897 mn from withdrawing the pool vehicles,

It also recommended that the vehicles designated to 75 other senior public servants should be withdrawn and instead they should be given a onetime Nu 700,000 grant (Now 1 million) to buy vehicles like MPs and with driver and fuel allowance.

The savings calculated here through reduction of recurrent and capital cost of vehicles was Nu 62 mn in four years.

The second Pay Commission report had pointed out that in the 10th plan Nu 2.405 bn was spent on the maintenance and operation of pool vehicles coming to around three percent of the current expenditure.

It said there were at least 960 vehicles in the government in 2008 excluding vehicles under the Royal Bhutan Police and two wheelers, but 2013, the total number of vehicles in the government increased to 1,484.

The second pay commission had said the withdrawal of the pool vehicles should be undertaken in a phased manner for which a proper Business Plan would have to be endorsed by the government.

The government should initially withdraw all pool vehicles in Thimphu and establish a corporation that will manage the government vehicles. The government should transfer all pool vehicles along with the drivers to the newly established corporate body and this corporate body should be able to sustain itself through renting of vehicles to the government as and when it is required.

Over time, the government should withdraw the pool vehicles of other Dzongkhags and bring the management under this corporate body. Similar system could be replicated for SOEs.

The second pay Commission further recommended that the old vehicles be auctioned either before handing over to the corporate body to be set up or the corporate body should take such decisions based on financial viability.

The drivers of these vehicles should be given preference to be employed in various large projects of the Government to protect their livelihood. Special care should be taken to ensure that drivers living in government quarters are allowed to continue even after their transfer to the corporation.

The Pay Commission came up with the recommendation as the government had asked them to also look into the pool vehicle issue.

The government at the time in 2014 decided to study the proposal by consulting agencies and looking at its potential impact on civil servants’ mobility and monitoring developmental activities, but in the end there was no decision to withdraw the pool vehicles.

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