As PMO downsizes Cabinet Secretary RCSC makes it clear Cabinet Secretary is the head

RCSC also outlines important roles for the Principal Secretary

In a significant development ever since the new Cabinet Secretary Sangay Duba was appointed from 12th March 2020 he had to join office a smaller ‘Office of the Cabinet Affairs,’ with the reduced roles of mainly conducting cabinet meetings and Committee of Secretary meetings.

A lot of his other roles and even his old office in the National Assembly was taken over by the PMO headed now by a Director level Principal Secretary and other PMO staff.

In response to a query sent by the paper on this on 11th December the RCSC on late 11th December replied outlining the pre-eminent position of the Cabinet Secretary and his work description according to RCSC.

This is also the first time that the RCSC has officially outlined the position and job description of the Cabinet Secretary which was not available earlier as only job descriptions of positions up to the government secretary level were available on its website.

The RCSC’s response makes it clear that the Cabinet Secretary is the head of the Cabinet Secretariat and the Principal Secretary has to work under the overall guidance of the Cabinet Secretary.

In reality there is a disconnect between the two positions with both even physically located apart.

However, as per a new organization development exercise the RCSC also recognizes the role of the Principal Secretary and confers on it a lot of powers and makes him the head of the PMO.

Cabinet Secretary

The RCSC said that the purpose of the Cabinet Secretary is to provide strategic policy inputs and manage the businesses of the highest executive body of the government, which is the Cabinet in formulation of national policies and provision other strategic policy directions, and assumes the rank of Chief of Staff or the senior-most Secretary of the Government.

The agency said as the head of Cabinet Secretariat, his core functions entail providing overall strategic direction and guidance to the functioning of the Secretariat and senior officials and also supervise, monitor and evaluate their works. 

RCSC said that the Cabinet Secretary as Secretary to Cabinet and the Prime Minister provides professional and strategic policy inputs for national policy-making, to the Cabinet in order to ensure consistent, coherent and effective policy formulation and their timely and smooth implementation by various Ministries and Agencies of the Government as well as other public and private sectors.

He provides professional and impartial advice and support to the Prime Minister, Cabinet and other government agencies on issues pertaining to the central government operations and processes, socio-economic policies, legislation and institutional aspects, emergency and security, etc.

The Cabinet Secretary has to prepare the agenda for and coordinate Cabinet Meetings and maintain the records of their discussions and decisions and prepare or issue executive orders and policy directives for dissemination of policy decisions and directives ensuing there from, to various Ministries and Agencies of the Government.

He has to ensure effective coordination and facilitation between and among Ministries and Agencies throughout all the sectors and coordinate with the other branches of the Government, Royal Secretariat, constitutional bodies and other agencies on the functioning of the country.

As the Secretary he has to direct, guide and implement national events, prepare or convey executive related felicitations, credentials, briefs, attestations, condolence messages, etc; and prepare and organize meetings of the Prime Minister with foreign dignitaries and officials.

He is supposed to act as a Chief Spokesperson of the Government, on national policies and development strategies and provide a smooth and effective transition between successive Prime Ministers.

As the head of the Cabinet Secretariat he is supposed to provide overall guidance and direction to the functioning of the Secretariat and senior officials and prepare plans and policies of the Secretariat, monitor and evaluate their implementation.

He exercises executive and financial powers as specified in the BCSR and Financial Manual, conducts performance evaluation of the officials or staff of the Secretariat; and directs the HRD and other personnel activities of the secretariat.

Principal Secretary

RCSC said the position title of Principal Secretary (PS) is a functional position used in PMO. As per the Position Directory, the current PS Chencho was earlier placed as Personal Secretary under PM Aides and Media Services.

 However, now Organizational Development Exercise was carried out in 2019 for Cabinet secretariat and the Office of the Prime Minister will be headed by a Director level PS.

It said the PS will report directly to the PM on functions related to divisions under him and services advising PM on a daily basis in coordination and liaising with the agencies.

The PS will also report to the Cabinet Secretary on administrative services and serve as the member of the cabinet secretary management like the HRC and in-house committees.

RCSC said the title Director is a generic name all EX 3 positions across the Civil Service but depending on an agency’s specific needs and requirements, they may use specific terms for their organisations.  

RCSC said that as per the ToR the Director or PS under the general supervision of the Cabinet Secretary, shall, recommend and administer appropriate organizational structure for the Cabinet secretariat aligned to cabinet’s mandate, ensure that the decisions of the cabinet secretariat are implemented on time; ensure services are delivered in accordance with relevant acts, rules and regulations; carry out day to day management of cabinet secretariat and advise the Cabinet Secretary in the decision making process on existing rules, regulations and policies.

However, in reality a lot of the above aspect is not happening as the PS and the Cabinet Secretary function quite separately with different roles assigned to them.

As part of the PS’s duties and responsibilities he has to undertake strategic planning whereby he plans and coordinate government policies and ensure their implementation; provide strategic guidance for implementation of the Bhutan’s developmental plans; advise the Cabinet Secretariat on policy matters through analysis of current issues; in consultation with the government agencies coordinate development of Strategic Plan; contribute financial and staffing components to the strategic plan; and promote an efficient administration based on good governance with formulation of appropriate policy.

Under the role of strategic finance management, he is responsible for overall financial management, overseeing the preparation of Annual Performance Targets aligned to budget and advising the Cabinet Secretary on the financial and funding implication of the existing and forecast financial planning.

His human resource role is to determine the necessary staff establishment for the cabinet secretariat and make recommendations for staff recruitment, training, and the transfer of staff, ensure proper performance planning of staff with clear alignment to agency’s objective and objective evaluation methods and to function as the office of the Prime Minister and the Secretariat to the Cabinet.

His other duties are to assist the Cabinet Secretary in overall management of the Secretariat, prepare policy briefs for the PM and Cabinet Secretary as directed, provide leadership and create a conducive working environment, develop appropriate working policies, rules and guidelines that will enable the Secretariat to function efficiently, effectively and optimally, exercise executive and financial powers in accordance with BCSR,  and as may be delegated provide general operational support to the cabinet.

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