Cabinet approves major structural changes in ministries proposed by RCSC
The Cabinet recently approved some far reaching structural changes in various government ministries proposed by the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) as part of its Organizational Development (OD) exercise.
The biggest one which has been kept for the 12th plan is the reorganization of the existing Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) and the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR).
Under this reorganization the Ministry of Labour will get the Department of Trade and Department of Industry currently under the MoEA. The reorganized ministry in the 12th plan will be named the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment.
The MoEA will retain major Departments like Department of Hydropower and Power System, Department of Renewable Energy and Department of Geology and Mining. The Ministry will be called the Ministry of Energy and Mining.
A reliable source said that the above reorganization was actually proposed by the RCSC for now but the cabinet felt that such major changes in the middle of the 11th plan could lead to problems and so decided that it should be done for the 12th plan.
The source said that the main complaint of the Labour Ministry has always been that while it had the mandate to create employment it never had the direct means to do so. With most jobs coming from Trade and Industry in the private sector there could be better compatibility and focus on generating jobs.
Importantly this ministry can also give more dedicated attention to developing Trade and Industry.
Another important reason was that it was felt the current MoEA was too large with too many mandates and so it needed to be divided up.
The Ministry of Energy and Mining will allow the ministry to focus on the important national objective of hydropower development and also related areas like renewable energy and mining. This will be even more important given the tremendous capacity needed with the existing and upcoming mega projects.
One major change that will start being immediately enforced is the creation of Directorates in various ministries that is expected to free up the government secretaries from more mundane everyday administrative tasks.
“The secretary as the head of the agency will be free to focus on more strategic priorities and help implement the ministries’ main plans and programs,” said an official.
The Directorate will be headed by the Director rank individual who will either be appointed by RCSC or in case of vacancies there will be an open competition. This Director is supposed to take on many of the routine and mundane everyday functions that can bog down a secretary. At the same time the secretary will still retain his or her important powers and continue to head important committees like the Human Resource Committee etc.
“The main aim of this is administrative efficiency and it also gets rid of positions like Joint Secretaries which have secretary like powers but not the same accountability and at the same time is equivalent to a Director General rank,” said the official.
To start with there will be six to seven Directorate positions that will be created in the bigger ministries. The same need is not felt in the smaller ministries at the moment.
Another important change that will also start implementation in this plan period is the moving out of regulatory bodies out of their existing ministries.
The cabinet approved this in principal subject to the requirement to change various Acts and Laws. A few examples of such agencies that needed moving out were BICMA, BAFRA, Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) etc. On the other hand an agency like BNCA is an example of an agency that has moved out successfully from its parent ministry.
The official said that the aim is to separate regulatory bodies from administrative ones and avoid cases where ministers would be the Chair of the regulatory body as well.
In the Ministry of Finance the change as recommended by the RCSC is to delink certain State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) like duty free shops etc.
In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the focus is on changes in processes for strengthening internal controls and management to better protect and promote Bhutan’s foreign interests.
A new Department has been established in the National Land Commission (NLC) to strengthen the capacity of the NLC.
The RCSC’s OD exercise after a detailed study looks at bringing about improvements in the structure, culture, systems and service of government agencies. It aims to reduce inefficiencies, balance portfolios and enhance coordination by working with the cabinet.
Apart from the decisions by the Cabinet above the cabinet will soon decide on additional OD proposals from the RCSC.
One RCSC proposal yet to be approved is on strengthening the National Environment Commission by joining the Department of Forests with it. This is expected to ensure faster and more efficient clearances and better service delivery. It will also give an on the ground presence that NEC currently lacks to better monitor the environment.
Another RCSC proposal is to do away with the Department of Culture and instead establish the National Commission for Cultural Affairs. This would allow more importance and focus on cultural issues. The official said that the commission was there in the past but it was done away with.
In case of Local government the RCSC has proposed a philosophy whereby eventually all services are done by local governments and the central governments focuses more on policy making and regulatory services. This is to ensure effective decentralization.