Ugyen Namgay, Member of National Council, Haa Dzongkhag

Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill empowers the Cabinet Secretariat over PMO and takes away power to appoint political appointees

Meanwhile, both the houses adopted the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of Bhutan, 2020

During the Joint Sitting of the Parliament, the house deliberated on the 7 disputed clauses of the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of Bhutan 2020.

The Vice-Chairperson of the Joint Committee on the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of Bhutan 2020, Ugyen Namgay, Member of National Council from Haa Dzongkhag presented the committee’s recommendations on the 7 disputed clauses along with the recommendations from National Assembly and National Council.

The National Assembly had proposed inserting a new chapter in the Bill to cover the establishment of the Prime Minister’s Office, but the joint committee of the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill, 2020 recommended that the new chapter be inserted under Chapter 9, the Cabinet Secretariat Chapter.

Ugyen Namgay stated that the committee analyzed the chapter and determined that there is no need for a new chapter because there are fewer sections and it would result in an extra chapter in the Bill. As a result, the committee decided to insert five sections under Chapter 9 and two sections under Chapter 3, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of Lhengye Zhungtshog.

According to the recommendation, the government may establish a Prime Minister’s Office within the Cabinet Secretariat.

This is an important change as the National Assembly in its earlier amendments had proposed a separate PMO which was a more post haste attempt at NA’s recognition of a PMO that had already been created.

The Cabinet Secretary with a reduced skeletal staff and functions had also been physically relocated across the river to the Tashichhodzong while the PMO stayed with the PM. Though still the overall head the Cabinet Secretary was reduced to main conducting cabinet meetings and committee of secretaries meetings.

The latest version of the bill undoes some of this as the PMO is now only a branch of the larger Cabinet Secretariat.

The Prime Minister’s Office will be sufficiently supplied with expert professionals, according to the joint committee’s recommendation, but the Royal Civil Service Commission will offer specialized professionals designated under section 2 from the Civil Service Act.

As per the recommendation, in the event, certain specialized professionals are not available within the civil service, such professionals may be recruited on contract as per the Civil Service Act of Bhutan.

The committee also recommended that remunerations, allowances and service conditions of the specialized staff will be governed by the Civil Service Act.

This effectively means the Prime Minister can no longer appoint political appointees.

The committee further recommended that the Prime Minister in consultation with Lhengye Zhungtshog shall nominate officials in the regional and international offices and the Lhengye Zhungtshog shall prescribe procedures for nomination under section 6.

Majority of the members of the parliament supported the joint committee’s recommendation.

The Joint Sitting endorsed all the recommendations from the Joint Committee and adopted the Lhengye Zhungtshog Bill of Bhutan 2020 with 55 Yes, and 4 Abstaining out of 59 Members present and voting.

The Bill will now be submitted to His Majesty The King for Royal Assent.

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