Local Government Entitlement bill not effective immediately

The Local Government Members Entitlement Bill 2014, adopted at the joint sitting of the Parliament on 12th, will have to go through the provisions of the Constitution. The chairperson of the joint committee and Chumig-Ura representative, Tshewang Jurmi, said that the bill would not bring change in the local government (LG) members’ salaries or allowances immediately. “This is, overall, the principle that will govern their entitlement. Before it comes into effect we first have to form a pay commission, then the pay commission has to recommend the government and the government has to bring it to the Parliament again.”

The bill was passed by a vote of 66 to one with one abstain and will be applicable to all elected members of LG such as Thrompon, Thromde Thuemis, Gups, Mangmi, Tshogpas, whereas Gaydrungs (earlier grouped in the local government) are now under Royal Civil Service Commission. However, the Government will also look into the provisions of the Gyadrung’s salaries.

According to the bill, the government, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, will determine LG members’ monthly salary. Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, Damchoe Dorji, said the government has recommended and asked the second Pay Commission in 2014 to increase salaries and allowances of civil servants, as there was the 20-30% pay raise in the government officials and 40% for the LG members.

The bill entitled all LG members to an allowance for mobile phone vouchers, Daily Subsistence allowance, paid leave (casual leave, earned leaved, maternity leave, paternity leave and medical leave), retirement benefits and sitting fee. Also, the Chairperson of Dzongkhag Tshogdu is only person to get the special responsibility allowance.

The minister said the government has not been ready for setting up the Pay Commission, but will start working once the Bill gets Royal Assent.

The Article 30 of the constitution states that the Pay Commission shall be autonomous and shall be constituted, from time to time, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. “For the revision of the Local Government members also, the Pay Commission shall recommend to the Government on revisions of the salary, allowances, benefits, and other emoluments with due regard to the economy of Bhutan and other provisions of the constitution,” the constitution defines.

It also said that the recommendations of the commission shall be implemented only on the approval of the Lhengye Zhungtshog and be subjected to such conditions and modifications as may be made by the parliament.

Tshewang Jurmi said, the bill was introduced to the parliament because there was no one to take care the entitlement of the LG members and would fall prey to any government of the day. “The bill was introduced to attract talented candidates to provide financial security. It can also prevent corruption by being responsive to economic needs of the members, and ensure the efficient and effective delivery of services by motivating the local leaders,” he added.

In the session, the Minister of Finance, Namgay Dorji, said that the government supported the bill, considering the importance of the local government and the policy of devolution of power, although it would incur an additional financial cost. In implementation of the Act, the government has to bear an additional cost of Nu. 20 mn for its 1044 members.

The bill was drafted in the end of 2010 based on the Parliamentary Entitlement Act as they are also elected members. It was also shared with the Second Pay Commission for review and necessary recommendation.  On January 21 last year, in 22nd session of Cabinet Secretariat, it was duly endorsed.

Due to sorting out technical issues related to Thromde and Thromde Tshogde and other administrative and coordination issues, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs was directed to do it later in consultation with relevant government agencies, such as Ministry of Work and Human Settlement. Thereafter, the discussion on the bill was deferred.

The local Government Members Entitlement Bill comprises of five chapters and thirty-two sections.

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