Finance Minister says whatever the decision mobility of civil servants and livelihood of drivers will be taken care of
One of the much discussed recommendations of the Pay Commission was on doing away with the 932 out of the 1,484 pool vehicles. The Pay Commission came up with the recommendation as the government had asked them to also look into the pool vehicle issue.
The government’s Pay Revision report presented in Parliament did not take a stand on the issue but instead the report said that the government has seriously considered the pros and cons of maintaining a large fleet of pool vehicles.
It said that it would discuss in detail with the civil servants and appropriate mechanisms would be put in place in order to minimize the impact of withdrawal of pool vehicles on public service delivery.
In line with that statement the Ministry of the Finance will soon be conducting detailed studies and discussions with various government agencies to discuss the Pay Commission’s recommendation.
It has been learnt that the MoF will soon be issuing a notification to various government agencies to give the MoF the latest updated information on their pool vehicles and other details like model, make etc.
A MoF official said that it was necessary to consult the various agencies to know the cost benefit analysis and impact of the Pay Commission’s proposal on withdrawing vehicles.
The Finance Minister Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said, “The MoF will first study the issue in detail after which we will present a report to the cabinet. It is only then that the cabinet will take a final decision on the issue.”
Lyonpo said that the reason why MoF was taking so much time was to ensure that whatever decision comes out in the end the mobility of civil servants to deliver public service effectively, and the livelihood of government drivers are not affected.
A MoF official said that the concern in any proposal to withdraw pool vehicles is not so much the impact in Thimphu but in districts and remote areas where civil servants without access to public transport had to monitor and implement developmental programs. The concern is that any decision should not affect developmental programs.
The other concern is on what would happen with the drivers once the pool vehicles are withdrawn. According to a source all kinds of options are being looked at from re-employing drivers, to putting them in other government projects to even offering them an Early Retirement Scheme (ERS) or a Special Retirement Scheme (SRS).
The governments pay revision report, without mentioning who it is meant for, has highlighted SRS as a way of right sizing the civil service. This could be an option for the drivers as SRS unlike ERS does not depend on the numbers of years served and so higher financial incentives can be given for a golden handshake.
One concern on pool vehicles is that the Pay Commission had factored annual savings of Nu 378.897 mn from withdrawing the pool vehicles, which would be part of the cost cutting needed to pay for the civil servants pay hike. Here, according to the MoF, the revenue projection was more than comfortable for the government even in the eventuality of the pool vehicles not being withdrawn.
An official said that with the government increasing the mileage to Nu 16 and also the DSA rates civil servants should no longer hesitate to travel for official work even if pool vehicles are not available. He also said most civil servants already used their own vehicles or public transport to do official work.
Apart from the high cost of maintenance one of the major concerns over the pool vehicles is its misuse which the Pay Commission report also highlights. Though only ministers, secretaries and joint secretaries are supposed to have vehicles designated for them, the practice in many ministries is to have vehicles and drivers that are designated only for other senior officials. There are also instances of pool vehicles being used for personal reasons on holidays though in some cases officials have to also attend meetings on such days. There are also concerns over the theft of fuel and other vehicle parts like new tyres.
The Pay Commission report has 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.
The Pay Commission recommends keeping only 448 vehicles out of the current 1,484 pool vehicles. It says 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. It recommends 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 to buy vehicles like MPs.
The Pay Commission recommends that the withdrawal should be done in a phased manner for which there should be a proper business plan. It recommends forming a Corporate Body that will manage withdrawn government vehicles and drivers and sustain itself by loaning themselves from time to time to the government, whenever they are needed. It says that old vehicles should be auctioned and such drivers may be employed in large government projects.