On 25 November 2022, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), appointed the four Coordinating Secretaries to head the Committee for Coordinating Secretaries (C4CS) and the four clusters of Governance, Economic, Social and Security.
The 4 Coordinating Secretaries and their areas
The Governance Cluster will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary, Kesang Deki, who will also be the Chair of the C4CS.
Under this cluster, she will be looking after Cabinet Secretariat, Finance Ministry and also be engaged with all cross cutting ones, like RCSC, National Statistic Bureau, Gov Tech, Royal Monetary Authority, etc.
The Economic Cluster will be headed by the Secretary of the current Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), Karma Tshering, who in addition to his own ministry (soon to be Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment) will look after the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, and Ministry of Agriculture.
The Social Cluster will have the new Land Secretary, Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor, as its head, and he, in addition, to the National Land Commission will look after Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and keep track on the Royal University of Bhutan, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, etc., to ensure there is convergence of policies.
The Security Cluster will be headed by the Foreign Secretary, Pema Choden who in addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will look after the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.
The appointment of the Coordinating Secretaries creates a new top hierarchy in the civil service as these 4 Secretaries will be higher in the line of reporting, and the performance of the secretaries are to be rated by this body too.
ToR for C4CS
RCSC has also handed over a broad Terms of Reference (ToR) to the C4CS.
The Secretariat of the C4CS will be housed in the Office of Cabinet Affairs and Strategic Coordination, which includes the Cabinet Director of the Cabinet Secretariat.
As per the ToR, the C4CS will be the central coordinating body within the Civil Service to guide formulation of five year plans and resource allocation for submission to the Cabinet, ensure adherence of all plans to approved long term strategic national objectives and plans and coordinate implementation of national plans and policies, and cabinet directives that require cross sectoral coordination.
It will resolve cross cutting or implementation issues amongst agencies and escalate to the Cabinet where necessary, coordinate and manage performance of agencies assigned to them and ensure alignment of respective cluster outcomes to national goals, and ensure effective and efficient delivery of cluster outcomes.
The C4CS shall be accountable to the PM and the Cabinet in delivering National Outcomes, and it will identify policies and programs for evaluation.
It will also review evaluation reports for submission to the Cabinet.
The ToR states that the C4CS will meet regularly to build a trusted and forward looking Civil Service Agencies, and foster collaboration and teamwork to ensure the whole of government approach.
The ToR says the clusters and C4CS is to ensure that the communications, accountability to performance results chain, and reporting accountability along the results chain are made clearer and sharper within the Civil Service.
This, it states, will also provide a clearer managerial accountability line in utilisation of resources and performance management in the Civil Service aligned to the result chain.
It says the cluster concept will provide better policy coordination and the PM and Cabinet Ministers can look to one Secretary accountable for policy outcomes by cluster.
The RCSC Chairperson Karma Hamu Dorjee said that the C4CS will be looking at reworking the ToR further.
C4CS brainstorming to handle everything
The C4CS has already started its work, and there is brainstorming going on how the C4CS will move around, engage, and which additional agencies will have to be engaged by the Coordinating Secretaries.
The C4CS will have be able to manage anything, and while the C4CS knows where it stands it has to be able to trouble shoot anything that goes on at the end of the day.
The C4CS want to relook at the ToR to ensure that it will not lead to the C4CS saying that an issue is not in the ToR.
The aim of the C4CS is that anything that cannot be handled will be on the heads of the C4CS, and so it will need to be alert and the heads have to manage their clusters well.
While the policy has to be created from the line ministries if the C4CS has something, it will assign it to the agencies, and accordingly they may have to deep dive and come up with the policies.
The C4CS will ensure the PM does not have to go around hunting, when there is an issue, to see which secretary to look after it, and and suddenly the secretary says the issue is not his or hers.
The C4CS has to get things done. It will have to ensure the clusters are handled well, so there are no issues, and provide the required support and backing to the government, and make sure that down the line, it can send clear directives to the secretaries, departments and agencies in the respective clusters.
In the C4CS, the Cabinet Secretary is the Chair, who will be the top most person accountable in the civil service system. The Cabinet Secretary has to make the accountability framework clear. That is why, if anything is not going well, the Cabinet Secretary will need to have a clear line of accountability between the four coordinating secretaries, also in terms of what every one takes care of.
A problem in the earlier system was the presence of 10 government secretaries with each of them doing their own thing.
If the Cabinet Secretary gets directives from the government, she has to take it down and if there are issues that need to be resolved, and mandates are not being done then she will have to make sure to plug it to the respective coordinating secretary, and get updates, see what are the issues and thrash it out.
C4CS Vs CoS
There are those who compare the C4CS to the Committee of Secretaries (CoS). Here, the RCSC Chairperson said the C4CS is like CoS, but much slimmer, and with the aim of being more effective.
In terms of the powers of the C4CS and ensuring there is no clash with the Cabinet, like in the past with the CoS, the RCSC Chair said, “In no way can the C4CS be taking decisions beyond their mandate. That is for the government of the day. We expect the C4CS to have the wisdom to manage. As a leader, it is about how you manage your supervisor, peers, subordinates and clients.”
“The C4CS coordinates how decisions go up to the Cabinet, to avoid where one arm does not know what the other arm is doing. It is all discussed, and we don’t waste money with somebody doing something and somebody else doing something else,” the RCSC Chair added.
Things have also become better defined for the C4CS compared to the CoS. The advantage for the C4CS is that it is a smaller group so that they can meet more regularly, unlike the CoS which was a huge group.
During the mid-term review of five-year plans, coordination and collaboration has always come as a critical issue, and so C4CS will look at improving that.
While the current C4CS are the Cabinet Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Economic Affairs Secretary and Land Secretary, these are not permanent positions and can change in the future depending on how well it functions and how the person is performing.