Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, around three weeks ago, wrote to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) to revisit and look at some grievances put forward to him in a petition by some members of the Supervisory and Support (S&S) civil servants.
These S&S civil servants are unhappy with some civil service reforms carried out by the RCSC pertaining to their promotion period and classification as S&S.
Lyonchhen at the time said that the S&S civil servants would know what is good for them.
However, the RCSC in all likelihood will not accept the Prime Minister’s letter according to sources in the RCSC.
A RCSC official on the condition of anonymity said, “If the RCSC entertains any interference in civil service matters then it would be the start of the politicization of the Royal civil service, which by Constitution is supposed to remain apolitical.”
The official said that of the 11,242 S&S category of civil servants the vast majority are happy with the reforms as it benefits them, but it is only a few of them spearheaded by around 15 civil servants mainly based in Thimphu who put up the petition.
“These civil servants went around collecting the signature of around 400 S&S civil servants from various agencies in various Dzongkhags,” said the official.
The RCSC official said, “These civil servants know it is election time and they are going to politicians hoping something will happen and hoping that they can get even more.”
He claimed that in the recent and ongoing Dzongkhag tour of the RCSC, even the civil servants who had signed the petition were happy with the reforms and did not have any issues.
The main complaint of the representatives of the aggrieved S&S civil servants was that they were only consulted by junior officials and hence no proper consultation was done with them. They pointed to the Constitution and the Civil Service Act saying that proper consultation needs to be done.
Here, the RCSC official said that wide and extensive consultations were done only after which the reforms were brought in.
The main grouse of the petitioners is that the RCSC as part of its reforms increased the promotion period of S&S officials from the previous four year period to a five year period since 2016.
The RCSC on its part maintains that earlier S level officials could only rise to P 3 but the RCSC to address career stagnancy has increased this to the P 2 level. S level officials are civil servants who did not do the Bhutan Civil Service Exams and were not graduates and so could not enter the civil service in the Professional and Management (P&M) category of civil servants.
The RCSC in 2016 brought about a new category in the civil service called S&S. This applied for the earlier S category. The RCSC after S 1 level created SS 4 equivalent to P 5, SS 3 for P 4, SS 2 for P 3, SS1 for P 2.
Then it increased the promotion period from the earlier four years to five years saying that the SS level for the S category is equivalent to the Ex position for the P&M category where it takes five to six years to jump to the next level.
The RCSC claimed that pre-reform, 7,429 civil servants could go up to S1 or P5 only. With the reform all the civil servants in S&S category, irrespective of entry level or qualification up gradation, but subject to minimum performance, now have a smooth career movement up to SS1.
The other issues of the group were on applying the ‘vested rights’ principle whereby they argued that in 2006 some civil servants were reclassified into the P&M category from the S category.
Here the RCSC official said that in 2006 there was no RCSC Act which came only in 2010 and so it was possible to do so then for specific reasons, but now it would be illegal in the presence of the Act.
Another demand was in keeping civil servants who got in service bachelors degree in the P&M category. Here again the RCSC official said that the Act applies and P&M category is only for civil servants who clear BCSE exams.