RTI limbo resolved for now after PM’s intervention

In what was being a messy procedural wrangle between the National Council and a Committee of Secretaries procedural rule over the RTI Bill, the Prime Minister stepped in to resolve the issue.

The PM on Wednesday instructed the Cabinet Secretary to ask the MoIC to make the presentation to the NC at the NC’s convenience. The wrangle became a major issue of concern in the government after this paper did an article last week.

The PM said, “It was a matter of procedure and it is important to sort them out in a young democracy. I have given instructions to the Cabinet Secretary to inform the MoIC to make the presentation.”

The PM also said that he would be meeting his colleagues in the NC to resolve and finalize any such procedural issues.

Earlier members of the NC including Dasho Karma Yezer Raydi, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee tasked with looking at the RTI Bill passed by the National Assembly said that the MoIC had declined to present the RTI Bill to them.

The MoIC Secretary Dasho Kinely on his part said that the MoIC was following the directions of the Cabinet Secretariat to only for presentations in NC whose request was routed through the Cabinet Secretariat.

This new procedure has been established by the Committee of Secretaries a few months after the elections last year to insure better coordination and accountability.

The NC on its part cited its own rules and procedures and refused to go through the Cabinet Secretariat and the Cabinet Secretary.

The Cabinet Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk said, “As per the Prime Minister’s instructions I have written to the MoIC to make a presentation at their convenience.”

The MoIC Secretary Dasho Kinley said that the MoIC was ready whenever the NC wanted the ministry to present the Bill.

However, the procedural wrangle and the delay caused may have already done some damage. A member of the NC on the condition of anonymity said that even if the presentation happened a lot of time had been lost that could have been used to consult various stakeholders on the bill and also deliberate in the various clauses and amendments.

It is also not clear what the NC’s position will be after the change in stance from the Cabinet Secretariat and MoIC though the issue was discussed internally in a NC plenary meeting of all NC members. Both the NC Chairperson and NC members have maintained a tight lipped silence on what they would do next.

At the same time there is also growing criticism from RTI watchers against the NC, the Cabinet Secretariat and also the political establishment for allowing an important Bill like RTI to suffer over a procedural wrangle that should have been resolved earlier.

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