Senior Civil Servants should draw the right lessons from the reforms

Our senior civil servants from Ex1 to Ex3 have had a very tough and torrid time with the civil service reforms as all of them were put through a rigorous assessment process, and around half of them were managed out.

The main lessons that our remaining senior civil servants should derive from the exercise is:

Focusing on achieving results instead of obsessing with the process or red tape;

Coordinating better for the greater national good but not mistaking coordination for bad group think;

Taking initiative or even risks to solve problems or make things happen but not being reckless;

Thinking of the big picture or our long term aims but also being aware of present ground realities;

And importantly improving service delivery for ordinary citizens.

The lessons they should not derive is:

Creating more red tape to keep themselves safe;

Asserting greater control for the sake of control due to their own insecurities;

Creating terror among their juniors and stakeholders because they mistake fear with efficency;

Micro-managing small things;

Taking adhoc decisions withouth consultation and research;

And mistaking authoritarianism for leadership.

The main reason why red tape is constantly created is because somewhere something may have gone wrong once and then civil servants come up with many new rules and checks to prevent it.

In the process these preventive rules aimed at one issue become worse than the original problem.

This is how a negative minded civil service system functions where basically civil servants spend a lot of time creating new red tape instead of delivering, while citizens spend most of their time wading through this red tape to get even basic services.

A negative minded civil service operates on the premise of fear of what could go wrong instead of working to make things go right. It is a deer caught in the headlights frozen by fear and unable to move.

A positive minded civil service will be creative, light footed, take initiative, focus on the outcome instead of the process, consult stakeholders and react quickly to the changes on the ground.

We hope that our senior civil servants have derived the right lessons from the reform process and will keep a broad and expanded mind that will make good things happen.

If they have not taken the right lessons then they will be locking themselves into a mental safe box along with everyone else where even light will not be allowed in, and anyone who does not come into the safe box is the enemy.

His Majesty The King in the recent Royal Address has invited the people to play a part in the transformation and reform process.

One of the important roles we can play is to point out when senior civil servants or their subordinates are taking the wrong lessons and hence moving things backwards instead of going forward.

If there are a few senior civil servants who want to unleash terror and be authoritarian then there is a wonderful document called the Constitution of Bhutan which grants and protects the rights of every Bhutanese and will supersede any bad rules or directives.

Our other role can also be to point out when service delivery fails on the ground so that officials cannot cover themselves in false glory and misleading data of achievements.

As His Majesty has outlined so well it is we the people who are at the very heart of the reforms and this is why Karma Dechen came up time and again.

Senior civil servants should not assume the reforms is only a structural one, or is about increasing their powers to assert more control over the people, but the reforms places more responsibility on them to deliver results for the good of the people.

The writer is the Editor of the paper

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