The senior levels of the government bureaucracy will see far reaching changes by June 2016 when seven top government secretaries head into retirement. This is because secretaries can only have a one five year term or retire at the age of 60.
The only exceptions will be Ministry of Economic Affairs Secretary Dasho Yeshi Wangdi who has until around 2019, the Foreign Secretary Tshering Dorji has until 2017 and the Works and Human Settlement Secretary Phuntsho Wangdi has until around 2018.
The secretaries completing their five year terms are Home Secretary Dasho (Dr) Sonam Tenzin, Finance Secretary Lam Dorji, Education Secretary Sangay Zam, Information and Communications Secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji, and Ministry of Labour and Human Resources Secretary Pema Wangda.
The two secretaries retiring for reaching 60 years of age will be the Health Secretary Dorji Wangchuk in June 2016 and the Agriculture Secretary Tenzin Dhendup who has a month more till July 2016.
The process for the selection of new secretaries in mid 2016 is laid out in the Constitution and RCSC Act.
The RCSC will first of all go through a large list of potential candidates and look at their performance, integrity and seniority.
Then the RCSC will submit around three potential names for every one vacancy to the cabinet. The government would then make its own choices and submit the final list to His Majesty the King for appointment.
This administrative process is significant both for the government and the country as after the minister government secretaries hold tremendous administrative, human resource, financial and implementation powers in the ministry.
The capability and even the personality of the secretaries in charge can end up impacting the entire ministry.
The job description for a Secretary according to the RCSC reads as, “The position receives only minimum supervision from the minister, Cabinet, and the Government. Such instruction may be the conceptual framework or policy interpretation. The position should work independently, requiring independent exercise of judgment.”
The Job description, also goes says that the secretary is the “CEO” of the ministry.
It also says that the Secretary shall supervise, monitor and evaluate the work of the department heads directly and others through the department heads.
It also says that the position is the highest in the hierarchy and is the administrative head of the ministry, directly reporting to the minister.
The RCSC Act makes the Secretary, the Head of the Human Resource Committee, to decide the promotions and take disciplinary actions for officials below the EX 3 level.
In the case of transfers, the BCSR lists the post of Secretary as a sensitive post and discourages any transfer before four years out of the five year term of a Secretary. Even in case transfers of Secretaries do happen, it is normally handed by the RCSC. The RCSC Act says that in case the Cabinet wants to get involved in deciding a transfer, it will have to consult with the RCSC.
Secretaries also are the heads, board directors and commission members of key organizations like the DHI board, National Land Commission, BICMA and various others boards and commissions.
Until a year ago the Committee of Secretaries was the second most powerful executive body in the government after the cabinet but it was disbanded after the cabinet said it exceeded its mandate in writing a strong letter to the Indian government without getting the cabinet’s consent.
The appointment of new secretaries will be a keenly watched event in the government and civil service as it will not only impact the functioning of various agencies but also open up various other vacancies.