The dilemma of reassigning the two secretaries

On 28th February 2015, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) in its decision had announced its intention to ‘reassign’ the three government secretaries.

Since then the former Cabinet Secretary has already retired completing his term but the question over the former Secretary of Ministry of Economic Affairs Dasho Sonam Tshering and former Foreign Secretary Yeshey Dorji still remained.

By mid August 2015 the RCSC was on the verge of reassigning the two secretaries. According to a reliable source in the RCSC the tentative positions in mind then were that of the General Secretary of the National Council for Yeshey Dorji and the Secretary of the National Environment Commission (NEC) for Dasho Sonam Tshering. Currently both these posts are vacant.

However, the same source in the RCSC said that informally the two former government secretaries were not enthusiastic about the two posts that would mean an automatic demotion from their former posts.

Though the two secretaries would still have retained their Ex-1 status in the civil service it would still constitute a step down, as the post of a secretary to the government enjoys slightly higher pay and privileges than other secretaries. It is also considered to be more prestigious and more powerful.

The RCSC in its decision on 28th February 2015 without spelling it out showed that any reassignment would not be possible within the government secretary posts.

According to the RCSC even in the case of appointing new secretaries to the government the RCSC has to anyhow send a list to the Cabinet which does the selection and then submits names to His Majesty the King. Therefore, in addition to the RCSC’s earlier decision of reassignment the Cabinet already has the prerogative to reject candidates for the post of government secretary.

All of this has lead to more delays on the final solution but a senior RCSC official said that RCSC’s reassignment decision does not have to adhere to any strict time line.

The RCSC official said that given the cabinet’s surrender of the two secretaries it does not want to put the two secretaries in posts where they would have to have extensive dealings with the cabinet. It is felt this would result in unnecessary tension and issues.

Therefore, the RCSC’s current strategy is to wait it out until an appropriate post can be found. The agency, if need be, seems to be willing to even wait until the two secretaries retire. There have been and continue to be cases of senior government officials not assigned to any specific post continuing to withdraw full pay until retirement.

Dasho Sonam Tshering like most other government secretaries was due to finish his final 5 year term as a secretary by June end 2016.

Yeshey Dorji was appointed as Foreign Secretary in June 2012 which meant he had time till June 2017 to complete his five year term.

The government on 11th December 2014 announced its decision to ‘surrender’ the three secretaries to the RCSC.

The main offence of the three Secretaries, according to the government, was to take part in sending a strong letter from the Foreign Ministry to the Government of India on the behalf of the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) without either consulting the Cabinet, the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister.

The letter was to primarily complain about an article where a former civil servant K.B Wakhley had made various charges against Dasho Sonam Tshering over his compulsory retirement. However, the letter also touched on a story by Enertia which talked about corruption allegations with regard to supply of equipment of electro-mechanical equipment by BHEL.

The letter said that the articles ‘undermine the spirit of friendship, mutual trust and understanding and close cooperation that has guided Bhutan’s economic partnership with India in the hydropower sector.’

The letter apart from the complaint asked for action against Enertia Magazine and Foundation to the fullest extent of the law.
In addition to surrendering the three secretaries the government ordered an ACC investigation into the corruption allegations and dissolved the Committee of Secretaries.

The RCSC in late December 2014 announced that it could not accept the surrender of the three secretaries and put them on authorized absence instead. The RCSC asked the cabinet to provide the charges and evidence against the three secretaries.

In the meantime the Opposition party strongly took up the case of the three secretaries defending them and asking for their reinstatement to their original positions.

The cabinet provided the charges and the evidences along with it as asked by the RCSC. The RCSC in late February 2015 announced that it would reassign the three secretaries.

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