The Four Poisons in the Civil Service

There are four poisons or problems choking the civil service that need to be rectified by the RCSC and the reform team under it.

The first problem starts at the recruitment level where the process is unscientific, outdated and unable to screen people who are fit for the job or want to serve. It is no wonder that the main answer on why people want to join the civil service is ‘job security’.

Once the young recruits are selected, there is no proper mentoring and guiding which may explain why large numbers of young recruits are quitting.

It is at this stage that they are instead introduced to the unhealthy civil service culture of shirking work, making false claims, abuse of power, beating the system etc.

The second problem is that there is no accountability built into the system as the people who work or don’t work, get paid the same and avail the same perks. This comes as a huge discouragement for those who work sincerely.

Added to this issue is the fact that the only way to get paid well in the civil service is to rise vertically for leadership positions which are limited.

Unlike in other more progressive countries there is not much scope for professionals in Bhutan to move horizontally at the same grade and get paid well for their expertise. This leads to a build up of frustration, especially at the middle and junior level.

The third problem is at the civil service leadership or executive level. It is revealing that during the time of the second RCSC Commission the executives were opposed to surveying their juniors to rate the performance of executives or the climate in the organization. This is even when the leadership is toxic or there is favoritism, vindictiveness or authoritarianism at play.

Our executives at the end of day are not accountable to the elected government or even to the RCSC as the post was considered to be theirs until retirement, with them free to do or maneuver as they want.

The leadership in the executive needs to be more professional, more accountable and provide better leadership to their respective organizations.

The fourth problem is that over the years the massive civil service, instead of sticking to its mandate to serve the people, has turned into a massive machinery sucking up the bulk of resources and serving itself.

The service to the public or clients is an afterthought and the last priority. The second commission had proposed a client survey to judge organizations, but again this could not take off.  

This is manifest in the common complaint that officials can’t be found in their offices or even sub-standard infrastructure being delivered to the public.

In some ways this is the heart of the problem as the mindset has to change from self service to public service.

“It’s the civil servants who run a country, not the politicians.”
Abhijit Naskar

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