The hottest topics of discussion these days, especially in government offices, are the proposed pay hike and house rent allowance for the civil servants.
Even in the recent past, when civil service pay hikes was being considered, there was a strong and enthusiastic interest shown by civil servants on the issue.
On the other hand, and in light of the ongoing economic crisis- there is growing concern, especially from the private sector and other citizens, on the increasing consumption of resources by the government itself.
Of the Nu 213 bn 11th Five Year Plan (FYP), around 121 bn or 57 percent will be spent on the recurrent expenditure, all of which are funded by the tax-payer’s money. The biggest chunk of the recurrent expenditure is the pay benefits, allowances, pension, etc., of civil servants.
Basically, both the running of the government and the salary and benefits of civil servants come from tax payers- directly and indirectly.
Therefore, it is only natural that ordinary citizens, who as tax payers fund the government and the civil service machinery, have a natural right to get the best performance and service possible from both the organization and its employees.
If seen in this light, the new government’s Performance Management System (PMS) that aims to measure the productivity or work output of individual civil servants- to reward hardworking ones and pull up lazy ones, is a step in the right direction.
If this system is successful then ordinary citizens can, hopefully, expect much better and faster services, and the government and the country can achieve much more- not only quantitatively but also qualitatively.
PMS would, however, benefit ordinary civil servants the most- as it would address the long standing grouse in the service that both performers and the idle ones get the same rewards.
PMS, in some aspects, is not only a good human resource management system for which citizens has been crying out for years, but also an important democratic step. While politician are already held to account once every five years at the ballot box- the question that often crops up is- what holds the life-long bureaucrats with secure jobs accountable to the people?
The PMS, in that respect, will also help ensure that even bureaucrats, no matter how senior or junior, are held accountable.
Another frequent complaint by civil servants themselves is on nepotism within the system where ‘connected’ bureaucrats make it to the top easily while those working harder or equally hard languish down the ladder or stagnate in the same level.
The PMS system will ensure that both promotions and selections for various posts in the civil service can be done on a fair and transparent basis.
The PMS is not a new concept, but is already there in many countries like Sinagpore, USA, Malayasia, etc.
What is unique about the PMS project in Bhutan is that it will not be planned and implemented by a group of foreign consultants like some of our white elephants, but our brightest bureaucrats would be involved from the start to the finish.
It will be important to ensure that the PMS system that is adopted by the government is suited to the local ground realities, and is above all, implementable, fair, transparent, and flexible to changing human resource needs.
In Bhutan too- much trust is placed in individuals, especially at senior level of the government instead of having clear and well-defined systems. The PMS, in that respect, should do away with the system of some senior or even mid- level officials having too much arbitrary say, and instead institute a scientific and systemic system.
The PMS will also help any political government of the day to successfully implement its various pledges and programs promised to the electorate.
Ultimately, the key will lie in the implementation of the program- and it is here, where the new government should pay the most attention to.
“If the people who make the decisions are the people who will also bear the consequences of those decisions, perhaps better decisions will result.”