The current cabinet secretary, Kinzang Wangdi, has been offered the ticket to contest in the upcoming elections from the Barstsham-Shongphu constituency in Trashigangas a candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The Prime Minister also confirmed that the party did approach him to consider joining the party. However, even before the cabinet secretary has formally resigned and joined PDP, there are allegations that he had been politicking while on official tours. Certain quarters also question whether such offers to the cabinet secretary by the government could undermine the integrity and apolitical status s of the office of the cabinet secretary.
Talking to Business Bhutan, cabinet secretary Kinzang Wangdi said it was not true that he has been on familiarization tour.
“However, I have been to many Dzongkhags including eastern Dzongkhags to discharge my duties as a Cabinet Secretary,” he said.
The cabinet secretary also admitted that he had been approached by PDP and some other parties since 2008 to find out if he would be interested to join politics. “Similarly I am sure a lot of other civil servants would have been approached as well since civil servants are the potential pool for candidates,” he added.
The cabinet secretary said he responded to those offers of joining politics by saying that he would think about their offer and make a considered decision at the right time.
Responding on the whole issue, the cabinet secretary said, “I think my dedicated service to the Tsa Wa Sum for over 30 years is being undermined and just because I work in the Cabinet Secretariat, the whole issue unfortunately is being politicized.”
Further, Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay told Business Bhutan that he had sent the cabinet secretary, particularly to monitor the Government Performance Management System to many Dzongkhags including in the east. “As far as I know, he hasn’t been in any familiarization tours. The fact that he is still a civil servant means that it wouldn’t be possible for him to go on such tours – both ECB and RCSC could prevent it,” Lyonchhen added.
In an email response to Business Bhutan, the Prime Minister said, “Based on our assessment of the Cabinet Secretary’s potential to serve in public office, the party did inform him that we were looking for candidates for Bartsham –Songphu and requested him to consider for taking part in the 2018 elections.”
Lyonchhen also added that all civil servants including the cabinet secretary are allowed to join political parties. “However, they must first resign from civil service. Furthermore, as long as they are in the civil service they cannot take part in any political activities. I can confirm that Cabinet Secretary has not taken part in any political activities.”
Further, Lyonchhen said civil servants are not allowed to go on familiarization tours unless they resign from the civil service.
“Moreover, Election Commission of Bhutan must approve the familiarization tours. Hence, Cabinet Secretary hasn’t been on any familiarization tours to the best of my knowledge. Where required Cabinet Secretary may have accompanied Government Ministers as part of his official responsibilities,” the PM said.
However, the spokesperson from Druk PhuensumTshogpa (DPT) said if the cabinet secretary is to come as the PDP candidate from Bartsham – Shongphu constituency later, and if his tour wasn’t relevant to his assignment, then there is an element of corruption – viz. misuse of authority.
“So, the concerned authorities should look into it. First, we need to ascertain whether the cabinet secretary has been offered the candidature of Bartsham – Shongphu constituency by the PDP. Second, we need to see whether his tour to Bartsham – Shongphu has any relevance to his current post as the cabinet secretary,” he added.
“If this is proven true then he has violated the civil service code of conduct and accordingly the concerned institution must hold the individual responsible,” stated a press release issued by Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP).
A founding member of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and its party candidate from Bartsham –Songphu constituency in Trashigang, Tenzin Lekphell said he is unaware of the cabinet secretary going on familiarization tour in pretext of his official duty.
“I hope that he would not do this as a responsible senior civil servant. I did hear about a year back that he would be the likely PDP candidate from our constituency, but until declared it can still be only a rumor,’’ he said.
He added, “It would be sad if in case the position was mixed with political ambition. I hope this is not true.”
Chencho Dema from Thimphu