Appointment of EDs of CSOs questioned

So far there are 53 registered CSOs in the country

The secretariat of the Civil Society Organization (CSO) Authority has questioned the legality of the appointment of Executive Directors (EDs) in the few CSOs.

The board members of around five CSOs have appointed their new EDs. 

Recently, the Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy (BCMD), Bhutan Transparency Initiative (BTI), SABAH Bhutan, Tarayana Foundation and Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) appointed their new ED after it was decided by their board members. 

Few CSOs have promoted their employees to ED and few are directly appointed by the board members. 

The CSO Authority secretariat has written a letter to these CSOs asking for clarifications on direct appointment of the ED by their board in May this year. 

The letter states that the board of CSOs has directly appointed the ED, which is in contravention of the Section 54(a) of the CSO Act 2007. 

The Section 54(a) of the CSO Act 2007 states that the board of a CSO will select and appoint an ED and any other needed personnel in accordance with fair and objective hiring practices. 

It also states that the secretariat would like to seek the individual CSOs to share their rationale justifications for arriving at such a decision. It would be appreciated if the CSOs could provide some clarifications on the matter before the agenda is put up to the authority for deliberation and decision. 

The secretary member of the CSO Authority, Tshewang Tobgyel said that the secretariat has sought clarification on the appointment of EDs, which is a contradiction to the CSO Act, since they have not followed the due diligence in the appointment of the EDs.

“Since ED is the key position in the company,” he said. 

He said that though there are few CSOs where they have service rules and regulations that the board can appoint the ED, however, it will be superseded by the Act. 

He said that few of the CSOs have appointed their former board member and few have promoted their previous employees.    

He also said that the secretariat has received responses from those CSOs and they mentioned that they were appointed in accordance with their service rules. Some mentioned that it is succession plan of the company because they have groomed their employees to be appointed as an ED. 

He said that the issue will be deliberated in the authority since the secretariat is not very clear on this particular section and the Act will be interpreted further.

The CSO Authority is governed by five members on the board – one official from the finance ministry, home and cultural affairs ministry, the OAG and two elected members from the CSOs. The term for each member is for three years and extendable to two terms. 

Tshewang Tobgyel said currently two member seats are vacant and need to be reinstituted and also there is a need to elect the chair of the board authority. 

To conduct a meeting of the authority, the quorum is that four members should be present in the meeting. 

He said so far many of the CSOs have followed their due diligence on the appointment of EDs by announcing the vacancy with open competition and objective. Recently, the Loden Foundation appointed the new ED by announcing its vacancy. 

He added that there is no uniformity or consistency in the appointment of EDs in the CSOs. 

“However, we are also not very clear on this section and after the interpretation of the OAG, then the decision will be made and communicated to the CSOs,” he said. 

The chairperson of the BTI, Lyonpo Dr. Kinzang Dorji said they have appointed the ED as per the provision of their service rules and regulation. 

He said that as per their service rules the board can appoint the ED. 

“We didn’t go for open and competitive selection of the candidate, since we are a small CSO, we don’t have the ability to pay high salary,” the Lyonpo said. 

Similarly, the chair of the BCMD, Dr. Lam Dorji said that they have appointed the ED as per the best interest of the BCMD board.

He also mentioned that they have appointed the ED based on their experience and capability which is fitted for the position. He added that as per their service rules, the board has the authority to appoint the ED. 

Meanwhile, the ED’s tenure is also not mentioned in the Act. Some of the EDs have been functioning for more than 10 years. 

In the meantime, the CSO Act 2007 is being amended and the National Council has passed the Act. So far there are 53 registered CSOs in the country. 

However, an independent lawyer mentioned that the Act clearly mentions that as far as it is appointed with fair and objective hiring practice, the board has the authority to appoint the ED. 

The lawyer mentioned that the Act doesn’t mention that it should be appointed by announcing a vacancy. 

However, he said that different people can interpret differently. 

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu