Bhutan has sufficient civil servants: PM

Bhutan has sufficient civil servants: PM

Replying to a question about the human resource policies that the government is undertaking to fill in gaps created by attrition of civil servants during question hours on June 21st, 2024, Prime Minister (PM) Dasho Tshering Tobgay replied that compared to other countries Bhutan has sufficient civil servants. Additionally, the PM said that the government is in dialogue with the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and other related agencies to address the issue.

“The ratio of civil servants to Bhutan’s population is 1:27. There are countries where the ratio is even 1:100 and more,” the PM said. The PM also said that during his interactions with civil servants and teachers, there were those who said that they would give their all and ensure that the objectives of the 13th Five Year are met. “I met civil servants who said that they can do it. There were teachers also who said the same and I was really happy,” the PM said.

However, the PM said that together with the RCSC, the government is working towards addressing the issue. He further mentioned that there are other alternatives like outsourcing work to the private sector.

On increased remunerations and incentives, the PM said that the latest pay rise was graciously granted by His Majesty the King. Underlining that money is important and that he is aware about it, the PM said that the economy should be first brought on track. “We want to give more. But let’s get our economy on track,” the PM said.
Meanwhile, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) in its 2022-2023 report said that he attrition rate among civil servants had soared to 16 percent during this period, with 4,822 individuals leaving their positions. Of these departures, 3,413 were voluntary resignations.

However, a report in 2024 by the RCSC said there has been a notable increase of 380 contract employees compared to 2022. However, the number of regular employees decreased by 3,149 compared to the previous year.

In 2023, the workforce comprised 5,233 contract employees and 23,173 regular employees. In comparison, the figures for 2022 stood at 4,853 contract employees and 26,341 regular employees.
Amongst the civil servants, 3,728 resigned voluntarily and 446 of the civil servants were delinked, followed by 424, who were separated with the completion of their contract terms. The commission also noted a significant separation of civil servants by category. In 2023, the majority were separated in the professional and management category, totaling 2,810 compared to 1,512 in 2022.

Following closely behind was the supervisory and support category, with 2,065 separations in 2023 compared to 848 in 2022.
Meanwhile, over the past five years, significant policy changes have reshaped the structure of the civil service, resulting in shifts in the demand for human resource, according to the commission.
The Commission stated that the changes reflect the government’s ongoing efforts to adapt to evolving societal needs and improve public service delivery and that the commission, subsequent to the Organisational Development Exercise (ODE), reviewed staffing of agencies and enabled additional post creation and recruitment in cases of additional need and assisted agencies to redeploy excess staff that were affected.

For instance, restructuring and rationalization of the civil service agencies resulted in post removal of over 1,800 positions across the entire civil service with the reporting period seeing significant attrition in the civil service. From an average 3.5% annual attrition it started increasing and peaked at 16% in 2023. While all agencies were affected the highest attrition was faced in the service sectors like health and education.

However, the Commission in consultation with the respective agencies came up with a targeted approach to fill the gaps and ensure that services are delivered in the best possible manner.
The report has also mentioned that the Commission recruits civil servants annually through Single Window Recruitment to fill critical gaps and support succession planning. “This aligns with the two AKRA of the 12th FYP, aiming to right-size the Civil Service and ensures its effective deployment in local governments,” the Commission stated.

While the Commission continued with the single window system for recruitment, it had to change the recruitment modalities to accommodate the growing attrition in 2022-2023.
For instance, one of the changes initiated was the amendment in the restriction to appear in Bhutan Civil Service Examination (BCSE) where fresh candidates could sit in exams multiple times as long as they are under the age of 35. In-service candidates were allowed to take exams until 45 and in the event they clear the exams, their seniority will be protected, if they join in the same professional category.

The Commission also recruited a total of 3,331 individual in the civil survives in 2023: 2,025 as contract employees and 1,282 as regular employees under different job categories including professional and management category, supervisory and support category followed by operational staff category.

Meanwhile, the Commission in collaboration with the Royal Government enacted the Civil Service Reform (CSR) Act of 2022. It culminated in, amongst others, rationalizing Ministries to nine from the initial 10, bringing in strategic functions such as technology, perspective economic and strategic HR planning under the Cabinet Secretariat, and enhancing strategic coordination within the government by creating a Committee of Four Coordinating Secretaries (C4CS).

Allied mandates were clustered to optimise synergistic links to the shared goals, strengthen accountability, enhance coordination and collaboration by designating four secretaries who concurrently head one of the Ministries in that policy cluster as Coordinating Secretaries to support the centre of government (Governance), Social, Economic, and Security or Defence Clusters.
In addition, the Commission in collaboration with the Executive Transformation Team, reviewed the roles, functions and governance structures of the various agencies in government. While some agencies having similar functions were clubbed together to form new agencies, others like the Tourism Council of Bhutan and National Environment Commission were converted to full-fledged Departments within related Ministries.

Further, some agencies were administratively affiliated with relevant Ministries, while retaining their governing bodies for greater accountability and representation from relevant stakeholders.

By Tashi Namgyal, Thimphu