Civil service needs to be streamlined

Maintaining a small, compact and efficient civil service remains a daunting challenge for the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) since the civil service is the single biggest employer in the country.

According to the recently launched Annual Report on the state of the royal civil service (July 2016- June 2017), a major concern for the RCSC has been that most of the Acts governing various Institutions prescribe specific positions as mandatory which, at times are not utilized fully but contribute to the unnecessary growth of civil servants.

The report states that the sharp increase in civil service size since 2008 is attributed mainly due to the proliferation of such positions emanating from new Acts.

In the past, RCSC was generally not consulted during the creation of new agencies even if it had manpower implications.

This problem is now expected to be alleviated if the protocol for agency creation is strictly followed as provided under the agencification framework which, in principle has the government has approved.

However, proliferation of positions is also emanating from an “empire building” attitude and a compartmentalized mindset to work.

The civil service to population ratio of 1:27 appears large when compared to such ratio in other countries.

On the other hand, as a result of increasing government mandates, optimizing human resources will remain a constant challenge especially at a time when the civil service in general is seen as a better option to deliver most of the public services.

The current youth unemployment situation also exacerbates this challenge for the RCSC as everyone turns to the civil service for employment.

The RCSC remains concerned about the future implications of some of the government policies on reducing unemployment, such as the planned employment of 200 teachers for the Dratshang, a legacy which might be difficult to undo in the future when continuity might be sought with the RCSC.

Similarly, the RCSC has found it difficult to do away with positions and institutions that are now almost redundant such as the Gedrung position or Drungkhags in the interiors of the country.

The RCSC is planning to discuss these with the relevant ministries with a view to ensure that human resources needs are tailored to real demand that will properly utilize them.

Although RCSC is fully supportive of policies to enhance decentralization, the  report states that there is a need to recognize that if not planned properly, the growth of local governments (especially at the Gewog level) has the potential to lead to explosive growth in the size of the civil service.

“Decentralization is certain to make maintaining a small, compact and efficient civil service extremely challenging.”

The RCSC gave an example of the decision of the Government to provide a utility vehicle each to the Gewogs which means recruitment of 205 drivers that will cost the Government an additional Nu 30.335mn per year.

From the perspective of RCSC, decentralization efforts must focus on Dzongkhags and going any further, must be preceded by and be contingent on the rationalization of the number of Gewogs.

“To ensure that human resources are optimized even as we decentralize, it will be important to innovate new approaches.”

The size of the civil service projected by 2020 is 29,835 (excluding drivers).

Pema Seldon from Thimphu