Killing the rat with a sledgehammer

The revised Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSR 2018) requires the presence of the dzongkhag human resource committee during the conduct of interviews in the gewogs.

Failing to follow proper recruitment procedures was attributed as the reason for not disbursing house rent allowance for gewog caretakers in Wangduephodrang

Lhakpa Tshering

Two months after receiving the house rent allowance (HRA) since implementing the pay revision of the public servants from 1 July 2019, several gewog caretakers in Wangdue Phodrang have not been paid the allowance and still counting.

While caretakers across the country have been benefited from the new pay revision, except for a new recruit in Gangtey Gewog, 14 gewog caretakers who are completing a decade of service in this dzongkhag were left hurt.

Not following proper recruitment procedures was attributed as the primary cause for this group of unfortunate caretakers, one of the lowest income earners, for not being entitled to the allowance.

The dzongkhag assistant human resource officer (AHRO) Tenzin Phuntsho, who has spent about three-years serving this dzongkhag, said their respective gups handpicked those caretakers a long time back. “Vacancies were not announced and interviews were not conducted,” he added.

Given this trend over the past years, he said, now the revised Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSR 2018) requires the presence of the dzongkhag human resource committee during the conduct of interviews in the gewogs.

While this is evident with some caretakers as they were appointed by gewog administration following their requisition letter to the gewog, some aggrieved individuals were selected through the open competition after following proper recruitment procedures under Elementary Service Personnel (ESP) category.

Furthermore, they also have supporting documents to validate their claims. For instance, the caretakers of Gasetsho wom and Phangyul Gewog, among others, claim that they were recruited after following proper procedure with the necessary qualifications and documents set to fill the vacancy.

Gasetsho wom’s caretaker Dechen Chophel claims that he was selected in an open competition among three candidates after having conducted the interview. “The gewog announced a vacancy and I had submitted all the required documents,” he said. “Now we have to live like this. What can we do?”

Going by his job appointment letter the gewog had announced the vacancy on 24 August 2011. He then joined office on 1 September 2011 and a carbon copy was forwarded to the dzongkhag and human resource officer of both dzongkhags including the Department of Local Governance.

With a similar claim, the caretaker of Phangyul and Daga Gewog said though he was the lone candidate who took part in the interview, he said he was recruited through proper procedures.

Daga Gewog’s caretaker Zangmo, a single mother, said that she had submitted a requisition letter to dzongdag for the allowance but was refused stating that “she was appointed by the gewog.”

Most low-income people, like these caretakers, think they are no less deserving to be paid the allowance. “We are taking care of other functions in the best of our abilities like the rest of the employees, but I feel we are the most neglected ones,” a caretaker said. “We are facing a lot of difficulties being at the lowest rung of the civil service ladder but we have no options.”

Interviews conducted with several caretakers have revealed that such lapses are because of incompetent officials serving at the grassroots. And they feel the absence of uniform ESP recruitment is also to be blamed.

On this front, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) said that the recruitment of support staff from ESP/GSP till SSC is a delegated function to the respective agencies. “The dzongkhags or agencies are required to recruit as per approved standard and in line with the applicable provision of the BCSR,” an official said.

The commission is currently in receipt of this case from the dzongkhag administration and is actively reviewing it. And says it would update the status of the case after the review is complete.

There are also criticisms that some caretakers in other dzongkhags recruited having not followed the proper recruitment procedures have been receiving the allowance.

Athang_Thetsho’s Member of Parliament Kinley Wangchuk said while he was not aware of this matter, it would require more time for him to get into the crux of the matter. “I will try to delve deeper into the glitch and should there be any real issue, I shall either formally alert the relevant agencies or informally nudge them to do something about it,” he said.

But he said since RCSC is an autonomous institution governed by its own Act and Rules and Regulations, he has little role to play in it. “I am assuming that RCSC followed their mandates,” he added.

The Department of Local Governance also said they were not aware of the case. “Although the department does not look after such related matters, if we have received the case, we would have asked our HR to consult with the dzongkhag HR,” an official said.

According to the Pay Revision Act 2019, HRA for positions S3 and below have been revised as a lump sum of Nu 3,500 per month and extended to ESP employees as well.