Thursday, July 18, 2013

State of Bureaucracy of Bhutan


In 1616 A.D, Ngawang Namgyel, a monk with disputed incarnation issue came in self-exile to Bhutan. Due to repeated Tibetan invasions and revolts of Lam Kha Nga, the need was felt to form a government whose final authority would be bestowed on His Person. The Dual system of governance was born with Je Khenpo Pekar Jungney as first abbot and Umze Tenzin Drugyel as the first Desi (temporal ruler). The Desis were being supported by various subordinates both at the regions and center. Although relatives and cronyism took the precedence over meritocracy in positional hierarchy, the meritocracy and loyalty were also rewarded. There was hierarchy whereby even the courtier could rise up to coveted post of regional governor or even the Desi. One could argue that the rudimentary form of bureaucracy paid from public tax for the maintenance of law and order existed as early as 1651 A.D. They were governed by tenet called „secular law is like Golden Yoke and spiritual law like knotted silk scarf.‟
According to the biography of 13 Druk Desi, the highest among them were Ministers and Ngikoem (Double Rank Official). Those at the ministerial ranks were governor of Trongsa, Dagana and Paro, District Administer of Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdi Phodrang, Zhung Dronger( Chief of Protocol), Depai Zimpon (Chamberlain to Desi) and the Zhung Kalyon. Those double rankings officers are dzongpons (District Administrators, Nyerchen (store master), Zimpoen( Chamberlain) and Dronger of other dzongs.
Next highest in rank was Chipzhön or those who were entitled to ride horses „during perfomamce of their duties, including the seasonal move between twin capital of Punkaha and Thimphu‟ (Ura &Ardusi, 2004). They were „entitled to half the perquisite of the Red Scarf or Double Rank officials.‟ The third ranks in line were Tshogthob- Kardrama or „servants and attendants of the Nyikem and Chipzhön. They were entitled from the government mess (Ura, 2004)‟ especially white food or rice. Dro-gyar Thopa (Breakfaster) were the civil servants who were given only breakfast at government‟s expense. They had to get their own provision for other meals. The Tozen Chumas were the lowest rank soldiers and the civil servants especially farmers who were paying labour tax in Bhutan. Then came the Zapa, who „were hereditary serfs attached to the Dzong. They were an underclass of worker who cleaned toilets, performed sweeping, fetching water, and cutting wood, etc‟. It was further classified as Zhinger or Land Caretakers and Zhung Ponmger (water fetcher).
In 1913, the first batches of 46 students were sent to India to study the modern education which was deviation from traditional monkish students. This batch of modern
educated students became first to serve in various capacity in government of Bhutan though monkish human resources were in majority even to the reign of third king. The highest bureaucratic posts of secretaries to the king were occupied by the monks or ex-monks.
In 1961, the first five year plan started with total outlay of Rs. 147.7 million. As the modernization takes place, the needs for qualified bureaucrats became imperative. In 1973, Department of manpower was established to under the Ministry of Development. As the civil service administration became more complex due to rapid social economic development activities, the Royal Government recognized the need to further strengthen the central personnel agency with clear mandates (
On 2nd May 1982, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk issued Royal Charter establishing the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC, Information Brochure) with with fifteen members committee under the chairmanship of Sonam Choden Wangchuk and the first secretary Jigme Y Thinley who later became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Bhutan. Before it became constitutional body, it was reconstituted four times with additional mandates and different members.
On 12th March 2007, His Majesty the fifth king mentioned that country like Bhutan will follow the example of civil servants. He felt that „strengthening the Civil Service would be the first step to creating a strong foundation for a successful democracy.” He expected civil servants to „strive for the highest standards, live by higher ideals and nurture a sense of duty towards fellow Bhutanese‟
With adoption of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan on July 2008, civil service became an independent and apolitical body governed by the supreme law of Bhutan. With appointment of Chairman former Minister Thinley Gyamtsho as the Chairman and four commissioners, the civil service became fully functional in democratic set up of the nation.
One could argue that the endorsement of the constitution by parliament in the Joint Session legitimize their roles and responsibilities and the rights and duties as the bureaucrats because earlier, even the government were run by bureaucrats. The directly elected members were either played advisory roles and they were not powerful enough. Civil servants presented in the-then Assembly were powerful derived from their post in the bureaucracy.
Roles and Responsibilities of Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is derived from the „bureau‟ which meant „desk job‟ or „office job.‟ Bureaucracy is made of diverse group of non-elected people with specialization and divisions of labor within the state or government. In Bhutan, maintaining the independence of civil servants is seen as important. As a matter of fact, Royal Civil Service Commission with Chairman and four commissioners are appointed by His Majesty, the Druk Gyalpo as per the constitution of kingdom of Bhutan. Bureaucrats are recruited based on education, competency and merit through various competitive exams in „accordance with procedure laid in BSCR (BCSA, 2010). Civil servants are employed in the „services of the Judiciary, the Legislative, the Executive, Constitutional Offices and the Autonomous Agencies of the Royal Government (BCSA 2010). They also should be registered with Royal Civil Service Commission of Bhutan who oversees the performance, conduct and promotion of the civil servants.
As in almost other democratic set up, Bhutan‟s civil servants implement the policies and planning of elected master but it is governed by three important laws; constitution, Bhutan Civil Service Act and Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulation (BCSR 2012). The Article 26 of constitution mandated, it is one of the four constitutional bodies that doesn‟t have political interference.
In other words, bureaucracy of Bhutan performs assigned duties objectively no matter which political parties came into the party. It works under ministries which directly under political executives, autonomous body which not under direct control of government like Royal University of Bhutan, Office of Attorney General etc. and under the independent bodies like Anti-Corruption Commission of Bhutan, Election Commission of Bhutan and other constitutional bodies.
Bureaucracy can be structured and classified in various ways to „discharge its public duties in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner (constitution of Bhutan). From 1989 till 2006, the civil servants are structured in grade system where lowest was grade 17 and highest grade one who were at ministerial or secretarial rank.
In 2006, Position Classification was introduced „to promote merit-based Civil Service. The Civil Service Occupation was classified into nineteen Major Occupational Groups and ninety four Occupational Sub-groups (RCSC Report 2011).‟ However, according to BCSR 2012, it is structured into four major categories and 17 sub-categories.
The civil servants classified above are distributed among 10 ministries, independent bodies, autonomous bodies, constitutional bodies and even in the judiciary as administrative bodies. Except for Judges and sub-judges, supporting and administrative
As enshrined in the constitution, the main responsibility of the bureaucracy is to „render professionally service, guided by highest standards of ethics and integrity to promote good governance and justice, in implementing the policies and programmes of the government.” In other words, bureaucrats are implementing and executing bodies of government of the day „without fear, favour or prejudice (Civil Service act 2010). The civil servants administer the laws and policies passed by Parliament and the cabinet „by establishing programs, promulgating rules and regulations, and creating infrastructures to deliver benefits in accordance with the language and intent of the enabling legislation‟ ( Bureaucrats are required to be accountable, honest, impartial, loyal, selfless and professional in line of their duties (source: Civil Service act 2010).
Bureaucracy also makes some of the policies as mandated by parliament through passage of certain rules and regulation. In Bhutan, bureaucrats working under independent bodies, autonomous bodies and commissions formulate the organizational policies as empowered by legislative act. „The distinction between policy making and policy implementation is often unclear (Dixit, 2012). This he states is because parliament and politicians „can rarely specify everything in fine details.‟ This gives Bureaucrats plenty of opportunity to make „policy choice‟ based on availability of resources and sometimes even vested interests. Besides, Parliament and Executive don‟t have enough inputs or information. The civil servants have to be consulted for required information. Bureaucrats also offer expertise services and execution that Executive and Legislators either lacked or leave to the trained and qualified bureaucrats.
Thus bureaucrats act as administrative and executive service providers, providers of policy information and implementers, providers of expertise and technical services etc. As a permanent body which is highly disciplined and trained to do job within its jurisdiction, the bureaucracy provides continuity to governance and political stability should the elected government fail or country were to undergo political instability.
Literature Review
Bureaucracy in Japan
Japan‟s civil service consists of two types; Special One and Ordinary One
The special bureaucrats are not selected through competitive examinations. They are either appointed by cabinet or Diet to ensure efficient and effective services without much of bureaucratic inefficiency. The ordinary civil servants further divided into two types; elites and others. Both are selected through competitive examinations. The elites are groomed to be top-most future bureaucrats who will plan future plans and policies.
“The elite bureaucracy of Japan makes most major decisions, drafts virtually all legislation, controls the national budget, and is the source of all major policy innovations in the system” (Johnson 1995). In the world, the relationship between bureaucrats and politicians are two kinds; Alpha „with politicians over bureaucrats‟ and Beta „with bureaucrats over politicians‟. In Japan, the relation between them is latter though each ministry is headed by Ministers from the Diet nominated by Prime Minister who is elected by the Diet. In Japan Bureaucrats consider politician as „part timers.‟
The “bureaucrats rose to control the details of everyday life (TAMAMOT, 2009)” after Second World War. This he feels is the main cause for political instability in the country because the bureaucrats control the country. United States Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale told the New York Times magazine, "In the Diet, when you see bureaucrats also participating in the debates, answering questions, preparing amendments, preparing the budget, you realize that this is a society in which the publicly elected side is very limited." This only validated the power of bureaucracy over politicians.
According Michael Williams who writes in Wall Street Journal, Japanese bureaucrats “routinely put in 14-hour days. And at the height of the year-end budget season, the busiest ones go a month or more without a day off and pull seven or eight all-nighters. Most of their work involves pouring over spreadsheets, consulting with one another and meeting with petitioners seeking budget increases." That explains the workload bureaucrats bear as price to their bureaucratic control.
Bureaucracy in United States of America
Bureaucracy in USA has two masters; president and the congress. While president is the head of executive, the congress has authority to create and disband all federal agencies. ( They are recruited in 15 departments headed by Secretaries (except for Justice Department headed by Attorney General),
independent bodies and regulatory bodies. The president appoints key person who has favorable views, expertise and efficiency so that works are carried out in his terms in the White House.
Besides federal bureaucracy, there are 16 million public servants in states and districts which are not part of the federal bureaucracy. Due to large number of civil servants and complex procedures, many presidents felt that bureaucracy is ineffective and inefficient. To study and improve, many commissions were set up which came up with various recommendations. The recommendations are hardly implemented as it faces resistance from bureaucrats as well as some of the congress members. Thus, bureaucracy in America hogs the limelight more for what it does do than what it does.
Bureaucracy in Hong Kong
After the Opium War in 1849, China ceded control of Hong Kong to Britain. However on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong was restored to China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was formed which will be in existence till 2047. Although Hong Kong is part of China, it has separate form of bureaucracy under „one country, two systems‟. The HKSAR launched important civil service reform measures in 1999 and 2002. The study of civil servants here is interesting because it operates in capitalist system under overall leadership of socialist government of People‟s Republic of China based on Joint Declaration among Britain, Ireland and China.
Legco(Legislative Council of Hongkong) is highest Assembly in HKSAR appointed by Governor till 1985.In 1985, 24 seats out of 60 seats was partially elected. In 2004, the directly elected representatives were increased to 30 or one third of total members. Seats for directly contested are contested between the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong and the Democratic Party. As per the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive is the head of government and the independent Public Service Commission advises the Chief Executive regarding civil service.
The Civil Service in Hong Kong is guided by Civil Service Code. There two types of civil servants: politically appointed and real civil servants who formed bureaucracy. Political appointed bureaucrats must resign from real civil servants if she/she wanted to be politically appointed. The permanent civil service can achieve highest post of Permanent Secretary while political appointed can reach at director of bureau, secretary and deputy secretary known as Principal Officials. They are more powerful than permanent civil servants who have direct access to political leaders while only permanent secretary have direct access in others‟ case. The Principal Officials are also accountable to political leaders for its failure and success.
This help public service delivery to be better as politically bureaucrats will keep check on permanent and neutral civil servants apart from scrutinized by political leadership.
Bureaucracy in Singapore
Bureaucracy in Hong Kong is rated as one of the best in the world and free of corruption. In Singapore, public service can be classified into two distinct branches: civil service proper and quasi-governmental. „The civil service proper represented institutional continuity and performed such fundamental tasks as the collection of revenue, the delivery of such goods as potable water, and the provision of medical and educational services. The various quasigovernmental bodies, such as statutory boards, public enterprises, commissions, and councils represented adaptability, innovation, and responsiveness to local conditions (‟ The prestigious and highly competent civil service had four hierarchical divisions namely super grade, the highest, 2nd Division holding senior professional and administrative positions, Division 3, „who performed most routine government work and who made up the largest group of civil servants‟ and division four „consisted of manual and semiskilled workers.‟ Though the civil servants in Singapore like that of other Common Wealth Nations, it has free of corruption because of inherent sense and sweeping powers of the he Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau under Prime Minister. And the development of ICT has not only shorten the duration of wait for the service, it has has accountability and transparency. Besides, they are also paid well so that corruptions are not encouraged.
Bureaucracy in India
Considered one of the most corrupted bureaucracy having unlimited power, the civil service in India works under the command of President of India though it may be held accountable by the Parliament. Though there are many types of civil services in India, only three services namely Indian Forest Service, Indian Administrative and Indian Police Service are spelled in the constitution and they are classified as All India Civil Service whereas others can be created by 2/3 of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian Parliament. These three are also called elite servants and enjoyed enviable prestige, power and position as it came through most competitive exams where minimum qualification required is degree. For example in IPS, IPS officers have great prestige and authority than other officers.
Indian Civil Service is further divided into All India Civil Service and the Central Civil Service which is further divided into Group A which are made by President and Group B
which are made by delegated authority. Then there is state civil service recruited by each state. Due to complex bureaucratic system and multi-parties politics, it is hard to hold bureaucrats accountable and they have become corrupted, inefficient and lazy.
Analysis of Bhutan’s Bureaucracy with Respect to other Bureaucracy
A brief Literature review of five states are given here from world oldest democracy, USA to world‟s largest democracy India, from world cleanest bureaucracy Singapore to one of the world corrupted bureaucracy, India, from autonomous state bureaucracy Hong Kong to Developmental State‟s Bureaucracy Japan.
As four of the five reviewed (except for USA) are common wealth nations, there is similar basic structure of bureaucracy where bureaucracy acts as implementing agency of policy making politicians. While Bhutan has all members of bureaucrats as apolitical, all of them have (except for Singapore and India) has some percentage of bureaucrats appointed by the political leader. This serves comparative advantages in efficiency and effectiveness as they are appointed. The hard work will key factors as they are responsible for failure and success of the plan and accountable to political leadership.
In Hong Kong, political leaders appoint principals officers. This helps not helps outnumbered politicians in their missions but also enhance efficiency of career bureaucrats as they answerable to principal officials as well as political leadership where in Bhutan, bureaucrats answerable more to civil service commission than political leaderships. The outnumbered political leadership/ ministers have hard time monitoring and directing reluctant civil servants.
In United States, president appoints 15-20% of bureaucrats in key positions which in turn appoints people at other key positions. This helps president to bring in expertise favorable to his plans or aims. Those key position holders also keep tap on other civil servants though due to massive size, bureaucrats are hard to control worsened by spread of civil servants in various states. In Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo may appoint people in senior positions but that has to be based on lists recommended by RCSC from within pool of civil servants. Prime Minister may too appoint few bureaucrats but others like RCSC, Judiciary, NC Chairman, Opposition Leader should be involved diluting the very purpose of appointment.
In Japan, there are two types of bureaucrats ordinary and special. This doesn‟t mean special ones have higher authority. It only means special one has separate time-bound jurisdiction whereas most of the ordinary bureaucrats involved in day to day activities
ensuring basics services and political continuity are offered for stable community. The special ones works in jurisdiction like foreign ministry where deadline, efficiency and effectiveness are must which can‟t be left to lethargic bureaucrats. In Bhutan, even posts who needs special training, expertise and attitude has to be routed through RCSC who appoints based on their experience and interview skills more than relevant expertise. The recent dismal performance in UN Security Council can be attributed to career bureaucrats controlling of the ministry. It was also rumored that Prime Minister almost fainted because of blood pressure in high level meeting and our delegates and PM attendants who are bureaucrats didn‟t know PM has such problems and those who knew also didn‟t know what to do.
Even in India which is considered most corrupted bureaucracy has two types of bureaucrats. One is elite who are highly knowledgeable and trained known as All India Service while other is equally qualified but that doesn‟t have competitiveness of former. This gives merit civil elite to lead and direct as they know sky is the limit. In Bhutan, few graduates entered workplace with training after excelling competitive exams but there is no special treatment or authority. It is like any other civil servants entering job bureaucracy after degree. As of now, such entrance after selection from competitive all-Bhutan examinations have become hurdle for administrative and finance background as they are placed below technical graduates despite having post graduates.
Besides, in most cases, civil service recruitment in support levels is biased. Cronyism and nepotism takes precedence over the merit. The competitive exams are for namesake. Most of those who knew rich and powerful get into the agency. Even at the professional level, the transfer and training are biased despite strong procedures in place. In small nation like Singapore, small is free of corruption while in Bhutan small is full of corruption.
While Bhutan‟s civil service is considered best but the closer looks will warrant a reform so that it functions effectively, efficiently and innovatively within the given framework of laws. Bhutan‟s bureaucracy considered feel that their presence in office is just a formality. They waited for their boss to give orders who in turn waited his or her boss. There is no platform for initiative nor does an individual civil servant take initiatives. The work culture in Japan is worth adapting here.
Then there is corruption. The corruption is (was) more rampant at the bureaucratic level than at a bureaucratic level. The formation of corruption investigating agency under government like Singapore will be highly appreciated. The presence ACC as a constitutional body has more mandates than it can execute. On top of that ACC is more after politicians digging past when it should be scrutinizing the present. The
accountability on the part of civil servant is minimal. It is therefore prudent to give closer study of functions of Singaporean model.
Parliament and government should be allowed to appoint few members of officials to see the performance of bureaucracy and the performance of bureaucracy must be reviewed by government. In the present scenario, bureaucrats feel that they will get promotion as if it is gift because promoting authority is Royal Civil Service Commission with five authorized personnel. They often ignored or are oblivious to the real performance under political leadership. As such study of Hong Kong model just may bring in the result.
Where the need for result is immediate, where bureaucratic lethargy not desirable and where bureaucrats lack the required expertise as per the policy of the government, the prime minister should be given authority to appoint key officials like president does in USA and cabinet does in Japan. In Bhutan, the recent dismal performance in UN Security Council Non-Permanent Members bid was less of political failure and more of bureaucratic failure. The ambassadors and consuls go there as bureaucrats, enjoy there as bureaucrats and work their like bureaucrats.
The nepotism in the civil service is rampant. Be it training, evaluation or recruitment. The transparency is improved but still needs improvement. RCSC must send separate panel of interviewers to interview those below S1 level for recruitment. Even there is withholding of training opportunities until their relatives qualify or it. Such practices should be discouraged.
The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) based governance should be aspired so that red tape problem is addressed and transparency and accountability is encouraged.
The Service delivery by bureaucrats is also worsening. To meet director, a poor guy from remote Bhutan should wait for weeks even when he is not abroad or on tour. To get their land registered, months and even years are gone despite poor men‟s show in in the relevant office every week. Bureaucrats today are more concerned about their training and tour rather than plight and problems of the society they are sworn into serve. Our bureaucracy must be paid well so that they don‟t have to look for alternative sources. Some sense of management and good governance aspects should be instilled in our bureaucracy.
The respect accorded to Bhutanese bureaucrats is because of knowledge and position than services they provided. The Bureaucrats of Bhutan must learn to live under political leadership and work as they are told to within framework of law. As Bhutan‟s transition to democracy has been recent, there has an issue like who are entitled to sit at front, Members of Parliament or Secretaries, there were instances where Gewog Administrative Officer refused to obey elected Gup and even many secretaries were transferred internally as they refused to work under Ministers who were their junior as a civil servant. This is all because Bureaucrats doesn‟t want to submit their authority and status to elected leaders.
The bureaucracy must change to suit the changed nature of governance. For the betterment of society, the bureaucratic culture change should be initiated by bureaucrats themselves while some structural and policy change can be done by policy makers and the parliament. Few recommendations given above should be harmonized so that only best from other countries are taken based on suitability in our culture, political society and governance.
Note: This is just draft where many words needs to be reframed and re-referenced... 

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