Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The RCSC Likely To Be An Empty House Soon

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) declaring that 50% of their senior most bureaucrats are incompetent and will be “managing out”, is both an understatement and scary at the same time. It is an understatement because the figures cannot be factually correct – it should be lot more. It is scary because the RCSC is threatening to continue with the exercise. They should stop it here and now, because if they do continue, it would be catastrophic – there is a real danger that the RCSC might end up being a Commission without members.

Today everybody are braying for heads to roll – I ask you, how many of them? All of them? The RCSC is talking of “managing out” or weeding them out – how many of them? All of them? This is a very scary talk.

The truth is that if the RCSC is accurate and fair in their assessments, more than 95% of their members need to be put to pasture – including, perhaps, most of their own. If “managing out” is tantamount to being terminated on grounds of incompetence, it throws up a number of challenges and creates some human situations the repercussions of which will be even more compelling, and disastrous.

Quiet clearly we have a need to transcend the emotional and the sentimental and the romantic – and introspect as to why we are where we are.

Some thoughts on the civil service

From where I stand, if the brood called the civil service has failed, the onus of responsibility of their failure must squarely rest on the RCSC. It means that they have failed in their responsibilities of stewardship; it means that they failed in their mentoring responsibilities. It means that they have failed to arrest immoral practices and irresponsible behavior among the civil service. If, for the past many decades, their members have been openly and brazenly negotiating car quota prices in the black market, and selling them to ineligible members of the society, the RCSC had, and continues to do so, condoned what is clearly an immoral and unethical behavior.

We cannot fail to recognize that the failed journey of the civil service did not begin with their own first steps – they were put on the path of failure by those who failed to give them proper direction and guidance, when they were most needed.

Five years back, when I was invited to give a talk to a bunch of trainee tourism guides, a portion of my talk dwelled on the civil service. It went as follows:

“Today as I stand before you, I am happy to tell you that you have made a bloody good choice – that of not joining the civil service. To join the civil service is to ruin your life forever. Please realize that guiding is not a job – it is a profession that will take you places in the future”.

The truth is that over the decades the civil service has come to promote and imbue a culture of callousness, utter disrespect for hard work and responsibility, and tolerance towards corruption. They have come to claim their salaries as a matter of their monthly entitlement – and not as remuneration for the work they need to put in to earn it. My experience with them has taught me that they will not work unless it translates into money inside their personal pockets. They are shameless about not fulfilling their responsibilities – they will think nothing of millions of Ngultrums worth of public property going to waste through thoughtlessness and negligence. Those of you who had dealings with the civil service will know that even the little work they do – they do it grudgingly and as if they are doing it as a favor.

To me it seems like “managed out” is not the way forward – if you do you will find that the whole house is empty. What we need to do is work at changing their culture, which has been allowed to go corrupt. It will be decades before we can bring change – but there is no other way. But side-by-side we work towards creating a whole new breed of Bhutanese – distinct from the present lot. And for this we need to work on the young, unblemished minds of the upcoming generation - taught and raised away from the stink and stench of the present generation.

I believe that the key element in bringing about change in the attitude and work ethics of the civil service – is the suffering public. So far the civil service has been acting the dashos --- we should now take over that role. If we see a civil service playing archery at the archery ground instead of being at his work place doing his job, we must bark at them – to go and earn their keep. If a clerk or an officer asks you to come back tomorrow – insist that you want the job done now and today. If they give you the excuse that he/she has no budget, then tell him/her that in that event you will ask that a donkey be placed in his/her seat.

Let us not accept their lame excuses. Let us not tolerate their thoughtlessness. Let us demand change!


  1. You have raised some very pertinent points that are fundamental to fixing the civil service. RCSC's system of selection and appointment of so many unworthy candidates over the past decade is the main problem that brought us here. 'Managing out' the failed candidates from this assessment is only post facto applying band-aid to the wound, but not ridding the system of the disease. The root cause is the opaque system of playing favorites with the selection and appointment of so many (now we find out) undeserving candidates. A few individuals who played with this system are wholly responsible for this, and I feel that is the bigger threat to the future of the country. If truly deserving candidates were given the posts of secretary and DG's, simply going by merit and competency, the country will not be in this embarrassing situation where 50% of the executives failed. Going forward, if the process of selection and appointment is fair, open, and transparent, the country will trust the system. Otherwise, if people of questionable character and merit are time and again 'selected' or 'appointed' we are not solving this issue. In such a system, only the friends and relatives of certain people, or those who will listen to them, or who have a knack for kowtowing to the powers that be by always being present and 'seemingly doing the right things' will thrive. And this will not serve the country's best interests. So, in short, the institution of RCSC, that has been destroyed over the last decade with half-assed useless OD experiments, needs to get its act together first. Else, we will only be putting band-aid over systemic rot. It is dangerous when a small group of people, and the same group of people, are considered to have all the answers to the country's diverse problems. Second and third opinions, and differing viewpoints are much needed to ensure that the results are better. For instance, if the selection process of executives are broadcast live, and then picked, we might get the right candidates. Otherwise, there are too many mysterious hands that influence such decisions, and we seldom get the right candidate. Thus the country suffers - we waste a lot of valuable time. And the people lose trust in such a system. This demoralizes the ones who work hard but don't play the system. They are too patriotic and principled to play games with something as important as the civil service.

  2. The bitter truth is that, most executive level civil servants are lap dogs of Political Parties!!!

  3. Rightly pointed sir. I personally feel that the problem doesn't fully lies with some individuals, but rather a systemic one that's been engraved in the conscience of most so-called civil servants who aren't servants anymore; who doesn't take their jobs as their duty, as their sacred responsibility but rather as being forced. The loss ultimately is the general public, the common people, the service recipients. It's such a sad thing!. If RCSC really cares or is serious enough, "Managing out" isn't the permenant solution. RCSC ought to bring in systemic change!