With an increasing number of Civil Servants resigning with each passing month, there is an increasing concern on the impact on service delivery and even running the government.
The government is currently racking its brains to stem the loss of civil servants and it is thinking of offering attractive incentives and also looking at how it can get more out of the existing civil servants by giving them more.
The Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering said there has always been Bhutanese going out, but the trend has been more alarming in the last couple of years.
“The attrition rate was 4.8% last year and this year it is 6.75% and while it may not be very high compared to other countries that have 9% and even double digits, but the trend is the worrying part,” said the PM.
“Right now a lot of public services are not numerically measurable directly, but intangibly it is getting affected. So that is one of the biggest concerns,” he said.
“Soon it will hit sectors like education and health. The trend is just picking up and though we haven’t yet reached a place where we are missing out on providing these key public services, but with the trend it will and that is a huge concern,” he added.
Lyonchhen said the trend has to be reduced, stopped and reversed only by investing in our environment.
He said the concern is huge and they have to see and discuss on how many are leaving, how many services need not be worried and what are the services that cannot be hampered.
When attrition rate hit 5.4% around two months ago Lyonchhen asked the RCSC to give him further details like of the numbers of civil servants who left how many are critical, essential, non essential and how many years it will take to replace them.
The PM also asked about the services that we cannot do without.
Lyonchhen also asked data on how much pay and allowances are we saving from the civil servants who have left.
“Since that we don’t have to pay the ones who left we can use the money to buy a number of hours from the ones working. Civil Servants are working 6 to 7 hours in a day which is 9 to 5 and which is one fourth of the time in a day and so we can buy their off hours meaning pay them more,” said Lyonchhen.
Giving an example, the PM said, “A lot of decisions goes through the desk of a P 1 or Chief level officer and P 1 and P 2 level officers are actually running the whole government both by numbers and the quality of work that they do. If we can buy additional one or two hours of a Chief level that will be like a full time job of a P 3 and P 4 level officer.”
Lyonchhen said in order to do more with less we have to adapt.
He said there is nothing legally binding to say the government cannot do it this time. He said the urgency is coming and the government cannot afford to hamper public services.
“So we have to do it as soon as possible. If the budget does not allow it or if it is not there in the previous budget, then we have to seek supplementary budget,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen pointed out that the savings from the people that have left is already budgeted.
“Instead of giving to Mr. A now we are giving to Mr. B. There is nothing illegal about it,” the PM added.
If there are three people in an office and one resigns, but the other two are doing that person’s job then they can get that money.
Lyonchhen said the government is also looking at increasing the retirement age for the civil servants.
Currently supervisory, support and operational civil servants retire at 56, professional and management civil servants retire at 58 and executives and specialists retire at 60.
In 2020 a motion to raise the the retirement age of all civil servants to 60 was not accepted with the main argument against it being that youth employment would be impacted.
This argument has totally been turned on its head in the last two years with the huge Australia rush and many civil servants leaving.
The PM said, “If we talk about the retirement age or changes obviously it will be increased, but in what manner we will decide and discuss.”
Another option for the government is the Civil Service Reform Act which allows the RCSC to get in people from the private sector as a civil servant.
“A former civil servant who has exited by resigning and going out can now come back and again be a civil servant. It can be at any level. The change in the Act is not three or four-year contract, but a person can be hired to be a civil servant and that person can go on to be a Director and Secretary too,” said the PM.
He said the RCSC is also working on many reform elements that can make themselves more flexible which will ultimately result in amending the BCSR.
The PM said there could be opt and in opt out options, higher retirement age, number of hours, flexi time in giving more opportunity to work at a cost and the upcoming Performance Based Incentives.
The PM said the above are suggestions and ideas being discussed in the government and have not been finalized yet.
1,488 civil servants resigned in 2022, compared to 892 in 2021, 542 in 2020, 568 in 2019, 417 in 2017 and 372 in 2016.
This content was originally published here.