English | Dzongkha Monday, September 16, 2019

Appointment of Press Secretary for PMO questioned

Pema Tshewang and Samten Dolkar, Thimphu
Jun 7, 2019

Last month the government appointed a private individual as Press Secretary for Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for a contract term of three years.  Panbang’s Member of the Parliament, Dorji Wangdi said that there is a conflict of interest since the appointee worked with Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa during the election campaign.

In the question hour sessions today, the Opposition questioned the government on the basis of appointment of a Press Secretary in PMO. Panbang MP asked the Prime Minister on procedures of appointment and about fixation of pay scale and allowances for the Press Secretary.

“On what basis did the PMO appoint the Press Secretary? We have many capable candidates in civil servants. Appointing private individual in the PMO or relevant agencies is corruption. There are chances of appointing one’s kith and kin. So, why did the government not appoint the Press Secretary from civil servants and on what basis the government fixed pay scale and allowances?” MP Dorji Wangdi asked.

“When I joined the office, there is a clear instruction that PMO will get four media personnel but there was only one. So, I decided to recruit one according to the rules and regulations of the Royal Civil Service Commission. We announced vacancies twice, one in December last year and nobody applied for the post. And another in January this year and still nobody came forward. Therefore, I informed the RCSC on its appointment and RCSC told me to appoint a reliable candidate on a contract basis,” Dr Lotay Tshering, the Prime Minister informed the House.

The prime minister said that the pay scale was based on the previous procedures.

“When I referred previous documents, it clearly states there is no problem if the prime minister fixes the pay scale. The previous former governments have been following the same procedures. The first elected government appointed a press secretary in 2010 and the pay scale was sixty thousand ngultrum. Based on the role of press secretary and capability, the government decided to pay seventy five thousand ngultrum.”

The Panbang’s Member of Parliament also asked the government about few incidences of harassing the fourth state of the country, the media houses.

“We were informed that the PMO, PM and some cabinet members are harassing media personnel. They approached us with voice recordings of the cabinet members harassing them. This is a matter of great concern, we can’t undermine the importance of free and independent media in a democracy. If stories of such harassments are true, then we should all be worried,” he said.

The prime minister also clarified that the government did not harass media houses as far as he is concerned.

“Personally I am surprised to hear such allegations. In my knowledge, I have not harassed any media person. If any of our cabinet members have done, I would correct it. The truth is, we have been asking the media to correct us whenever we make mistakes. We want to work together. If such alleged incidents are true then the media should directly come to us or report it to relevant authorities. Reporting it to the Opposition and bringing this up as a National issue in the Assembly is not the proper way,” he said.

He added that if journalists were harassed, the proper place to make a complaint is to authorities such as Bhutan InfoCom and Media Authority, and Bhutan Media Foundation.

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