Former labor minister and director general slapped with four charges by OAG

Former Labor Minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo and current Director General (DG) of the labor ministry Sherab Tenzin have been slapped with four charges each by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in connection to the Overseas Employment Program (India).

The case also involves the former Labor Minister’s wife and niece along with the DG’s his son and a hotel general manager.

And for the Japan’s Learn and Earn Program (LEP), the OAG have charges against the DG and a labor program officer.

The OAG charge sheeted both the Japan’s LEP case and the Overseas Employment Program (India) case to the Thimphu District Court yesterday.

The four charges levied on the former minister were false declaration of assets by concealing excavator and hiring charge, official misconduct, and larceny by deceptive and deceptive practice.

Although the former Lyonpo is the real beneficial owner of M/s. Tshomo Hiring, it was found that he concealed his asset (excavator), income (hiring income) and liabilities (BNBL loan for excavator) in his asset declaration for the year 2017.

The former lyonpo had also solicited and accepted investments from Manav Dhingra to set up a partnership business with M/s. Tshomo Hiring, which was operated through the use of proxies/front namely through former Lyonpo’s niece and General Manager of Druk Hotel (Manav Dhingra’s friend).

The minister has also solicited and accepted a gem stone worth Rs. 85,000.00 and a Rudraksh rosary worth Rs. 71,983.00 from Manav Dhingra. Though the minister had said that he would pay but even after three years he had not paid the amount.

The four charges against the DG include omission amounting to abuse of functions under section 63 and 59 of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) 2011, official misconduct, conflict of interest and deceptive practice.

It was found that DG Sherab Tenzin had knowingly helped in acquiring license for establishing Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) despite knowing that Jurmey Tshewang had not submitted the documents required to obtain registration certificate from MoLHR. 

According to the OAG, the DG despite being a civil servant solicited and accepted assistance from Manav Dhingra in arranging as well as partly financing the procurement and transporting of a napkin paper making machine and materials for the purpose of setting up his son’s business. In order to set up his son’s business in Bhutan, not only did the DG sought financial assistance from a foreign source, but also engaged in a conduct that was in conflict with his public position as the DG of the Department of Employment and Human Resources (DoEHR), MoLHR.

According to the OAG, Manav Dhingra, being a foreigner, is not allowed to invest or associate in any trade in Bhutan without prior consent of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA).

Furthermore, Manav Dhingra, who manages International Institute of Hospitality and Wellness Studies (IIWS) is a training and placement contractor of MoLHR, who not only does or seeks to do business with MoLHR but also is regulated by DoEHR, MoLHR, which is headed by the DG. The DG also failed to rescue himself from being a member of the MTC through formal declaration of conflict of interest in the 3rd tender of GOET in India.

The OAG has also charged program officer Ugyen Tashi for omission amounting to abuse of functions under section 63 and 59 of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) 2011, while the former Labor Minister’s wife, niece along with DG’s son and a hotel general manager have been charged for deceptive practice.

As the general manager of Druk Hotel had agreed to be the proxy of Manav Dhingra and the minister’s niece for the former Lyonpo to operate the partnership business, M/s. Tshomo Hiring, both were charged for deceptive practice.

The wife of the former Lyonpo was also charged for deceptive practice for availing loan despite knowing about the foreign partnership. The DG’s son too was charged for deceptive practice as he had received the trade license and had been secretive about the foreign partner. 

Meanwhile, this case was brought to the knowledge of the ACC sometime in November 2017 through a walk-in complaint. The case pertains to allegations of collusion and bribery surrounding the overseas employment program implemented by the DoEHR, MoLHR.

Similarly, the allegation called the Commission to probe into the Japan’s placement program, LEP. The DG had been alleged of favoring Jurmey Tshewang, the owner of BEO, by issuing registration certificate and recommending the issuance of new trade license at a time when the issuance of new licenses to overseas agents and renewal of old licenses were suspended.

The Commission was also informed of possible corrupt practices in the overseas employment program by the Prime Minister on January 3, 2018.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu