No grounds to reinvestigate BEO case: ACC

Based on the investigation findings, the ACC has forwarded the criminal charges to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has declined to reinvestigate the case on ‘Learn and Earn’ program in Japan.

The ACC Commissioner, Jamtsho, told Business Bhutan that the ACC does not see any ground for reinvestigation on the same issues unless there is new information or evidence of corruption.

The parents and representatives of youth who went to Japan under the ‘Learn and Earn’ Program had appealed the ACC for reinvestigation on January 21 (story published on January 26 issue), charging the owners of Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) for exploitation of unemployed children. 

“Complaints with allegation of corrupt acts, which merit investigation, are investigated independently within the parameters of the case specific objectives and scope and not confined to what the complainants may or may not wish the ACC to investigate,” said Commissioner Jamtsho.

The appeal letter asked ACC to reinvestigate the excessive fees levied by the language schools in Japan, deduction of commission at source from wages of the youth in Japan by the Foreign Principal, SND, giving air ticket contract to one ticket agent, high visa processing fees and high placement/agent fees.

The ACC had investigated three batches of youth sent to Japan under the ‘Learn and Earn’ program (excluding the last batch sent in April 2018). The investigation covered all aspects of the program to determine whether there were corrupt practices in the implementation of the program. The ACC’s investigation did not evaluate the efficacy of the program design and its outcome.

However, according to ACC, it had written to the labor ministry as far back as February 28, 2018, stating that the ministry could enforce necessary actions for breaches of Regulations on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agent 2013 including administrative recourse through implementation of internal audit recommendations without waiting for the outcome of ACC’s investigation.

Based on the investigation findings, the ACC has forwarded the criminal charges to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

“The ACC has shared its findings on administrative issues with the MoLHR for appropriate actions, which includes but not limited to fixing accountability on the responsible officials, ensuring BEO refund the unauthorized translation fees and making appropriate systems corrections, wherever required,” according to ACC.

However, the ACC is yet to receive the Action Taken Report from the labor ministry.

“The issues raised by the representatives are administrative in nature and is the responsibility of the relevant implementing agency – Ministry of Labor & Human Resources to resolve the issues. Alternatively, the representatives may seek other options and consider appropriate recourse,” said the ACC Commissioner.

He further clarified that despite the Commission’s best endeavor in the past many years to educate the public on its mandate and functions, the ACC continues to receive complaints pertaining to issues not related to corruption and expect the ACC to investigate and resolve non-corruption issues.

“While it is fully understandable that any person approaching the ACC is doing so in the hope of redressing one’s problems, it is imperative to clear this misconception that not all administrative issues and improprieties, sense of injustice, grievances, etc. are corruption offences in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) 2011,” he said.

The BEO case was forwarded to the OAG in December 2018.

Chencho Dem from Thimphu