Opposition alleges ‘misuse of public resource’ by PM

The amount of around Nu 3mn that was incurred to construct security system at the private residence of Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay at Taba has been brought up by the Opposition last week, describing it as serious form of corruption and that it needs to be investigated.

According to the Opposition, he (Lyonchhen) knows that the misuse of public resource for private benefit is a serious form of corruption. Lyonchhen should reflect on it if he really is a champion of controlling corruption as the he seems to claim.

Meanwhile, the works amounting to around Nu 3mn included the construction of a guard house, a compound wall, electrification works, works related to water supply, and additional works such as wire mesh fencing, construction of an electric sliding gate, and carving and painting works.

Talking to Business Bhutan, MP Ugyen Wangdi from DPT said the misuse of government resources for private purpose is corruption.

“If not, PM should have rejected the proposal immediately. When PM refused to accept the full pay scale and even surrendered his Prado with the reason to minimize government expenditure, how could he accept money which he is not entitled to under any act or rule,” he said, adding that the Entitlement Act for Members of Parliament does not govern the Lhengye Zhungtshog members benefit.

“If at all investment was necessary, it should have been done transparently through the Parliament during the budget session. Their intension to carry out the investment discreetly indicates that it was not a lawful expenditure,” MP Ugyen Wangdi said.

According to MP Ugyen Wangdi, the opposition got the clue of the issue through laborers who were engaged in the project work. During the 8th Session of the Parliament and in the Question-and-Answer Session the issue was raised. Finance minister Namgay Dorji had then reported to the House that the RBP had asked for it because of PM’s security.

Meanwhile, as per the Audit Report of Royal Audit Authority (RAA) sent to MoWHS, it was stated that the Security Division of RBP vide letter No. RBP/SD/PM-04/2015/(283) and dated 01/07/2015 had proposed to the Cabinet Secretary to reinforce and strengthen the security of PM in his newly constructed private residence at Taba as the PM intended to shift there by August 2015. The proposal included construction of concrete perimeter wall protection on the three sides of the residence, construction of a security duty room with attached bathroom at the entrance gate of the residence, installation of flood light at the four corners of the compound wall to provide adequate lighting at night, and installation of CCTV cameras and secure water supply.

Accordingly, the Cabinet Secretary wrote a letter to the MoWHS Secretary to carry out the construction of the above works and a copy of the letter was also sent to Finance Secretary to release the required budget vide letter No.S-401 and dated on July 22, 2015. The Department of Engineering Services, MoWHS, the Department of Public Health, MoH and the supplier M/s Norlha Trading, Thimphu had prepared the design and estimated the cost amounting to Nu. 2,832,831.

The Audit Report, while mentioning that RAA takes cognizance of the concern of the security division of the RBP to identify the security threat and risk assessments based on the actual and perceived threats against PM and reinforce and strengthen the security of the PM in the newly constructed private residence, it also stated that the development exchequer was not within the ambit of budgetary programme and activities. It also solicited the department in consultation with the Finance Ministry to comment on the course of action to be taken to dispose of the cost of the infrastructures after the tenure of the PM.

The Audit Report also stated that the development of infrastructure in private residences on the ground of perceived security threats may create precedent and become recurrent cost to the government in respect of PM and cabinet ministers residing in private residences in future.

However, according to the response from the auditee (MoWHS), the works were carried out as per the letter received from the office of the Cabinet Secretariat as a deposit work and the work was not in their planned activities in that budget year.

The RAA stated that it had written to the Office of the Cabinet Secretariat and Finance Ministry for advice and clarification on the matter last year and are waiting for response from them. RAA further mentioned in their report that the department (MoWHS) should resolve the issue with consultation with the Office of the Cabinet Secretariat and Finance Ministry.

Business Bhutan could not contact Cabinet Secretary Dasho Kinzang Wangdi as he was out of station. Similarly, MoWHS Secretary Phuntsho Wangdi could not be contacted for comments.

Talking to Business Bhutan, Commissioner Jamtsho from Anti-Corruption Comission (ACC) said the fact that RAA has not referred the matter to ACC indicates that there was no possible element of corruption.

Meanwhile, the media spokesperson of RAA refused to answer call despite numerous attempts.

However, according to a prominent source from the government, Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay had refunded the amount personally that was incurred for constructing security system at his private residence at Taba. It has also been confirmed that Lyonchhen will be holding a press conference to answer to all the allegations made by the Opposition once he is back in Thimphu.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu