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ACC closes Loden Foundation’s case with a warning

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has concluded investigating the allegation of procedure lapses that occurred in Loden Foundation  while employing a communication/development officer.

After reviewing the action taken report (ATR) submitted by the management, ACC on May 31 wrote to the foundation’s officiating executive director that the commission will not pursue the matter any further hereafter. The commission, however, cautioned the management and the board of trustees must ensure that such shortcomings do not recur in future.

“Although corruption offences such as nepotism, favouritism and conflict of interest could not be established due to lack of incriminating evidence, conducting written exams at different times is certainly not the best professional and objective recruitment approach, as a result of which it gave grounds for suspected corrupt practices,” the letter stated.

The commission investigated the recruitment process after receiving a complaint letter on February 8. The complaint letter questioned the basis of the selection committee who selected Phuntsho Namgay although his name did not feature among the 10 short listed candidates.

The investigation revealed that the foundation had constituted two panels for the recruitment and selection of development officer, one panel consisting three members for the written part while the second panel of five members for viva voce.

The Foundation’s president, Karma Phuntsho, executive director Dorji Tashi and trustee Ugyen Choden were the panelist for the written exam. Former employee of Loden Foundation Pema Wangchuk, Trustees Ugyen Choden and Pushpa Chhetri, programme manager Tshering Palden and individual philanthropist of the Foundation, Gerard Tardy, were the panelists for viva voce. No fees were paid to the panelist.

The commission’s letter stated that it was apparent that the actual fact of the matter was not revealed to the board of trustees, nor to the ACC, a constitutional body. “As a matter of fact, written interview for the same purpose was conducted three times. First being as scheduled on January 22 attended by six shortlisted applicants plus another applicant, who was not shortlisted, mistakenly called to attend the written exam, one (shortlisted but not called) in the afternoon of the same day. The last one exclusively for Phuntsho Namgay was conducted in the afternoon of January 23.

ACC’s letter stated that the management in the ATR submitted on April 2 informed the commission that a written interview for Phuntsho Namgay was conducted on the same day, which was not true.

“The commission is dismayed that the management of a well reputed Loden Foundation has the audacity to convey blatant lie to the Constitutional Office,” the letter stated. “This daring act of the management only showcase the possible lack of ethical values and prevalence of poor business code of conduct being embraced even in their core business activities of offering scholarship and selection of business proposal.”

The commission, therefore, urged the board of trustees to be mindful of this falsehood for in-depth scrutiny of future management proposals such as scholarship, recruitment, and business proposal before according final endorsement.

The Commission noted that the board had duly acknowledged the serious lapse in the due diligence part of the recruitment process but contravened itself with mention of support to the management that the selection was carried out strictly following Loden’s best practices. “Thus, the board and the management is advised to review Loden’s best practices and internal governance system to promote transparency and accountability to shield against similar untoward incidence in future,” it stated.

The board welcomed ACC’s investigation and expressed deep gratitude to the commission for taking swift action on the allegation from an anonymous complainant, who alleged that the selected candidate was not even shortlisted.

In an earlier interview, Karma Phuntsho clarified that it was not true and the shortlist, which the complainant used, was a just preliminary shortlist.

The president said that the foundation strongly adheres to a fair and ethical policy and the three panels of judges involved are people of high integrity who do the service free of charge.

“However, the misunderstanding resulting from a compilation error by the office staff led to the complaint, which has helped our staff enormously to be meticulous and the Foundation to refine its selection procedures,” he stated in an email.

Loden Foundation was founded in 2000 to foster an enlightened and happy society through promotion of social entrepreneurship, education and Bhutan’s culture and tradition across the society.

Rinzin Wangchuk

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