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Award or payment?

The entertainment industry is in the news again for the same issue it was mired in last year – the Prime Minister’s award worth Nu 3 million.

Despite claims of limited finance, the Bhutanese film industry has been prolific in producing about 20 films a year. The young industry, while giving space to new talents and creativity plays an important role in culture conservation, especially in promoting the national language. If it entertains, it also educates.

Supporting the industry thus becomes important.

But the Prime minster’s award initiated to bolster the industry got mired in controversy since its inception. The film association was accused of rigging the award last year. The issue came under the Anti-Corruption Commission radar and remains so. Since it was hanging to be resolved, the commission before the national film awards this year had written to the Cabinet secretary recommending that the Prime minister’s award be kept in abeyance.

But even without the finance ministry releasing the fund, the film association’s board decided to announce the awards this year.

The issue is as much about the Nu 3 million public fund from the prime minister as it is about weaknesses in institutions that are involved. None heeded to the ACC’s investigation findings. Nor was any action taken against those who were to be held responsible. But it took this recent case to get the civil society organisations authority to submit its (in)action taken report to the commission.

Instances such as these show that we have problems resolving cases that recommend administrative actions. Weak accountability from authorities concerned could have given the film association board the sagacity to announce the awards. When we are unable to hold accountable those who have wronged, we risk defeating the purpose of investigating corruption.

The ACC’s rational e for recommending that the award be kept in abeyance is because the past controversy is not yet resolved and awarding the prize money would be setting a wrong precedent. We agree.

The ACC should also be concerned about setting the right precedent.  It must not confine its investigation to the controversy alone and assess the precedent of awarding such awards. Could there be a possibility to support good films and their distribution through other avenues?

The prime minister has said that this fund was not an award but payment to release films on DVD.  If the film industry operates, as it appears today with little regard for professionalism , t hese DVDs may not come through.

But then , awards are earned. They are won. It becomes a different story when the award morphs into a payment.

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