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Cases forwarded by the PM won’t be prioritised: ACC, RAA

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has confirmed that it has received a letter from the cabinet secretary requesting the commission to investigate corruption allegations in the construction of a compound wall at the prime minister’s residence in Taba, Thimphu.

ACC officials however, said that the complaint management system would take the matter to a logical conclusion. “The system will determine whether there is an element of corruption warranting investigation,” an ACC official said.

The commission received the letter from the cabinet secretary on March 20. Among others, the commission usually investigates alleged corruption case when the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) refers it to them. It is not known whether the commission will take up Lyonchhen’s case, as it was not referred from RAA. “Even if it merits investigation, it may not get priority since the commission has more than 79 backlogs to clear,” an ACC official said.

ACC officials, however, said that it is the Constitutional responsibility of each and every Bhutanese to uphold the rule of law and report any act of corruption.  “The Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan, 2011 does not bar any person from filing a complaint to the ACC,” commissioner Jamtsho said. “Once a complaint is received and registered in the complaint management system, it is that system in place which will take the matter to a logical conclusion.”

The letter from the cabinet secretary stated that since the opposition continues to make allegations of corruption, the prime minister has requested the ACC to investigate the execution of security works at his residence for corruption.

The opposition has accused the prime minister of alleged corruption in the construction of a compound wall and other service facilities like approach road, water supply, installation of flood lights and CCTV cameras at his residence.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay had earlier said that the compound wall and the water supply work had been carried out on the insistence of the Royal Bhutan Police as part of the security arrangements required under the security protocol.

He also said that there were no floodlights and CCTV cameras installed as alleged by the opposition. He had said that the RAA observation was not a part of the main findings but came as an observation that are recommendatory in nature and thus annexed.

“The RAA in their observation has not really objected to the work but simply noted that the department in consultation with the finance ministry may comment on the course of action to be taken to dispose off the cost of the infrastructure after the tenure of the prime minister,” Lyonchhen had said earlier. “To set a good precedence and in national interest, I voluntarily reimbursed the cost of the facilities without having been asked to do so.”

The approach road leading to the prime minister’s residence has been built as part of the city plan and falls on the land pooled to Thromde. “All land owners, including the prime minister were required to contribute about 30 percent of their land in exchange for provision of essential services like road, water and electricity,” the letter to the commission stated.

This is the second time the Prime Minister has requested the ACC to investigate him. The first was the in the case of possible conflict of interest when electric vehicles were introduced in 2014.

Meanwhile, the RAA has also confirmed that they also received a letter from the cabinet secretary to audit security work arrangements made in the residences of former ministers between 2003 and 2005.

RAA officials said they are studying the case and will take due course of time on whether to pursue the case. An official said that RAA do not want to appear as a political tool.  “It is the PM this time. It can be the Opposition leader next time,” an official said.

Kuensel learnt that the RAA did not point out the security arrangements made at the former prime minister’s residence based on international best practices.

The prime minister in February asked the RAA to look into the legality of the security walls around the former ministers’ residences. He had also asked the former ministers to refund the expenses incurred in constructing the security infrastructures.

The opposition, however, challenged that the current and past scenarios and the need for security arrangements were completely different and non-comparable. In the period between 2003 and 2005 and until July 2010, there was no such a thing called Lhengye Dhensa (Ministers’ Enclave) where ministers reside today, the opposition’s press release of March 9 stated.

Rinzin Wangchuk 

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