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Health officials acquitted

OAG has appealed the verdict to the High Court

Medical Junket: The High Court is yet to begin hearings for the four health officials, who were acquitted by the Thimphu district court on November 30 last year for their sponsored trips to Germany and China in 2009.

Thimphu district court ruled that, “it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the four health officials were guilty of the offence of bribery,” and dismissed the charges of bribery, official misconduct and the recovery of corrupt payment made to the defendants amounting to Nu 1.278M.

Dissatisfied with the district court’s ruling that the officials were not penalised  for receiving corrupt payments as per the provision of the penal code, the Office of the Attorney (OAG) general last month appealed to the High Court.

In May last year, officials of the attorney general had charged the four health officials – orthopaedic surgeon Dr Tshewang Thinley; orthodontist Dr Samdrup R Wangchuk, former chief procurement officer of drugs, vaccine and equipment division (DVED) Ngawang Dorji, and former health ministry’s chief administrative officer, Nado Dukpa for bribery and official misconduct.

The court verdict ruled that Vikas medical devices supplier based in Kolkata, India and KLS Martin Group, Germany had officially invited the health officials through invitation letters that were sent to the ministry on May 14, 2009.  The letters had asked health officials to inspect the equipment if they were interested, and that suppliers would bear all expenses for travel, logistics and food and leisure.

Based on the letter, the health ministry’s human resource committee had gone ahead and completed all administrative procedures for the tours, which was finally endorsed by the health minister, the verdict stated.

While it was proven that the health officials had gone on the trip, were paid 1,500 Euros each in Germany, and USD 1,500 dollars each in China, as well as paid for their logistics and food, the verdict ruled that the tours were not taken by them on their own will, or for their personal benefit, but by following all administrative procedures and endorsed by the health minister.

The verdict also ruled that, when it comes to tender allotment, it was Norgay Medical, which won the bid and that all expenses incurred during the tours had no financial implication on the government.

It also stated that the decisions were taken, based on the tender committee members, and not on the decisions of one or two members.

The verdict also ruled that Dev Vasa, who was charged for bribing six health officials but, since he is not in Bhutan, he cannot be prosecuted, the verdict stated.

In May, the court had asked attorney general officials to seek means to bring Dev Vasa to the country for prosecution.  He was also on the tour to Germany and China with the health officials.

The office of the attorney general had charged seven officials including the partner of Vikas Medical, who sponsored the trip to China and Germany in 2009.

However, Thimphu district court had accepted the attorney general officials’ submission in May to withdraw criminal charges, in the interest of justice, on two health officials, neurosurgeon Dr Tashi Tenzin and medical supply depot’s procurement officer in Phuentsholing, Chakchu Tshering.

Charges against them were dropped, since they weren’t members of the tender selection committee, didn’t have any influence over the tender, and were nominated by their respective departments, and their trips approved by health ministry’s human resource committee.  The neurosurgeon had travelled to Germany, and the procurement officer to China.

By Sonam Pelden

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  1. I am relieved too. I think the judges have done a good job by giving the correct judgement. we know these guys are innocent. They were unnecessarily dragged into the court. It should have been those who approved the tour in the first place and not those who went. I think ACC should compensate them for damaging their image in public. Yes they are heroes who serve the public day and night with very limited facilities. It is not easy to be a doc in Bhutan. Cheers guy. May you continue to serve our needy public.

  2. Thank God they were acquitted. ACC completely got it wrong with this one. Let anyone else go to Europe without a stipend to survive and then ask how their trip was when they come back home. These doctors have served the national admirably…getting up at all hours of the night to take care of patients. They are heros, not criminals, and thankfully the court has agreed on the latter.

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