ACC’s investigation found that labour and human resources director general (DG) solicited and accepted a favour from Manav Dhingra, head of operations for International Institute of Hospitality and Wellness Studies (IIWS) to set up tissue business.
When a search was conducted inside the DG’s office by the investigation team in January last year, a printed email document (tax invoice dated 9.11.2016 of Birla Hi-Tech Machines) was found and seized from him.
ACC official said later it was found that the tax invoice amounting to Nu 1,489,000 was in relation to purchase of napkin paper machine and materials, which was addressed to M/s Jana Tissues, C/o Kezang Nendag and was emailed to DG Sherab Tenzin by Manav Dhingre.
The investigation later found and confirmed that Kezang Nendag, who is the eldest son of DG, was the registered owner of M/s Jana Tissues. It was revealed that Manav Dhingre had helped DG to purchase as well as transport the machines and materials to Thimphu.
Manav had stated that he had done all the arrangements to procure and transport the machines from Birla Hi-Tech Machines and admitted to having covered 50 percent of the total cost according to the ACC official. Furnished documentary evidence was also submitted to support his statement where he had paid INR 589,000 on October 13, 2016 from his wife’s account.
During the course of investigation, Manav Dhingre also stated that he later provided both physical and financial assistance since DG had initially proposed him to be a silent partner in his son’s business.
“However, he later stated that he withdrew from such arrangement, as DG had transferred the business to another businessman,” ACC official.
When questioned, DG Sherab Tenzin said that the tissue paper production business was established for his son and denied that he sought for any partnership with Manav Dhingre, but only his assistance.
DG Sherab Tenzin told the investigation team that he sent the advance payments of Nu 150,000 with Manav Dhingre and Nu 700,000 through bank transfer to Birla Hi-Tech Machines.
Later the investigation found that the advance payment of Nu 700,000 was sent through bank transfer on October 8 2016. The source of payment was through loan availed from Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited. The RICBL had sanctioned Nu 2,000,000 in the name of Kezang Nendag.
However, DG could not provide proper account of how and when the cash advance of Nu 150,000 was sent through Manav Dhingre although the investigation found that DG, at that time, had availed of RICBL loan and was in capacity to pay the full cost of the machine.
ACC official said the financial assistance provided by Manav Dhingre, irrespective of being a partner or not, still lay outstanding despite DG liquidating the RICBL loan on June 26 2017.
The business was later handed over to Tshewang Norbu a proprietor of Bondey Institute of Hospitality and Tourism based in Paro to avoid future allegations. DG stated that he had no association with the business now. Tshewang Norbu is a DG’s friend. This was confirmed by the investigation team and the business is now renamed Pelri Tissue.
ACC official said Tshewang Norbu stated that the machine was transferred to Paro from Thimphu without any financial dealings or arrangements with DG Sherab Tenzin and also stated that DG had introduced him to Manav Dhingre who insisted they work together to operationalise the business.
This is why the investigation findings proved that DG Sherab Tenzin accepted assistance from Manav Dhingre in arranging as well as partly financing the procurement and transportation of a napkin paper making machine and materials to set up his son’s business.
It was also established that DG Sherab Tenzin in order to set up his son’s business not only sought financial assistance of over INR 589,000 from a foreign source, but also engaged in a conduct that was in conflict with his public position as the DG of department of employment and human resources (DoEHR).
The investigation team also found that despite conflict of interest with Manav Dhingre, DG participated as a member of ministerial tender committee (MTC) on September 30 2016 for the 3rd tender of Guaranteed Overseas Employment through Training (GOET) programme. The tender invitation was announced on June 20 2016. IIWS was one of the winning bidders.
This proved that DG had not only engaged in a conduct that was in conflict with his public position as the DG but also failed to rescue himself from being a member of the MTC.
It was also found that DG had developed a relation beyond professional with Manav Dhingre where he used to send his son to pick Manav Dhingre from the Paro International Airport. He also sought assistance to arrange pocket money for his son who was studying in South Delhi although there was no strong evidence. Both confessed that the money was repaid during Manav Dhingre’s visit in Bhutan.
Manav Dhingre also confessed to gifting labour ministry officials pens, mobile phones and watches (valued below INR 9,000) and providing financial help.
Ugyen Tashi, Assistant Program Officer, said he got a watch and borrowed Nu 50,000 from Manav Dhingre. However, he later claimed that he returned the watch and repaid the money.
DG said he would choose not to comment on the findings.
Yangchen C Rinzin