This reverting to an earlier system is the result of a demand from school authorities at the AEC
CPS: All schools should check the quality of Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) supplied consignments on a quarterly basis.
The decision is a follow up on issues school authorities raised at the annual education conference (AEC) in Punakha last month. The issues were raised, while deliberating on the school-feeding programme under the centralised procurement system (CPS).
FCB took over the centralised procurement of nine food items last July and had supplied the stock at a go. School authorities pointed out that this had led to wastage and storage issues for schools.
Last month, FCB had received a food order note from the government to procure the nine non-perishable food items to be distributed twice a year.
But education ministry and FCB officials met earlier this month, where it was again agreed that the rations would be supplied on a quarterly basis, as was initially planned, to ensure quality of food.
“The first quarter delivery will be done in two phases – from January end to April, and the second phase would be from April to June, so that storage issues won’t arise,” FCB’s general manager of institutional supply, Megraj Gurung, said.
FCB officials said they have however already procured enough stock to last until June for delivery.
The meeting also decided that all schools are required to check the quality of stock on delivery and, if found unsatisfactory, schools could return them to the warehouse in-charge for replacement.
Megraj Gurung said although schools would no longer face quality or storage issues, FCB will have to ensure that the quality of the stocked items are maintained.
“Splitting the delivery in two phases means additional transportation cost, which the ministry will have to bear,” he said. “For the convenience of schools, education ministry agreed to bear the additional cost.”
The CPS was implemented in July last year, in collaboration with FCB, following the World Food Program (WFP) supply model. The government covered 55 schools with three meals through a stipend of Nu 1,000 a student, while 27 schools were provided meals through WFP supply and central procurement. Of the Nu 1,000 stipend, 60 percent was released to FCB, and the remaining 40 percent to the dzongkhags for procurement and supply of perishable food items.
Principals, attending the annual education conference last month, said the system needed to be revisited if not changed. They complained that non-perishable items supplied by FCB were in excess and didn’t meet their requirements. Other issues raised were problems of storage, poor quality of lentil, salt and soya chunks supplied, and insufficiency of the 40 percent budget for perishable items.
However, FCB officials said they received only a few complaints from schools last year. On verification, issues were mainly to do with storage in schools after the supplies are delivered.
Citing a complaint on lentil quality from one of the schools in Gelephu, officials said that the stock was delivered in proper condition, and that the quality issues arose much later.
“We dispatch the same commodity to all schools throughout the country and, should there be issues, complaints should come from all,” Megraj Gurung said, adding FCB was doing its best not to compromise on quality of any food items.
FCB officials said they follow WFP parameters to ensure quality of food commodities.
The total schools FCB will cover this year is 109, which would keep increasing every year until WFP phases out by 2018. FCB officials said they expect about 5,000 more students annually.
In terms of number of schools to be covered, Phuentsholing has the highest number of schools, followed by Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu.
Meanwhile, the WFP warehouse in Phuentsholing has started receiving stock for the first quarter, which will be distributed to other FCB warehouses, from where it will be distributed to the schools.
Once the food commodities reach the respective regional warehouses, FCB officials said the distribution order would be issued simultaneously, after which the ration would be transported to schools. Except for a few schools, officials said, most were near the road point.
By Kinga Dema, P/ling
Crime: Two minors and two students were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three and half years to five years for armed robbery by the Tsirang district court on January 23.
The sentenced are between the ages of 17 and 20. They were found guilt of having robbed a group of labourers in Reserbroo on January 1.
The main culprit, a repeat offender and also a school drop out and his accomplice, also a school drop out, were given a prison term of three and half years each. Both are minors.
Whereas two students aged 18 and 20, were given a prison term of five years each.
“All four of them were charged with robbery, armed robbery and criminal conspiracy which falls under the felony of third degree as per the Penal Code of Bhutan, section 46,” the court’s verdict stated.
Three mobile phones, two mobile chargers, four sim cards which are recovered from the culprits were handed over to the victims.
The robbery happened on the night of January 1 when the culprits went to celebrate New Year with their friends at Patshaling.
“The main culprit, a 17-year-old boy, knocked the door of a camp house where a group of labourers lived and asked for water. After that, he asked for a mobile phone to call one of his friends,” says the investigation report. Immediately after taking the phone from a labourer, the boy took out a knife and asked all the labourers to hand over their mobile phones and money.
According to the victims’ statement to the police, the culprits snatched four mobile phones, four mobile chargers, four SIM cards, a halogen light and Nu 6,000.
The culprits have 10 days to appeal to appeal the court’s verdict.
Reserboo is about 16 km away from Damphu town.
By Yeshey Dema, Tsirang
Culture: The Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Paro, Trongsa and Dagana dzongs have been nominated for the first ever World Heritage tentative list of Bhutan,
The culture department’s conservation of heritage sites division head, Nagtsho Dorji, said the UNESCO has encouraged the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritages around the world.
“The five dzongs witnessed significant political events and cultural development throughout the history after the unification of the country,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
She explained that these dzongs have witnessed important historical events and continue to do so. She said that these dzongs today hold a significant status and illustrate the peak of collective architectural achievements of the people of the country.
“However, the dzongs are in the tentative list and currently, we are deliberating with experts from the World Heritage and Reconstruction on this issue,” she said.
The submission to the tentative list was announced during a workshop on structural issues related to traditional Bhutanese buildings especially dzongs, held on December 24 in Thimphu.
The workshop aims to deliberate on measures to strengthen and reinforce traditional Bhutanese buildings among the experts from different countries that have similar and rich traditional architecture.
“To receive concrete recommendations on such measures, the department has identified Wangduephodrang dzong and focused on structural issues related to reconstruction of the dzong after it was destroyed by fire on June 24, 2012,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
Built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and largely extended in 1683 by Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgye, the dzong has stood the test of time. Having retained its history through hundred of years, the dzong stood as an epitome of Bhutanese traditional architecture.
“Therefore, cautious measures and strategic planning are necessary during its reconstruction,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
The department is placeing high importance in retaining the existing walls left by the fire and in order to rebuild the dzong at the original location, it will be rebuilt over the existing surviving walls.
“Therefore, it is critical to examine strength of the remaining walls and look into appropriate and feasible measures to strengthen and reinforce the dzong’s stone masonry walls in the manner of respecting traditional materials and techniques,” she said.
Experts were invited to present recommendations and to identify measures for the remaining wall as well as new walls to be constructed.
“The reconstruction works began immediately after the command by His Majesty the King during the same year and the works are expected to complete in 2018, at the end of the 11th Five Year Plan,” she said.
The project team has been undertaking the reconstruction of the southern end of the building, since October last year.
However, for the reconstruction, the design also includes increase in height of some buildings and partial extension of dzong’s outline.
“For this design, we need more deliberation and concrete decision should be reached whether such changes from the original design will impact the stability of the buildings or not,” an official said.
At the end of the reconstruction, the dzong is required to house 15 shrines, living spaces for around 100 monks and office spaces for more than 30 different sectors of the Wangduephodrang administration.
Experts from Italy, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, UK, Portugal and India presented their recommendations to the guests, stakeholders including the steering committee members for the Wangduephodrang dzong reconstruction project chaired by home minister Damcho Dorji during the workshop.
By Thinley Zangmo
Connectivity: More than 17 households of Zawa chiwog have been connected to the Athang gewog center in Wangduephodrang with a farm road inaugurated, yesterday.
The cost of constructing the road was Nu 830,000 and was funded through the gewog development grant (GDG).
The 2.7 km road was constructed by the Zawa community contract group that is comprised of village members, and took one month and eight days to complete.
The road will connect two villages of Zawa chiwog, Zawa and Yultama and about 17 households.
The community contract group is formed of members from almost every household, and this, according to the gup of Athang was to ensure transparency and so that the work would be completed on time and to a high standard of quality.
Zawa is located closest to the Athang gewog centre. Athang is the remotest and least developed gewog in Wangdue.
“What used to take about an hour’s walk otherwise, will now take just about 20 minutes to reach the gewog centre,” said Tsagay, a resident of Zawa. The Athang gewog centre is located about 10 km from the Wangdue-Tsirang highway road at Kamichu.
Tsagay said the farm road will also allow villagers of Zawa to bring their agriculture produce to the nearby Punatsangchu hydropower project labour camps at Kamichu.
Villagers said Zawa has very fertile land and much is grown there, however, withtout a farm road, it was a challenge in reaching their produce to the market.
The Athang gup pointed out that as per the government’s financial estimation, a one kilometre farm road is estimated to cost Nu 2.5M, however, when the work was awarded to community, the 2.7 km farm road was completed with less than Nu 1M and in one month.
To provide equal development through GDG, the gewog divided development activities into five years for the five chiwogs. Lucky dip would decide in which year a chiwog receives development.
Zawa chiwog was first to be chosen and opted for two farm roads, each costing Nu 830,000: a 2.7 km road from Athang gewog centre till zawa village and another 2.3 km farm road towards Jarochen, which is half way completed.
By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue
Waste: The thromde along with the city’s tshogpas will require Thimphu residents to conduct a cleaning campaign of different zones of the city every weekend, starting with Taba residents today.
According to a thromde official, Yeshi Wangdi, the objective is to have the community participate in keeping the environment clean because there is minimal community participation when it comes to waste management.
At least one person from each household will have to volunteer to clean the surrounding areas of their residence.
The volunteers will be registered by the thromde.
Yeshi Wangdi said the cleaning campaign will be coordinated by the tshogpas in their respective zones while the thromde will assist by providing collection trucks, hand gloves and sacks.
“There is no continuous cleaning campaign. Most of the time the cleaning activities are carried out by the volunteers wherever there is waste problem occasionally,” Yeshi Wangdi said. “There is no system so we want to have a system, we will start with residents in Taba and soon it will be a routine.”
He said the idea was first discussed by the thromde and tshogpas. The tshogpas then discussed the idea with the residents of their respective zones and got positive feedback.
“If we ask the public to come for cleaning town areas, the number of volunteers turning up is very minimal, moreover, even if people turn up, the cleaning is not very effective but we found people sincere and willing to clean their respective areas,” he added.
The zones identified by the Thromde are: Babesa, Jungshina/Hejo/Pam-tsho/ Langjophakha, Changzamtok/Changbangdu/Olakha/ Changedaphu, Taba and Dechencholing, Motithang, Changangkha and the core Thimphu area.
By Dechen Tshomo
They had sold the copper from the stolen wires to two scrap dealers in Dechencholing
Crime: Thimphu police have arrested five students of Dechencholing middle secondary school for malicious mischief and larceny, in connection with the theft of electrical wires in Dharina, above Dechencholing, Thimphu.
According to the building owner, Karma Jimba, electrical wires and miniature circuit breakers (MCB) worth over Nu 500,000 were stolen from a building that was under construction.
Police found that the first break-in happened on January 15, followed by another two on January 16 and 17. The culprits were arrested on Friday, January 23.
One of the accused, less than 12 years old, was handed over to the parents because, as per the Child Protection Act, a child under 12 cannot be detained. He will attend the trial with the rest of the accused. Three others were 15 and one 12 years old.
Three policemen in casual dress were sent for four days to Dharina and Dechencholing areas to gather information. People with criminal records from the area were also investigated. The policemen checked all scrap dealers in Thimphu and found 27kg of copper from a scrap dealer in Dechencholing. They found that the boys sold the copper wires to the dealer for Nu 10,000.
The boys confessed to police that another 20kg of copper from the last incident was sold to another scrap dealer in Dechencholing. The dealer has left for pilgrimage.
Police said they would seek arrest warrants for the two scrap dealers today.
A police official said, despite repeated requests to scrap dealers not to buy scrap that is likely to be stolen property without verifying, the two scrap dealers bought the scrap from the boys.
“The scrap dealers didn’t abide by the law and they’ll be penalised,” the official said. “Buying stolen items encourages youth to steal.”
Copper fetches Nu 250/kg in Thimphu and more than Nu 100/kg across the border in Phuentsholing.
The students told police that, after stealing the electrical wires, they went to the riverside and burned the cover of the wires, and then rolled the copper to sell.
The warning “I will kill you” on the wall, the boys, told police, was written “ just for fun.” Police confirmed that it didn’t have anything to do with “hard feelings” for the owner or anyone else.
Police found a hammer, a knife and a pair of gloves from the boys.
The boys told police that the two smaller boys were kept outside the building to keep watch, while the three older boys went inside the building to steal the electrical wires.
Four of the boys are in the custody of the women and child protection unit at the Thimphu police station.
By Dechen Tshomo
Royal visit: His Majesty the King granted an audience and tokha to more than 2,000 people yesterday in Thrimshing, Trashigang. A mobile medical unit, which accompanied His Majesty’s entourage also conducted medical check-ups and surgeries in the dungkhag.
…now that OAG has registered the lhakhang Karpo case at Haa district court
Update: After handing over the foreign ministry to the prime minister, foreign minister Rinzin Dorje went on ‘authorised absence’ starting yesterday, after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) registered the lhakhang Karpo corruption case at the Haa district court.
Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said the foreign minister submitted ‘an application requesting leave of absence until the case is resolved’ to the Prime Minister to attend the lhakhang Karpo case court proceedings.
The Cabinet discussed the letter this week when they met on Tuesday.
“The Cabinet decided to grant the minister an authorised absence to prevent controversy and conflict of interest, seeing that the OAG will be prosecuting the case on behalf of the government,” Lyonchhoen said in a press conference yesterday. “We’re not suspending him.”
On if the minister would get his salary and benefits, lyonchhoen said he could not answer this at this time, but said the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) grants benefits to those on authorised absence.
As per article 17 section 3 of the Constitution, the prime minister sought approval from His Majesty the King regarding the decision.
“We’ve taken this decision in the interest of good governance and democracy,” lyonchhoen said.
The prime minister said there was no provision in the Constitution or any law that states that a serving minister must either resign, be suspended or be granted authorised absence for the duration of the case.
“Recently, RCSC granted authorised absence to the three senior civil servants, while their case is under review. This seems to be perhaps an instrument that we can use,” he said.
Lyonchhoen repeatedly said that the foreign minister does not have to resign or step down from office because a precedence has already been set.
“In the previous government, the serving minister and speaker did not resign or request for any leave of any sort. They continued to function as ministers until the end of their terms,” lyonchhoen said.
“However, in light of the foreign minister submitting his own application, the Cabinet decided that this was a good solution, and that it would prevent conflict of interest; it also sets a good precedence in terms of good governance for democratic Bhutan.”
The opposition leader, (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, however said the cases were different and could not be treated the same way.
He said the nature of charges were different because one was to do with a case that was 10-15 years old and was regarding procedural flaws, which was the norm those days and one which was not seen as illegal.
The present is a case, which was recent and one, which was pointed out by the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), unlike the Gyalpoizhing case, where RAA had not pointed out.
It was because of this difference that OAG didn’t see it as a case to be prosecuted.
“However, in this case, OAG has accepted that there is a case, which is why it’s prosecuting the case, unlike the Gyalpoizhing case where the ACC prosecuted,” the opposition leader said. “So the PM claiming that this decision is setting a good example of good governance for democracy doesn’t hold water.”
Charges against the minister:
ACC officials, after two years of investigation, found a muster roll fraud, use of substandard construction materials, and awarding of illegal contract to saw timber for the lhakhang Karpo conservation project.
The foreign minister, former Haa dzongda, is charged with abuse of functions, as per Anti Corruption Act 2011, section 58 (1) and (2), which states that, “A public servant, who knowingly abuses functions or position by performing an act amounting to favouritism, nepotism or patronage, etc. in violation of laws, in discharge of his or her functions to obtain advantage for himself or herself or for another person, shall be guilty of an offence.”
The ACC Act also states that an offence under this section shall be a misdemeanour or value based sentencing, whichever is higher, subject to a maximum of the felony of second degree, if the values or the amounts involved in the crime exceed the total amount of minimum wage at the time of the crime for a period of 35 years or more.
The former dzongda was charged with favouring a local saw miller by awarding timber sawing works worth Nu 1.4M without approval of the tender committee.
ACC found that the contract was awarded illegally by the former dzongda, without consulting the tender committee, and the payment was made based on Nu 37.7 per cft, which the committee had initially rejected.
Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje is also charged with using the dzongkhag’s DCM truck to transport his private timber from Haa to Thimphu. He reportedly told ACC officials that he had paid for the fuel. However, ACC officials, while cross checking cash memos, found that the date of the fuelling and that of the vehicle movement did not match. He was told to refund Nu 80,000 for the 10 trips made in transporting his private timber.
While the prime minister said that the foreign minister would defend the case himself, the minister said that he was yet to decide on whether he would hire a lawyer to represent him. “I have no comments,” he said yesterday.
Meanwhile, Haa district judge Duba Drukpa last week said he was uncertain whether he could sit over the case. He is a dorjipuen (spiritual sibling) of the foreign minister. The Chief Justice will make the decision after he submits his conflict of interest to him, the judge said in an earlier interview.
The foreign minister, along with seven other officials, is being charged in this case.
Two years ago
In the Gyalpoizhing case, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had issued suspension orders against former speaker and the home minister after registering the case in the court.
ACC officials said it was a usual administrative procedure under the commission’s Act. Section 167 of the Act spells out that a public official charged with an offence under the Act, would be suspended with effect from the date of the charge until pending the outcome of any appeals.
Following a submission by OAG against the suspension, the High Court issued a temporary restraining order against Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) suspension orders.
The court order was issued, based on article 21 section 10 of the Constitution, which states the Supreme Court and the High Court could issue such declarations, orders, directions or writs suitable to circumstances of the cases. It also cited section 65 (1) of the civil and criminal procedure that allowed the court, on request of plaintiff or defendant, to immediately serve the order, but on the condition that, in absence of it, immediate irreparable harm should be shown to follow.
It was in a similar vein that two of the three medical specialists were saved the suspension that ACC ordered, regarding their travels abroad sponsored by some of their medical suppliers. The health ministry, during that time, convinced and showed the immediate hardship that would follow at the hospital had the two surgeons been suspended.
MDG: Even though a few of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets may remain to be achieved after the MDG deadline, Bhutan has already become a ‘poster child’ for development.
With less than seven months remaining until the MDG deadline, Bhutan has met “almost all the goals” set by the United Nations, according to the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC). The areas requiring attention are increasing the representation of women in parliament and the national decision making process, and improving skilled birth attendance.
“Though Bhutan took ambitious goals, overall, it has already achieved or is well on track to achieve all the MDGs,” Lhaba Tshering, officiating chief of the perspective planning division of GNHC said.
“We’ve surpassed most of the MDG targets.”
The MDGs are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations (UN) member states agreed to achieve by this year at the special Millennium Summit in 2000.
Bhutan’s poverty rate today has halved in a decade, to less than 12 percent from 23 percent in 2007. The target is to achieve 18.15 percent by September, which is the MDG deadline. Since 1980, life expectancy has increased by 20 years and per capita income by 450 percent.
However, Lhaba Tshering also said while malnutrition indicators like underweight prevalence and wasting have improved, stunting prevalence of 33.5 percent still remains as a major public health issue. In addition, anaemia prevalence in women and children is quite alarming at 54.8 percent and 80.6 percent respectively.
Bhutan has also been experiencing sporadic outbreaks of vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamins B1 and B12 since 1998. While hunger is not a problem in the country, eating the right diet is an issue.
To add to the challenges, he said, low GDP growth affected people’s livelihood and employment generation in the economy. “It’ll be a problem if the economy continues to grow slow, because there’ll be less investments and a low level of job creation,” he said.
The positive news is that, from the lowest growth rate of just two percent in the first year of the 11th FYP, GDP is projected to grow by 7.9 percent in the current fiscal year, and is expected to rise further during the next few years. However, a heavy debt burden and an increasing current account deficit will continue to impede growth.
The government is also trying to maintain the fiscal deficit below three percent of GDP, below the internationally accepted rate of five percent.
The officiating chief highlighted that withdrawal of aid by donor agencies is also a challenge for the government to meet the MDG targets. “For instance, with the World Food Program phasing out its aid from our schools, the government has to step in,” he said.
The MDGs aim to reduce poverty incidences in the country to less than 15 percent of households earning less than USD 1.2 a day from 23.2 percent in 2007.
Lhaba Tshering said the severity of poverty depends on how we look at it. “Bhutan is doing fine compared with most countries in the world. We don’t have chronic poverty,” he said.
However, the government hopes that programmes, such as providing 100 units of free electricity in a month, and non-formal education, will contribute to prosperity.
With a firm commitment on MDGs, Bhutan devoted about 25 percent of its development budget to the social sector, with the aim of providing access to free basic education and free basic health services to all.
On youth unemployment, Lhaba Tshering said though youth unemployment is a challenge, it should not be a distracting factor in a country where there is a large youth population. “It should rather draw the government’s attention and be one of the primary focus areas,” he said.
The overall youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate is 9.6 percent and the female youth unemployment rate is 9.9 percent compared to 9.2% for males. It is but only natural for the youth unemployment rate to be higher than the overall rate, yet still the current rate is considered higher than the desired result.
The country is to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people by this year. Lhaba Tshering said 2.5 to 3 percent is considered a natural rate of unemployment by international standards.
To highlight the progress on a few more MDGs, net enrolment ratio has increased from 83.7 percent for primary education in 2008 to 96 percent in 2013. The gross enrolment ratio has increased from 105.7 percent to 116 percent. The target for both is 100 percent by 2015.
Progress towards promoting gender equality and empowerment of women as measured by enrollment of girls over the last six years has shown a steady increase.
Close to the target of 100 percent enrollment, girls today make up 98 percent of the total enrollment at the primary level and 108 percent at the secondary level. Female students comprised 71 percent of the total students at the tertiary level in 2012.