Parliament: Yesterday’s joint sitting of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) review of the annual audit reports did not have much time for intense deliberations, since the first half of the morning went into presenting the report.
Presented by the PAC chairperson, Tharchen, who is the Trongsa councillor, the report took longer than usual, as it reviewed the audit reports, starting from 2008 to 2011. The review of the annual audit report 2012 was presented in the second part, followed by the committee’s recommendations.
While the previous government had said that it had resolved all the pending irregularities since 1982 with the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), according to the PAC’s review, a total irregularity of more than Nu 469M was still unresolved between 2008 and 2011. The unresolved irregularity for 2008 amounts to Nu 17,000 and pertains to outstanding advances of Nu 7000 by the home ministry, and fund misuse of Nu 10,000 by the former Dumtoe gup in Samtse.
The unresolved irregularities in 2009 are more than Nu 13M, with the labour ministry (Nu 3.2M), education ministry (Nu8.7M), foreign ministry (Nu 0.16M) and the rest pertains to Chukha, Punakha and Haa dzongkhags.
Irregularities for 2010 amounts to Nu 93.8M, with the maximum with the health ministry (Nu 87.8M). The foreign ministry has an unresolved irregularity of Nu 2.3M from misuse of cash by the embassy in Bangkok.
Unresolved irregularities in 2011 amount to Nu 363.1M, with Nu 76.4M booked against mismanagement by the road safety and transport authority. Under fraud and corruption, the embassy in Bangkok has three cases amounting to Nu5.56M. Under shortfalls and lapses, the Bangkok embassy again has three cases amounting to Nu 186M.
One of the recommendations of the PAC was that RAA resolve all the pending issues from 2008-10 with the concerned agencies by April 30, 2014. Audit issues pertaining to 2011 and 2012 must be resolved by November 30, 2014.
On the 2012 audit report, the speaker led the discussions on fixing accountability, specifically with regard to the Nu 114M irregularity with the construction of domestic airports under the information and communications ministry.
The information and communications minister, DN Dungyel, said that all cases pertaining to the construction of domestic airports have been forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and others cases have been resolved substantially.
Councillor Tharchen pointed out that it was the ministry’s fault on assigning the task of preparing the Bill of Quantities (BoQ), administering the work, verification and payment of bills on a single individual, the ministry’s deputy executive engineer, Gyem Dorji. “We don’t understand why the ministry had given the whole responsibility to a single person on all the three projects of the airport construction,” he said.
Supporting his views, the speaker suggested that certain degree of accountability must also be placed on the ministry.
The Khar-Yurung assembly member, Zanglay Dukpa, said the audit did not hold one person accountable. “While direct accountability was placed on Gyem Dorji, supervisory accountability was also held on the director general of civil aviation,” he said.
Pemagatshel councillor Jigme Rinzin added that, during the time of auditing, the auditors and the officials from the concerned agencies together decide on whom to place the accountability, and that parliament cannot direct the agencies to hold another entity accountable.
Nganglam assembly member Choida Jamtsho said the decision of accountability should be best left with RAA. “Once the case is forwarded to the ACC, it’s in the ACC’s court to decide,” he added.
Some members suggested the house to discuss the PAC’s recommendations instead of the entire report. “It’s the PAC’s responsibility to present the report,” a councillor said. “But the report doesn’t necessarily need the discussions on all the issues, rather it’s the recommendations that need more discussion.”
The council chairperson, Dasho Sonam Kinga, also said that it would be wrong to mention names of the person held accountable, because it was the court that would ultimately decide whether the person is actually at fault.
One of the recommendations of the PAC is to conduct a special investigation on Penden Cement Authority limited (PCAL), since significant irregularities were observed, mostly on fraud, corruption and embezzlement.
The company lost more than Nu 1.5M to fraud, corruption and embezzlement, another Nu 1.4M to mismanagement, and more than Nu 0.9M for violation of laws and rules.
North Thimphu Assembly member, Kinga Tshering, suggested designating a project risk officer in the agencies, with the help of the Royal Civil Service Commission, to avoid unnecessary expenditures and prevent corruption.
The discussion on the PAC report will continue on Monday when parliament resumes.
By Tshering Dorji | Thimphu