The government has asked the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for probe in a conflict-of-interest case on Thursday involving former works and human settlement minister Yeshey Zimba in relation to fiscal incentives that the previous government (Druk Phuensum Tshogpa) had granted.
According to the press release issued from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday, the present government is of the view that there were elements of policy corruption, abuse of official power and functions, failure to declare obvious conflict of interest and official misconducts involved in granting the additional fiscal incentive by the previous government.
The press release states that Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, being one of the Cabinet Ministers, had willfully failed to declare conflict of interest as required by law and has apparently committed official misconduct in leading the decision making process that has hugely benefited his family member.
It is stated that the former minister was a member of the Lhengye Zhungtsog and often officiated for the Prime Minister in his absence. The former MoWHS minister had reportedly also chaired the 156th Session of the Lhengye Zhungtsog when the former Lyonchhen was absent and the additional fiscal incentive was approved.
The government stated that approving the additional fiscal incentive was timed when an FDI incorporated hotel venture in Thimphu town called M/s Bhutan Hotel Ltd. (now operated as Le Meridien), owned (partnered) by Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba’s daughter, was under active construction.
“Hence, Yeshey Zimba had not only failed willfully to ‘Declare Conflict of Interest’ as required by law but had even chaired the very 156th Lhengye Zhungtsog which allowed him to exercise edge over other members in leading towards the approval of additional fiscal incentives,” stated the press release.
The government also maintained that the declaration of the additional fiscal incentive was not only timed to bypass reporting requirement to Parliament, but was also well synchronized to gain optimum benefit by M/s Bhutan Hotel Ltd. (Le Meridien) as its tenure from April 2013 to December 2015 was seemingly designed for the benefit of hotels readying to acquire those tax exempted items.
“Hence, besides offering optimal benefit to M/s Bhutan Hotel Ltd. (Le Meridien), the additional fiscal incentive was neither targeted to attract more investments in the area of domestic or FDI hotel constructions, nor did it offer benefit to the hotels that were at the verge of commissioning their operations,” stated the media release.
The government also maintained that M/s Bhutan Hotel Ltd. (Le Meridien) alone had benefited by Nu.76,887,635 from the additional incentives as shown by official records. “Hence, out of 92 hotels, M/s Bhutan Hotel Ltd. (Le Meridien) alone had benefitted by 41.20% of the total tax exemption amount. The sequence of events thus compels this government to view Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba as having acted on vested interest,” states the press release.
Besides being a serious policy corruption to use official powers to favor his own family member, it is also stated that Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba’s conducts clearly tantamount to commission of outright corruption if he is also found to have personal ownership interest in the above hotel venture.
“Hence, if those allegations were adjudicated to have been committed by Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, the ill-gotten gains too must rightfully be restituted to the state as per law,” states the media release.
In addition to existing fiscal incentives that were in force since 2010, the press release also stated that the DPT government had approved an additional fiscal incentive titled as “Revised List of Incentives for Tourist Standard Hotels-April 2013” at its 156th Session of the Lhengye Zhungtshog with enforcement tenure till 31st December 2015.
“There was no Parliament to be reported to by then and, just three days before the Government was dissolved on 20th April 2013, the newly devised additional fiscal incentive was declared on 17th of April 2013 for its enforcement,” states the media release.
Meanwhile, former minister Yeshey Zimba could not be contacted despite numerous attempts.
Pema Seldon from Thimphu