Rationale questioned as RAA refunds around Nu 3mn to former PM

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The approximate amount was the expenses incurred for building security arrangements at the private residence of the former Prime Minister

While former Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay maintained that the entire expenses amounting to around Nu 3mn incurred in building security arrangements at his private residence in Taba were reimbursed to the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), it has been learnt that the former PM was later refunded with the amount on July 31st, 2018 by the RAA.

Sources confirmed to Business Bhutan that the former PM was not asked to be reimbursed and he had sent a cheque to RAA. Though the cheque was accepted, but the amount was not deposited in the account of the government. The issue has also questioned the rationale behind RAA refunding the amount to the former PM.

Business Bhutan tried to contact the former PM for an interview on the issue, but was told to ‘please speak to RAA’.

However, when contacting RAA officials for an interview, they said they don’t know about the details of the refund and refused to comment further.

 Meanwhile, in one of Meet-The-Press sessions last year, Dasho Tshering Tobgay said he had voluntarily reimbursed the amount to RAA even though they had not asked him to reimburse.

Opposition party had then described it as a serious form of corruption and that it needs to be investigated.

Background:

In an audit report send to the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS), it stated that the Security Division of the Royal Bhutan Police vide letter No. RBP/SD/PM-04/2015/(283) dated 01/07/2015 had proposed to the Cabinet Secretary to reinforce and strengthen the security of former PM in the newly constructed private residence at Taba as the former PM intended to shift by August 2015.

The proposal included construction of concrete perimeter wall protection on the three sides of the residence, construction of security duty room with attached bathroom at the entrance gate of the residence, installation of flood lights at the four corners of the compound wall to provide adequate lighting at night, installation of CCTV cameras and secure water supply.

Accordingly, Cabinet Secretary then wrote a letter to the Secretary of MoWHS to carry out the construction of the above works and a copy of a letter was send to the Finance Secretary to release the required budget vide letter No. S-401 dated 22nd July 2015.

The Department of Engineering Services, MoWHS, the Department of Public Health, MoH and the supplier M/s Norlha Trading, Thimphu had prepared design and estimated the amount to Nu. 2,832,831.00.

The Audit report stated that while RAA takes cognizance of the concern of the security division of the RBP to identify the security threat and risk assessments based on the actual and perceived threats against former PM and reinforce and strengthen the security of the former PM in the newly constructed private residence, the development exchequer was not within the ambit of budgetary programme and activities.

The report also stated that the development of infrastructure in private residences on the ground of perceived security threats may create precedent and become recurrent cost to the government in respect of former PM and cabinet ministers residing in private residences in future.

The response from the auditee (MoWHS) stated that the works were carried out as per the letter received from the Office of the Cabinet Secretariat as a deposit work and the work was not in their planned activities or that budget year.

RAA further mentioned in their report that the department (MoWHS) should resolve the issue with consultation with the Office of the Cabinet Secretariat and Ministry of Finance.  

The Opposition Party had raised question on this issue during the Question and Answer Hour on 10th June 2016 at the 7th session of the National Assembly expressing serious concerns over the misuse of government funds. At the 9th Assembly session, Opposition Party had submitted a follow-up question on the issue but was rejected by the Speaker.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu

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