Labour Minister takes leave until investigation is over
In a press release issued on Friday evening the government said that it has requested the office of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to undertake an immediate and full investigation into the various training programs of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.
The release says, “The investigation has been requested based on the several informal complaints received by the Office of the Prime Minister on possible incidences of corruption and collusion by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, particularly in awarding contracts relating to trainings in India and Japan.”
The Minister of Labour and Human Resources Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo has requested for leave until the investigation process is completed.
It says that in the national interest, the Prime Minister will take full charge of the ministry with immediate effect till the conclusion of the ACC’s investigation.
The main focus of the investigation is expected to be on the training programs where youth were sent abroad for employment to India and Japan.
In the case of India there was controversy last year as the Labour Ministry had sent around 150 students for employment through an Indian company Alfresco Solution LLP.
However, the company in question was not able to fulfill contractual obligations and around 30 Bhutanese students at the time returned home.
In the case of Japan, the ministry through a local agency known as the Bhutan Employment Overseas agency sent around 500 students to Japan with each student availing loans of Nu 700,000 each coming to around Nu 350 mn in total.
The loans were facilitated by the Labour Ministry which sought the cooperation of the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).
With around Nu 350 mn in loans taken by 500 students there have been questions on the transparency of how this 350 mn was awarded by the ministry and used by the agency and what was the break up. There are also questions on how it was only one such company and how was it selected.
There have also been issues of some Bhutanese students not being able to repay these loans in the banks after facing problems in Japan in addition to other issues.
The Japan program involved Bhutanese students going on a learn and earn program of students learning Japanese and working at the same time to later aim to take up full time Japanese jobs.
With controversies in the above two cases the ACC may also have to look at if this was limited to this or there are similar issues in the various training programs offered by the ministry.
The ACC Chairperson Kinley Yangzom said the case is already with the ACC investigation section. She said they recieved complaints on the issue both from the government and an anonymous source as well.
This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has written to the ACC.
A few years ago when the electric vehicle issue came up the PM wrote to the ACC requesting it to investigate if there is any conflict of interest between him and electric vehicles. The ACC investigation found no conflict of interest.
The second time was when the PM wrote to the ACC asking to to investigate the BHEL case to do with over Nu 240 mn in commissions in the supply of electro mechanical equipment to Punatsangchu II in June 2012 and in January 2013 to Mangdechu.