The Prime Minister’s office has recently written to the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) asking it to look into the security walls and structures built for ministers in the past as well as 11 Toyota Prados and one Toyota Land Cruiser that DPT ministers did not return from 2008 to 2013.
The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay said, “I have written to the the RAA in support of the Opposition party’s concerns on the misuse of public resources.”
The Opposition in an earlier release had alleged that the Prime Minister had misused Nu 3 mn in public resources to build his compound wall and also alleged that it was a serious form of corruption.
The PM said that even before the Opposition had raised the issue of his wall he had refunded it, even though the RAA had only observed it in its audit of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement and not issued a memo or asked for a refund.
The PM said that the wall had only been built based on the security protocols and insistence of the RBP.
On the Prados the PM said that as the Opposition Leader he had returned the Prado in 2013 when he had found that there was no Royal Kasho.
The PM’s letter to the RAA is with reference to a recent government press release that had outlined some issues that needed looking into by the RAA.
The release raised the issue of compound security walls for ministers from 2003-2005 amounting to Nu 4.546 mn. It is also pointed out to the compound wall, kitchen, toilet and quarter for security personnel of the former Prime Minister coming to Nu 2.244 mn. The government has also raised the matter of the construction of a road by Dantak to the residence of the former PM.
The letter to the RAA and the earlier release also pointed to 11 official Toyota Prados that the DPT ministers did not return at the conclusion of their tenure without Royal Kasho granting the said vehicles.
The PM said that in addition to the actual Prados the ministers also availed an additional MP’s vehicle quota each. The government release puts the then market value of the Prados at around nu 4 mn each.
The RAA has also been appraised of the Nu 9 mn worth one-year-old Land Cruiser retained by the former PM along with a vehicle quota.
The government in its release invited the former prime minister and former ministers to reimburse the funds even as the Royal Audit Authority conducts their investigation.
The government said it is hopeful that the opposition party will cooperate as the prime minister has already reimbursed the entire expenses of the security arrangements in his residence even without being asked to do so by the Royal Audit Authority, the opposition party or any other person.
The release said that the opposition party had concluded that “misuse of public resource for private benefit is a serious form of corruption” in relation to security arrangements provided in the prime minister’s residence.
“Therefore, the opposition party must accept that security arrangement provided by the government to the former prime minister and former ministers are a “misuse of public resource” and ‘a serious form of corruption’,” said the release.
The release from the government said that it is disappointed that the opposition party has raised this issue only as a reaction to the ACC investigation on DPT’s former cabinet minister Yeshi Zimba.
However, the government welcomed the opposition party’s charges against the prime minister, as the release said it is essential to hold all politicians to public scrutiny and to hold them fully accountable.
The government in its clarification said Nu. 3 million was not used to develop the prime minister’s residence at Taba as alleged by the opposition party.Instead, the amount in question related to expenditure incurred for security arrangements in and around the residence of the prime minister.
The release said the security arrangement was required as the RBP on their investigation of the newly built residence of the prime minister observed that the wall being built then privately was inadequate.
The RBP reported that without a secured compound wall and a well-protected water supply system, the safety and security of the prime minister was compromised.
According to the RBP, the Security Protocol 2014 sanctions the prime minister to reside outside the Lhengye Densa and mandates the security division of RBP to provide residential security coverage. The RBP in its assessment of the prime minister’s residential compound asserted that ‘Potential vulnerabilities to crime and terrorism, threats and risks to the life of the prime minister cannot be ruled out, particularly being the head of the government.’
The government said that the RBP, therefore, instructed the Cabinet secretariat to arrange a secured compound wall and safe drinking water supply to the prime minister’s residence. The requirement for a strong and secured compound wall was brought to the notice of the prime minister who rejected the proposal. The prime minister insisted that such a wall was not required in a country that enjoyed peace and security.
However, the release said the prime minister was compelled to agree because of RBP’s insistence that they would not be able to guarantee the safety and security of the prime minister and also on the precedence of government providing security arrangement in the private residences of former prime ministers and ministers.
The release said that the MoWHS and the RBP took up the entire work on the compound wall and the water supply. The prime minister, it said, was not involved in the design, tendering process and the execution of the works.
The release clarified that the RAA’s observation was not on the “The misuse of public resource for private benefit” as alleged by the opposition party. It said they did not question the use of public resources to provide the security arrangements.
The release said the RAA’s observation was: “the Department in consultation with the Ministry of Finance may comment on the course of action to be taken to dispose the cost of the infrastructure after the tenure of the Prime Minister”
The government said that since the RAA’s observation involved the prime minister, he immediately reimbursed Nu 2,999,964 although RAA did not require the reimbursement. “The prime minister took this decision to set good precedence and in the national interest,” the release stated.
It said since the opposition party has charged the prime minister for misusing public resources and indulging in corrupt practice, the government calls on them to report the matter to the Anti Corruption Commission for immediate investigation. Otherwise, the prime minister may charge the opposition party for defamation.
The government in line with the Opposition’s demand will also be soon making public, the list of all FI beneficiaries since 2010.
The Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho said that the party is yet to meet and discuss the release by the government and it would be doing so soon and then decide on what to do.