It says ambiguities of Security Protocol for VVIPS 2014 must be fixed
The Anti Corruption Commission dropped the ‘Wall Case’ of the former Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay finding no corruption or violation of the ACC Act, misuse of resources or any other wrong doing.
The ACC said on 12 March 2018, ACC received an anonymous complaint alleging former Prime Minister, Dasho Tshering Tobgay of misusing government budget amounting to Nu. 3 million for the construction of fencing, water supply and security at his private residence in Taba.
The complaint also reported that the Prime Minister refunded the cost only after the issuance of the audit memo by the Royal Audit Authority (RAA).
After four days, the then Cabinet Secretariat, on recommendation of the Prime Minister, forwarded a letter requesting the Commission to investigate the complaint.
The ACC did not pursue the complaint expeditiously because of the concern over the appropriateness of timing as the election was around.
The primary objective of the investigation was to determine whether or not the Prime Minister abused his power in obtaining personal advantage at the expense of public fund in the pretext of VIP security measures and entitlement.
The investigation also aimed to find out all relevant facts and evidence surrounding the refund of money by the RAA which was reportedly deposited by the Prime Minister following the audit memo.
Findings of Investigation
On July 2015, the Security Division, Royal Bhutan Police (the RBP) initiated a proposal to the Cabinet Secretariat to reinforce and strengthen the security of the Prime Minister. The proposal was based on Security protocol for VVIPs/VIPs 2014.
The information about the Prime Minister shifting to his private residence was brought to the notice of Superintendent of Police (SP), Security Division by Major Yeshey T. Phuntsho, the then ADC to the then Prime Minister, following which, a team comprising of the SP, Phub Gyeltshen, major Yeshey T Phuntsho and private secretary to the Prime Minister Mr. Sonam Tobgay visited the Prime Ministers new residential premise to conduct the security assessment.
After completion of security need assessment, the Security Division, RBP proposed the following works to be carried out to the Cabinet Secretariat.
There were construction of concrete perimeter wall protection with a minimum height of 8 to 9 ft on three sides of the residence (East, West and South).
Construction of security duty room with attached bathroom at the entrance gate of the residence to facilitate access control.
Installation of floodlight at the four corners of the compound wall to provide adequate lighting at night.
Installation of CCTV cameras in the four corners of the compound wall to reinforce security surveillance and for monitoring the movement of potential infiltrators.
Secure water source by deeply embedding the water tank and pipes into the ground to prevent it from being tempered by miscreants.
On 22nd July 2015, the then Cabinet Secretary Kinzang Wangdi wrote a letter to the Secretary, MoWHS to execute the work as deposit work wherein the same copy was forwarded to MoF for the release of the required budget. The work was executed by M/s Samkhar Deki Construction and M/s Norlha Trading at the total cost of Nu. 2,999,964 and it was completed on 09th March 2016.
On 2oth June 2017, the RAA issued an audit memo against the work executed by the Department of Engineering Services, MoWHS. The memo stated ‘However, the Department in consultation with the Ministry of Finance may comment on the course of action to be taken to dispose of the cost of the infrastructures after the tenure of the Prime Minister. It may also be mentioned that it may create precedence and become recurrent cost to the Government in respect of Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers residing in private residence in future.’
After the audit memo was issued, Secretary MoWHS wrote a letter to Cabinet Secretary and a copy was forwarded to MoF seeking comments on the memo which read “on the course of action to be taken to dispose of the cost of the infrastructure after the tenure of the Prime Minister.” The Cabinet Secretary Kinzang Wangdi, in his statement to the Prime Minister decided to pay back the money even though the RAA did not require to do so.
Accordingly, on 08th September 2017, the Cabinet Secretary wrote a letter about the refund to the Auditor General, RAA and presented a cheque amounting Nu. 2,999,964.00. The RAA acknowledged the receipt on 15th September 2017. However, on 31st September 2018, after 10 months 24 days from the receipt of the money, RAA refunded Nu. 2.90 million back to the Prime Minister.
The letter addressed to the Prime Minister stated that ‘ RAA did not anticipate recovery besides recommending institution of appropriate mechanism to regulate such expenditure in private residences considering likely recurring cost implication in future.’
During the inquiry, the RAA maintained the same ground that the memo did not require the Prime Minister to refund the money. However, no reasonable explanation was given as to why it was accepted in the first place and retained the money for almost a year.
The ACC said that considering all the facts and evidence collected during the investigation, there is nothing in evidence to prove that the Prime Minister initiated or instructed the construction of the compound wall at his private residence in Taba.
The proposal originated from the Security Division, RBP who, as part of its duty, proposed the security measures based on its physical assessment.
The investigation did not find compelling ground to implicate the former prime Minister of any criminal wrongdoing.
However, the Commission has come to conclusion that protocol and detailed security guidelines, is ambiguous as to whether the provision of residential security would include only security personnel, or security infrastructure like compound wall or even both.
It says unless such ambiguity is fixed, the Commission view there is probable risk of such situation being taken advantage of in future. The Commission , therefore decided that the incumbent government and other relevant authorities needs to be communicated of such issue and taken necessary measures to avoid reoccurrence of similar instanced in future.
With regard to the irregularity in RAA refunding Nu.2.9 million to the Prime Minister after holding the money for nearly a year, the Commission is of the view the RAA’s explanation that it returned the money because the memo was only recommendatory in nature is found to be coherent with the substance of the memo it raised to the MoWHS in June 2017 and the MoWHS following letter to the Cabinet Secretariat thereafter.
It says the initial suspicion that the RAA may have altered the memo later, the basis on which the inquiry started in the first place, stands logically dispelled. In the light of this finding, the Commission during its meeting on 12th November 019 decided that any further pursuit for information or effort to resolve any inconsistencies was not necessary and therefore decided to close the case.