The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is looking into the Multi Level Car Parks (MLCP), which is Bhutan’s first PPP project between Thimphu Thromde and KCR Pvt Ltd., after the cost of the project soared from an estimated Nu 480 million (mn) in 2014 to Nu 850 mn in 2020.
However, according to the Director of Department of Investigation under ACC, Gyeltshen, the MLCPs’ case investigation was unable to be pursued owing to the lack of personnel and resources, as a large team had been sent to Phuentsholing.
He said that the team has been out of commission for three months. There are works that need to be completed in Phuentsholing.
“We switched shifts, the first team returned, and the team assigned to the case was split apart. In a new environment, we must be more adaptable in our work. In the past, we would assign the case to a different team, but some situations, such as bribery and customs, have always been a priority, so when we devote all of our human resources to that case, the cases that have been assigned are hindered. However, the case will be taken up soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, since the inception of the Contract Management Committee (CMC) under Thimphu Thromde, the team has been investigating the challenges surrounding MLCPs.
According to Thimphu Thrompon, Ugyen Dorji, Thromde created a team and had the first and second sittings, and it was discovered that there were numerous concerns, the most serious of which was payment default.
He stated that they presented numerous reasons for not being able to pay, and that Thromde is working to analyze and investigate them so that the project does not fail at the end of the day.
“I think our intention should be very clear because it’s such a big project, and everyone has invested a lot in it, whether public or private. The reason for having the project was to park all the cars there and solve traffic congestion, and to leverage private resources because the government doesn’t have the funds,” he explained.
He explained that if one attempts to be tough on everything the project will fail, and the loss will be too big, not only for the private company, but also for the public, because it is public property.
“After all, it’ll come to Thimphu Thromde after 22 years, and it’s public property. As a result, we must concentrate on not failing the project. To ensure the project’s success, we must look through a large number of angles. But that doesn’t mean we’ll compromise on every issue or anything; instead, we should come to an amicable solution where we resolve what has already been a problem and then move forward to make the project successful,” he said, adding that it is not easy to get it done right away, so Thromde is working on it.
The Thrompon said that it is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, and the private partner must bear the risk, as the cost increase or decrease is irrelevant to the Thromde.
“Thromde didn’t double-check this one, but whatever the reason, I don’t believe it’s a risk we should be taking. The quality of the job and the completion of the project are of importance to us,” he said.
According to Thromde, KCR is expected to administer the MLCPs for 22 years, after which Thromde will own the property and KCR’s function will be to deal with the bank if the bank has provided them a loan.
As per the PPP KCR would build the two MLCP structures for 550 cars, and Thromde would provide it on lease for up to 22 years with 20 percent commercial space with some shared revenue, and ownership to revert back to the Thromde after the time period expires. Thromde would also provide around 990 parking spaces in the core areas to KCR outside the MLCP.
From October 2020 onwards well on to October 2021, this paper did a series of stories to show irregularities and issues around the two MLCPs like unjustified cost increase of the project and suspicious loans, attempts to benefit KCR, waiving off fines and revenue of Nu 8.153 mn from KCR to Thimphu Thromde, FDI violation issues, revenue impact on Thromde etc.