DLO says it will freeze bank accounts of unauthorized donation drives

Given the numerous benefits of using various social media platforms to seek help or support, people have now turned to online donation drive to fund medical treatment expenditure in the country.

Recently, individuals have been carrying out several donation drives for additional money to fund their medical treatment abroad.

However, it has been observed that some people have started to take advantage of the situation, whereby they conduct such donation drives for no specific purpose other than for personal gain.

Therefore, the Department of Law and Order (DLO) under Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs has started to monitor the online donation drives, as part of the government’s intervention measures since March.

Officiating Director of DLO, Karma Dorji, shared that they have been following up on the donation drives, not only as ministry officials, but also as a private citizens. Such an activity of using social media to conveniently seek donations is a new phenomenon, as far as Bhutan is concerned.

“Initially, people operating at an individual level were genuine, however, with time, people have started misusing it. They are perhaps using it for personal financial gain. There are also concerns, which may not be relevant for now, but may happen in the future, using the donated money for illegal purposes,” he added.

DLO did not have a system in the past to keep track of how the donated funds are being used or how the excess amounts (the amount they get beyond the proposed amount) are being used. It was challenging to follow-up, which was another concern for the ministry as the collected funds go unaccounted.

Therefore, he said, “We felt the need of system, wherein to check these kind of activities, that is happening on social media. We have various challenges in monitoring and in managing this issue.”

Ever since the DLO’s notification on donation drive, the ministry has started receiving applicants, and the every first case being a student of Jigme Loselling School who needed bone marrow transplant.

He said, “We ask applicants to submit the estimated amount backed up by a medical document, and accordingly, we set a ceiling amount. In coordination with the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), we suspend the account from further deposit, once the donation amount reaches the set ceiling amount.”

Until now, the ministry has approved three donation drives, amounting to Nu 8.8 million, and all on medical grounds.

The ministry has yet to approve a few applications, one under medical ground while the other two applicants are seeking funds for creative works to further social causes.

He said that priority is given to those with urgent needs. However, they do not approve any application right away. They assess the whole situation, from the financial status and family background of applicants, and only then do they decide on the approval. In some cases, only partial fund support would be needed, while in some cases, full fund support would be required, such as expensive medical treatment procedures.

In the meantime, the ministry is looking into whether donation drives for creative work for social causes can be approved or not.

The ministry also found cases where applicants, cleared to conduct donation drives, do not have the capacity to handle the amounts received. This is seen as one issue, and the ministry is looking into how the collected amount can be used in an efficient manner, he added.

Meanwhile, he said, “We try to monitor those posts made on social media on donation drives without our approval. There was one case, whereby a woman had started a donation drives using the social media without our approval. She raised Nu 100,000 plus in two days’ time, and her posted amount was Nu 1 million. We have frozen her account.”

The woman was contacted, and relevant agencies were also alerted on the matter, as any person holding a donation drive without the prior approval from the ministry, will be held liable, as per certain section of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

No matter how vigilant the officials stay on social media, they do, sometimes, miss out on certain posts. But even if they miss out, and come to know in later times, they can easily get to the person through the person’s bank account number, he added.

If people happen to donate in future, it is necessary to check and see if the post has the ministry’s approval letter number, and if they are suspicious of anything, then anyone can call the DLO under the ministry to verify the post.

“We do not want anyone to donate for those people who would be raising funds online illegally, for personal gain or for criminal purposes. So check the facts before donating,” he added.

For any culture related donations, DLO is talking with Department of Culture, and they are looking for a way to make donation drives on social media more reliable and systematic.  

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