With the political prospects of the Home Minister and Speaker already looking increasingly bleak due to the Gyelpozhing case, the Minister for Information and Communication, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai could join them due to his inability to get Audit Clearances.
The MoIC Minister has seven pending Audit Memos and three supervisory accountability memos from the RAA on the Domestic Airports Audit by the RAA.
Under the Electoral laws of Bhutan it is mandatory for any political candidate to get an Audit Clearance Certificate from the Royal Audit Authority.
What could make Lyonpo’s position more difficult is that he had taken active part in the tendering process of the Domestic Airports in violation of procurement rules and guidelines by taking tendering decisions.
Under procurement rules ministers cannot be members of tender committees or influence its decision.
In what may also be bad news for the Minister the meeting with the RAA on 1st April was not successful in dropping many findings including the Audit memos against the minister.
A source said that the even after the meeting only two or three memos may be dropped against the minister but the others still stood at the moment.
Earlier some Audit Memos were issued in a draft Audit report covered by this paper. Subsequently the RAA came out with a finalized report in December 2012 that was sent to various public agencies including the MoIC and the Prime Minister’s Office.
A copy was also sent to the ACC saying, “Lack of segregation of responsibilities and strong supervisory mechanism had exposed the project implementation to possible corrupt practices and risks of errors and oversights impacting quality of works and costs. Accordingly the RAA has as required under the Audit Act of Bhutan 2006, endorsed a copy of this report to the ACC for necessary action. ”
The Bhutanese also subsequently covered this version of the report which is not a draft and contained the seven memos against the MoIC Minister. After the issuance of the complete Audit report in December 2012 the MoIC had been given three months to MoIC to give an Action Take Report until March 31st, 2013.
The MoIC Minister announced in a television interview that the ministry would make information public on the report after a March 31st meeting with the RAA. This was not done as RAA refused to drop several memos including many against the minister in an April 1 meeting.
A source said that at the time the documents and arguments of the Minister and the Ministry were not convincing enough. It is understood that the bulk of the documents have already been submitted and now only some final documents are being submitted to the RAA.
Of the seven memos against the minister three are in the Gelephu Domestic Airports, three are in the Younphula airport and one is in the Bathpalathang airport. A source in the government said that for the Audit memos to be dropped against the minister the main factors would be the laws that were violated, the outcome of the violation and also the intention.
In two of the memos the Minister is held accountable for irregularities in tender evaluation and awarding of tender to non eligible bidders in Younphula and Bathpalathang airport.
In the Gelephu airport the three memos against him are on possible existence of conflict of interest, ambiguity in planning, estimation and implementation of earthworks and deliberate selection of runway with massive earthwork projection and its subsequent relocation.
In Younphula two additional issues are irregular bidding process leading to unjustified cancellations of bids and non production of requisite documents relating to preparation of designs, drawings and estimates.
The Audit report in relation to the above audit memos mentions that the non observance of rules and criteria led to poor quality works and also defeated the very purpose of saving time as long extensions were granted.
The report also mentions that Bathpalathang and Gelephu airports not only lacked quality of works but also compromised the safety of aircrafts and engineers.
Meanwhile even though amounts were corrected by the RAA the amount overpaid just in Gelephu airport still stands at around Nu 100 mn even after the April 1 2013 meeting.
According to sources efforts are on at the highest level of the government to clear the Audit Memos against the MoIC minister and the RAA is under considerable pressure with regard to the report.
Meanwhile, the MoIC minister in the meet the press incorrectly referred to the draft Audit report published by The Bhutanese as evidence that the report was still a draft, not mentioning that this paper had also later published the final report distributed to various public agencies.
The main discussions between the RAA and the MoIC are largely over and the RAA will keep updating the report based on the action taken and finally present it as part of the annual report to the next Parliament.
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu