Ensuring accountability among Local Governments

It is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the provisions of the Local Government Act that often get local elected leaders into trouble say officials of the Department of Local Governance (DLG) of the home ministry.

“Under the Local Government Act, the roles and responsibilities of the elected members are clearly given,” said the Director General of DLG, Lungten Dorji, adding that elected members like Gups are also responsible for development activities, which means they are required to handle procurement for construction jobs.

While doing so, some incidences arise which people label as corruption. “It is not corruption per-say but a lack of advocacy, lack of knowledge or lack of understanding with the provision of the procurement rules that leads to such incidents,” Lungten Dorji said. “We feel that it could be because of lack of competent staff to support LG administration. As per audit observations the maximum number of such issues is from local government but if seen case wise, it is not corruption per-say but irregularities.”

From the department’s side he said they are in discussions with agencies such as the anti corruption commission (ACC) and Royal Audit Authority (RAA) that go across the country to advocate against corrupt practices and creating awareness on procurements rules and regulation.

“From our side we conduct meetings with the leaders, chairperson and dzongkhag administration decision makers. They are our main focus and we brief them on the procurement regulations,” he said.

However, he said that they have not been able to clearly explain the laws to the public and servants. “Now people try to find loopholes in everything,” he added. “Government alone cannot do everything, the burden must be shared by the citizens and their job is to share the responsibility and keep the leaders informed about what is going around. Citizens also should support LG administration in monitoring the quality and quantity of any kind of development work.”

He said they have received a few cases from local people complaining about their local leaders misusing power and funds. “Whenever we receive any such complaints, we immediately discuss with the Dzongkhag Administration or with other relevant agencies for further investigation and action,” he said, adding that as of now, they have not received any serious or concrete complaint on funds being misused by local leaders. “We don’t go unless it’s a serious case and even if it is, we can’t do anything, which means everything is done by the dzongkhag.”

When such cases are reported DLG sends a letter to the dzongkhag or Drungkhag administration for further action. If the dzongkhag is involved, then the ministry decides to send a team for investigation.

On cases forwarded by ACC to DLG for a decision a letter is sent to the dzongkhag administration to take action and they report back to ACC.

He said that after the second round of Local Government election the Chang Gup was the first person suspended for his suspected involvement in a state land encroachment case.

This was the only case they dealt with after the second LG election. “We have received a letter from ACC stating that Chang Gup should either be suspended or let on leave and to go with whichever is applicable,” he said. Accordingly, they studied his case and they thought there is merit to suspend him. “We had to suspend him because his presence in the gewog will be compromised. First, the image of the gewog administration will be affected if he stays in office and continue to serve and moreover, he himself would be disturbed and cannot function as a public servant.”

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