Govt defends MoLHR officials in Japan case

Despite instructions from ACC to take administrative action, media reports and complaints by parents the government chose to defend the Ministry of Labor and Human Resource officials involved in the Japan case.

The Prime Minister Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering claimed that the investigation is not over as the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is looking into the legal matters.

He said that at the social media and societal level the blame was being put on one employment agency and the few individuals in the ministry but when it is looked at holistically the fingers are also pointed at the system as everything is connected.

Lyonchhen said that the issue can be solved without ‘digging into the past’.

The PM said that the MoLHR has a huge unemployment task before it and the present DG is doing a very good job.

He said that there are only a few professional and seasoned bureaucrats and not many want to take that job.

The PM said that the DG had asked to quit the post but that the ministry and the government had decided not to remove him.

Lyonchhen said that the government has to think twice about removing anyone with 35 years plus service.

The PM said that people were looking at the Japan case from an emotional part.

He said that the legal issues would take care of the matter by itself. This essentially means that government as-of-now will ignore any administrative action recommendation by ACC and wait for the court case and verdict.

The PM said that the government has to be professional and fair otherwise the the civil service would be shaken if the government takes stringent action based on social media posts.

However, Lyonchhen’s statement sidestepped the already available ACC report.

Lyonchhen said that such foreign packages would be looked at carefully in the future.

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) in addition to legal charges against Director General of the Department of Employment and Human Resources (DoEHR) Sherab Tenzin and Program Officer Ugyen Tashi in the Japan and India case, had also recommended administrative action.

The ACC had also asked the ministry to come up with an action taken report.

Several parents and students had said that they would have never taken up the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) Japan program if it had not been actively supported by the officials of the ministry.

The ACC in its report says that the DG Sherab Tenzin and Program Officer Ugyen Tashi had knowingly failed to exercise due diligence and failed in strictly implementing the Regulation on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agent, 2013, which led to illegal issuance of license to BEO.

The report said that instead of investigation several issues and complaints related to the Japan case in the media and otherwise, the DG instead assumed the responsibility of BEO and responded to the students’ complaints (point by point) through email with copy to the Minister, Secretary and relevant program officials.

ACC says that in one email responding to an official complaint filed by students against BEO he was found to have used subtle threats to silence the students.

The ACC report says that during the presentation of findings on 14 September 2017 of a monitoring team sent by the Minister to Japan, the DG defended the adverse findings on behalf of BEO, as if he was not a part of the monitoring team.

The ACC report says that it is certain that the DG had proactively defended BEO primarily to favor Jurmey Tshewang. It said that he even went to the extent of openly contradicting the former Labour Minister who was not in favour of the Japan program.

The ACC also pointed out how 444 students did not get back Nu 2.966 mn in refunds they were eligible to get as the rule had been amended based on a May 2017 note submitted to the former minister by the DG, Officiating Chief Employment Officer, Chimmi Rinzin and program officer Ugyen Tashi.

The ACC report says, “The cycle of revising the regulation was completed only after the investigation was launched, which only infers the intention of DoEHR staff to safeguard the interest of BEO. Therefore, the Commission, in accordance with section 137 of ACAB 2011, has decided to refer the matter to relevant authority for appropriate administrative actions against the responsible officials.”

The DG and the program officer along with the former minister is already liable for legal charges of financial gain from the Indian agent.

The parents have expressed disappointment with both the government and the opposition party for not taking a stronger stand and for not demanding accountability.

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