Ministers respond to Ministers Buildings on rent story
The Bhutanese newspaper’s issue dated March 13, under an article titled “Government offices make a beeline for Buildings owned by Ministers and Spouses”, has reported on some serving Cabinet Ministers and their spouses to have rented out their private buildings to government agencies and corporations.
Your article has made it out that it is against Government norms for Government offices to hire spaces in public servant’s buildings. In that regard, please note that it is not so. It is not against Government regulations to hire out building spaces to Government agencies. You have also been highly selective in reporting by devoting the entire article to only three serving ministers although there are scores of government offices housed in private apartments here and across the country. Thus, it is very clear that the story is pre-meditated and politically motivated.
For your information, the Government has standard procedures for hiring spaces in private buildings. The Department of National Property (DNP) co-ordinates such activities within the Government. The agency which accords approval for hiring a space in private building identifies the space following procurement procedures. The agency then approaches the DNP for measurement of the space and fixing of rent. It measures the plinth area of the space and checks whether the rent demanded falls within the Government’s approved rate. If it does, the rate is accepted. If not, the agency has to scout other apartments/ flats/ buildings. Where other appropriate office spaces are not available, the rates are negotiated.
Rejoinder from Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk and family
Renting of houses and buildings is a lawful activity that all citizens can pursue.
Having served the Tsa-Wa-Sum for close to forty years, I am fully aware of my responsibility as a citizen and a public servant. I have never engaged in any activity that had the slightest possibility of conflict of interest. That is why despite repeated requests from the Managements of the mega hydropower projects on account of the high quality of my properties, I have not rented my house or building to them. I have also not rented any of my properties to Agencies in my Charge as the Minister of Economic Affairs.
In light of these and having over the years, managed multi-billion Ngultrum hydropower projects, such as Kurichhu, Chukha, Basochhu, Tala, Punatsangchhu – I & II and Mangdechhu with impeccable record and unquestionable integrity, it is insulting and annoying to have a paper, undertake selective targeting of some of us.
Casting doubts on our integrity will not only mislead the people of Bhutan, but could invite concerns of our Development Partners/Donors with whom we currently enjoy a highly credible track record. It would be most unfortunate should our Development Partners/Donors begin to doubt the integrity of the Royal Government.
Rejoinder from Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu and family
It is very sad that “The Bhutanese” is unnecessarily making issues out of non-issues, as the time for elections is approaching, and what is more, the reports are not even accurate. The fact that the three of us are singled out, and to describe the building as “giant”, smacks of the paper’s malicious intention.
Editor’s Note: As is being incorrectly implied in this letter (sent to all media houses) the article never said it was against government norms for government offices to hire spaces in public servant’s buildings. The article only said that clear and transparent tendering procedures were not followed as dictated by the government’s own procurement rules. The DNP’s ‘standard procedures’ was already explained in the article but that happens only after a building has already been identified by an agency fairly or unfairly. The agency wanting any office space or any other goods and services has to call for a fair tendering process as per the procurement rules.