As per a circular from the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the Prime Minister, outgoing Cabinet Ministers, Speaker of the National Assembly, Chairman of the National Council and the Opposition Leader will be allowed to keep their government duty Toyota Prados.
In a separate government circular, the ministers will also be allowed to keep their office laptop, computers, printer, i-pad and mobile phones that were bought for office use by their respective ministries.
The MoF circular on duty vehicles is based on a letter from the Prime Minister’s Office copied to all the ministers, around two weeks ago, which stated that during an audience with His Majesty the King at the Lingkana Palace, the Prime Minister and ministers were granted the government duty vehicles as a soelra.
A government official said, “What we heard was that the Prime Minister approached His Majesty the King, and the soelra was thus granted.”
Another source said, “When the Head of the Government requests or even indicates a request for such a soelra, His Majesty the King in all his graciousness will grant it.”
The Cabinet Secretary, Dasho Penden Wangchuk said that he was aware of the existence of the government circular.
The MoF circular has been sent accordingly to the Department of National Properties, where it is understood to have been said that the ministers and others can change the vehicle registration from government license and number plates to private ownership and private number plate.
Each duty vehicle (Toyota Prado) was worth around Nu 1.4 mn when purchased in 2008. A Toyota Prado at the current market rate, with the taxes and the model upgrade taken into account, is worth around Nu 3 mn.
The Prime Minister has been using a Toyota Crown luxury vehicle as his duty vehicle as well.
For the ministers, Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel, Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi, Lyonpo Zangley Drukpa and Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Chairman of the National Council and the Opposition Leader, this will be their first Toyota Prado to keep as a soelra.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk and Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley have earlier received a Toyota Prado each, during the first pre-democracy terms as ministers in 1998-2002. After a second term as ministers in 2002-2007, they were again allowed to keep their government duty Toyota Land Cruisers and Toyota Prados.
With the latest circular, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk will now have three Toyota Prados and a Toyota Land Cruiser to keep from their years as ministers. The Prime Minister will have a luxury vehicle or a Toyota Prado to add to the Toyota Land Cruiser and two Toyota Prados received earlier.
Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu and Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering had served for just one term in the previous pre- democracy government, and will have a total of Two Toyota Prados and a Toyota Land Cruiser each.
Currently, the ministers get around Nu 80,000 as salary, Nu 200,000 in annual discretionary grant, free bungalow housing, free electricity, free phone bills, free fuel, higher DSA for travels, a driver and a bodyguard. Unknown to many, the Cabinet has also issued allowances for cooks and housemaids for the ministers.
Another government source added, “To be fair, in 2008 the MPs got Nu 700,000 and a vehicle quota to buy vehicles for themselves, which they now own and followed later by a driver’s allowance. The ministers due to their rank were allotted government Prados, and so like the MPs and in keeping with the past precedent, ministers should be allowed to keep their vehicles.”
When contacted, the Prime Minister asked this paper to refer to the Finance Ministry for the details. Both Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi declined to comment.
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu