In line with the resolution of the sixth session of parliament requiring different all agencies to resolve all audit discrepancies from 2009 to 2013, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) conducted a public hearing with the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and Ministry of Labor and Human Resources on Tuesday
Explanations for the irregularities of nine issues worth over Nu 10mn and the actions taken by the ministries were submitted. The report also named officials and personnel held directly accountable for these projects and assured speedy resolutions to the issues.
The biggest unresolved amount was that of Nu. 4.25 mn of Cooperatives Development Funds over three years which had resulted in project goals being unachieved.
Discrepancies in construction works followed with the Livestock Breeding Program in Yusipang showing a discrepancy of Nu. 0.403mn in the construction project of a staff quarter because of the “inadmissible” payment due to errors in quantification of items in the Bill of Quantity (BoQ) and the excessive raise in height of the rubble masonry in the foundation and has been forwarded to court. The Divisional Forest Office in Lobesa had paid an excess Nu. 0.223mn for the construction of a Range Office in Nobding, the Renewable Natural Resource Center in Bajo had also exceeded acceptable payments by Nu.0.076mn for water supply and compound lighting project in its sub-center in Tsirang and the Lamperi Botanical Garden had Nu.0.503mn in undocumented adjustments for modeling work.
The RAA had also found that Nu. 0.241mn had been misused by employees of the Divisional Forest Office (DFO) in Bumthang. The amount had been paid from the DFO funds as TA/DA to the division officials for monitoring and patrolling of cordyceps. The money had been reimbursed by the Wangchuck Centenary Park but was not reflected in the Division’s accounts. The ministry had forwarded the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission and to the Office of the Attorney General.
The RBP is investigating a case in Paro and Tsimasham, in which the Department of Forests and Park Services had lost 528 kgs of sandalwood. Another case of seizure of red sandalwood was stated as unresolved in that it wasn’t disposed of by the DFO in Gedu with fines and penalties. The response from the concerned official stated that unlike other species, the disposal of red sandalwood cannot be carried out through an open auction as stated in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Other issues include unacceptable underutilization of equipments procured with ministry funds, issuance of material and uniforms to officials on long term study leave, excessive claims of daily and travel allowances beyond their pay grade entitlement, the misappropriation of physical resources after officials left office, the non disposal of seized material and unresolved advance payments made to employees.
A majority of the issues were either unresolved or only partially resolved. The Secretary, MoLHR, said that documents for these projects had been misplaced and attempts to find them had proven fruitless so far. This problem was compounded by the flight of the concerned project accountant and the loss of all soft copies after the ministry moved to a new accounting system.
Prolongation in the resolution of the issues due to lengthy bureaucratic procedures was also stated as a problem and the MoAF Secretary said that they were shortening the resource consuming procedures by bypassing bureaucratic hurdles and directly referring officials with audit discrepancies to the human resource committee.
Unprofessional work methods in the filing and maintenance of receipts and documents of finances of projects has also been a cause for the inability to resolve the issues even years after they were noticed.
The hearing was conducted by PAC in accordance with its Rules of Procedure, 2015. The parliament had required the issues to be resolved by March this year. The resolution now requires the ministries to resolve all other irregularities within 12 months after the report on the above cases are published and then submit yearly reports before October of each financial year.