NA turns down MoF proposal for separate agency to manage seized properties

Based on the resolution of the 7th Session of the National Assembly (NA), the Ministry of Finance (MoF) carried out a comprehensive study on division required, under the Department of National Properties (DNP), to manage seized goods and properties by the law enforcement agencies.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had suggested that there should be a separate agency created to maintain seized properties by the commission and relevant agencies, and also recommended that MoF to carry out a comprehensive study in consultation with the agencies and submit the report to the House.

As proposed by ACC, a separate unit or section under the OAG or ACC was to be established with specific responsibilities to manage the seized goods by the enforcement agencies. Accordingly, appropriate support is to be provided by RCSC.

As per the Supreme Court order, OAG is the organization that is responsible to keep in custody the seized properties based on the court verdict. However, the report states OAG has not been able to fulfill this mandate given the lack of human resource capacity.

After consultative meeting with ACC, Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), Department of Revenue and Costumes (DRC), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) on November 7, it was concluded the enforcement agencies recognized that DNP was not the right agency to manage seized goods and properties.

Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji, said, “As per the existing legal arrangement, the OAG is the agency responsible for ensuring safe custody of the seized goods and properties while litigation is under process.”

Highlighting the role of DNP, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said that DNP is responsible for maintaining and disposing of national properties, including the seized goods after the legal proceedings are completed. “The DNP has neither the capacity nor the facility to provide safe custody of the goods that involve litigations and legal proceedings,” he added.

“If the DNP is made responsible for the seized goods and properties, as recommended by the GGC, it would face the challenges on legal, institutional, infrastructure and human resource management,” the Finance Minister pointed out.

Given the challenges, MoF made a recommendation that DNP will only be responsible to dispose of the goods and properties that have been seized after the completion of litigation and legal procedures.

MP Dorji Wangdi said, “Since the respective agencies like ACC, OAG, RBP, RSTA, BAFRA, RMA, DRC, MoAF seize properties based on their own responsibility, it would cause a conflict in management of all different types of items of properties under DNP, so for time being until the best solution is found, it’s better to continue as it is.”

However, MP Zanglay Drukpa said, “There was lot of problem in the past regarding the seized properties being misplaced and mismanaged, so it will continue to have the same impact,” he added that the separate division needs to be established either under ACC or OAG.

Meanwhile MP Wangdi Norbu put up a suggestion that DNP should handle the seized properties separately from the national properties.

MP Lhatu said that until the litigation is not completed, the properties shall remain with the responsible agency and after the completion if the property is no longer valid for the owner it shall be handed to DNP.

The Speaker of the House said since no division has been formed due to manpower shortage, it was decided that all the enforcement agencies, while discharging their duty, seize goods and properties based on relevant laws, rules and regulations.

The House resolved that no new division will be established as proposed in the earlier session. The House further resolved on the third recommendation that states all law enforcing agencies shall continue to discharge their duties as per the existing laws. However, in case of prosecution, it was resolved that OAG shall take the custody of the seized goods and products.

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