The National Council (NC) has decided to summon the central bank Governor to attend the proceedings of NC following discussions yesterday.
This NC decision comes after the NC’s economic affairs committee reported to the house that the committee failed to submit a complete Indian Rupee (INR) shortfall review report of policy and issues due to the lack of cooperation from Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) on the matter.
Deputy Chairperson of NC Dr. Sonam Kinga referred to Chapter four, Section 59 of the National Council Act 2008 which stated: “the Chairperson may summon any person to attend the proceedings of the NC for the purpose of giving evidence, provide information or produce documents in that person’s custody or control”.
The Chairperson of NC’s economic affairs committee (EAC) Rinzin Rinzin said all efforts made by the council to call the RMA Governor for a committee meeting or access relevant documents did not yield results.
He said, “The governor has refused to attend any committee meeting with the EAC despite repeated requests and the RMA has refused to provide critical documents such as minutes of the board meetings and executive committee meetings of the RMA, much-needed to conduct a comprehensive review”.
Since the INR shortfall is a serious national issue, the NC in its eighth session mandated the EAC to conduct a review of the policies and issues pertaining to the INR crunch.
Rinzin Rinzin said, a deputy governor of the RMA reluctantly attended an EAC meeting on June 21 but the deputy governor did not come prepared for the meeting.
He said the deputy governor kept making phone calls during the meeting to find out basic information about the status of INR reserves and the shortfall.
“He wasn’t carrying even a piece of paper,” he said.
Requests for certain documents, had been declined by RMA who consistently said that it is not as per norms and practices of central bank to share the information requested by NC.
To this, some NC members highlighted that the laws of the land must prevail over norms and practices of any organization. “The RMA Act 2010 does not prohibit the NC from accessing the documents,” Rinzin Rinzin said.
The NC Deputy Chairperson said that RMA is an autonomous body under the government and that it is neither a private agency nor an independent constitutional body.
Bumthang NC MP Tshewang Jurmi cited several possible reasons why RMA refused to cooperate. He said it could be because of ‘ego or guilty consciousness’ or maybe the concerned individual is not confident in himself about the issue.
Apart from RMA, the EAC had received cooperation from all other ministries and agencies with regard to acquiring information, consultation meetings and EAC meetings.
EAC contacted the economic affairs ministry, finance ministry, the private sector and representatives of financial institutions among others to conduct the review.
EAC members reported that constitutional post holders heading independent bodies such as the Royal Civil Service Commission, Anti- corruption Commission, Election Commission and Royal Audit Authority have all attended the NC’s committee meetings. “Even the Prime Minister, opposition leader and cabinet ministers have visited the NC when invited to brief the members on important national issues,” Rinzin Rinzin said.
Gasa NC MP Sangay Khandu highlighted the importance of Right to Information (RTI) under such situations. He said the media faces the same problem when it comes to request of information and documents.
EAC members said the laws of the country mandates RMA as a responsible body not only for monetary policy but also foreign exchange and reserve management and rendering advice to the government. Therefore, the views of RMA and information requested are crucial to fulfill the mandate of the committee entrusted by the house.
Rinzin Rinzin said EAC committee was informed only one day prior to yesterday’s session (July 5), that a deputy governor will be sent by RMA and information needed shall be provided. Repeated requests were sent to RMA in the last two months.
“One night is not enough time for the EAC to review and come up with a report on the INR shortfall,” he said.
The NC Chairperson Namgye Penjore said it would be better if the house resorted to hold a special session as RMA has recently agreed to provide cooperation.
Chapter five, Section 65 of the National Council Act states, ”whenever necessary, the Chairperson of the National Council shall convene an extraordinary sitting of the National Council on the command of the Druk Gyalpo”.
The EAC chairperson however clarified that the letter from RMA stated a deputy governor will represent the central bank while the committee required the governor himself.
The NC members supported Deputy Chairperson Dr. Sonam Kinga’s suggestion to summon the governor to the NC before the end of the current parliamentary session.
The house then decided that the Thrizin shall summon the governor to attend the NC session on Tuesday, July 10.
An EAC member who talked to The Bhutanese after the session said, “There will not be any questions for the governor on Tuesday but he will be ordered to cooperate with EAC in providing documents and attending committee meetings”.