Our other investigative stories in the last 10 years

While the investigative and critical stories listed here in the last 10 years of The Bhutanese are not as high profile as the ones listed in the main story above, they also deserve a mention.

2012-2013

In its fifth issue on 7 March 2012, this paper questioned why the High Court had not delivered a verdict on the Phobjikha land case for four years even though the Wangdue District Court forwarded them the case in November 2007.

The 7 March 2012 issue had our first story on the start of the Rupee Crisis as the Royal Monetary Authority asked local banks to stop rupee payments to Bhutan. This paper did a series of stories on the Rupee crisis for the next three years with a critical eye and was the first to point out how the RMA and the government had both bungled. The paper also outlined the various impacts of the crisis that lasted well into 2014 with Bhutan selling USD 400 mn in reserves and taking huge rupee loans.

The 17 March 2012 issue carried a story on the RTI Bill to be introduced by then Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu as a private member’s bill. This paper gave strong support to this legislation over the years and the PDP government later introduced the Bill in the National Assembly, but after being passed there due to some coordination issues the bill was not deliberated in the National Council, and even today is in a legal no man’s land.

The same issue also questioned where the 2007 fronting report had gone that named 10 industries whose rupee inflow and outflow indicated possible fronting.

The 16 May 2012 issue carried a story on how a Nu 100 mn loan project by the Ministry of Education to provide laptops to 3,000 teachers by deducting the Nu 100 mn from their salary backfired due to the poor quality of the laptops, and the high cost and also loan interest rate.

In its 9 June 2012 issue, this paper first reported on the controversial Land Bill 2012 drafted by the government where the cabinet gave itself the power to give resettlement land violating the Constitution where only His Majesty can grant such land. It also removed the Chairman of the Commission who is the Zimpon and it was to be mainly political figures or appointees.

This story created a storm in Parliament and the country and the government decided not to introduce the Bill.

His Majesty later issued a Royal Kasho limiting land ownership to 25 acres each for even members of the Royal Family.

On 9 August 2012 the paper in a story highlighted how despite the Royal Audit Authority confirming a multi billion fraud in Bhutan Lottery there was no actions being taken against the guilty officials in Bhutan. The RAA report was based on around two dozen investigative stories done by the writer while in Business Bhutan on the infamous lottery scam. The government also decline to cooperate with a CBI investigation in India.

On 16 March 2013 the paper started a three part stories on poor quality construction and overpayments of the three Domestic Airports at Gelephu, Yonphula and Bathpalathang based on a special RAA report.

Of the Nu 435 mn for the projects Nu 122 mn was lost in illegal overpayments while Nu 115 mn was lost in wasteful expenditure. There were fake bills, missing infrastructure and ineligible bidders being awarded the tenders. The then MoIC Minister who took many of the decisions on the project was accountable for most lapses.

On 3 April 2013 the lead story was how the government messed up Nu 30 mn worth of repair and new works at the Pangrizampa monastery in Thimphu. The money had been given by a donor and the monastery wanted to do its own works, but the Home Ministry insisted on tendering out the job to two private contractors who along with an engineer made a mess of it and everything started coming apart even before the year was completed.

With a new PDP government in office, this paper on 10 August 2013 pointed out that for PDP to fulfill its pledges, it would need double the capital budget than the Nu 92 bn allotted in the draft 11th plan.

On 31 August 2013 and 7 September 2013 the paper criticized certain provisions in the draft RTI Bill being introduced by the PDP saying it was one step front and two step banks. These were mainly rectified by some independent minded MPs in a committee in the NA.

2015-2018

On 18 July 2015 this paper highlighted that despite 2015 being the National Reading Year, books were charged an additional 20% customs duty in addition to the existing 5% sales tax. The government later rolled back this tax.

From 1 October 2016 the paper did a series of stories on an unknown person pumping paint, phenol and other chemicals into the drinking water supply of 6 buildings in Motithang. The RBP did an investigation based on the paper’s stories and arrested the culprit.

In 19 November 2016, the paper did a story on why the NC declined to pass the BBIN agreement proposed by the government and took and editorial stance supporting the NC’s decision as the government had not done its homework, had not done proper consultations and was not aware of the future impact.

In 26 November 2016 the paper took up the issue of 104 landowners in Hejo losing 31 acres of land for the Diplomatic Enclave and how these families and their ancestors had lost land to a spate of government structures like the National Assembly, Supreme Court, Golf Course and Green Zone.

The National Land Commission on Royal Command came up with a solution to give replacement land to plot owners who could takeover nearby trapped government land near their other plots.

In 7 January 2017, the paper pointed to how the Supreme Court had erred in pronouncing Dzongkha as the court language in February 2016, as the Thimphu District Court verdict justifying why it accepted the Dasho Benji Vs DPT case in English said there is no law that says Dzongkha is the language of the court and it goes against the principles of fair trial.

On 1 April 2017, this paper investigated the plight of around 5,000 to 6,000 graduates from Sikkim Manipal University as their graduation degree was declared to be a distance learning degree not accepted by RCSC, government agencies and even the ECB.

In 6 January 2018, the paper did a story on the then Labour Minister going on leave and the government asking for an ACC investigation over allegations of corruption in awarding training contracts in India and Japan. The ACC implicated the Labour Minister and DG later.

On 9 June 2018 the paper investigated Bhutan’s then biggest facebook page called ‘Bhutanese News and Forums’ for purveying fake news, hate speech, defamation and more.

In 16 June 2018, the RCSC’s individual evaluation found that 19 percent perform at a higher level, around 80 percent do their assigned work and 1 percent needs improvement.

On 3 November 2018, the paper pointed out how DNT’s promise of two pay hikes and uniform DSA clashed with limited resources. It also reported the party’s plan to have a separate party president and prime minister to prevent excessive concentration of power, but this as reported by the paper in later months was not followed.

On 1 December 2018 the paper brought out a story of how while Thimphu Thromde government schools are only supposed to charge Nu 700 in annual fees, but there were other charges ranging from Nu 1,700 to Nu 17,000. The Thromde asked all schools to cap the fees at Nu 700.

2019-2022 February

On 5 January 2019 the paper reported how the government would lose Nu 212 mn in tax as 56 MPs Prado quotas were issued and it would also wipe out USD 3.8 mn from the foreign exchange reserves.

On 19 January 2019, the paper reported on the reality of air pollution in Bhutan’s cities and how it even exceeded permissible limits in February 2018 and stayed close to it in other winter months.

On 26 January 2019, the paper reported on how 30 ministerial ranks spent Nu 370 mn in hospitality and entertainment over the last 10 years.

In 16 March 2019, the paper reported how a fact check showed that 19 out of the 25 pledges in 120 days was not achieved. The government claimed 11 had been achieved and 11 was on track.

On 6 April 2019 the paper pointed out how the Thimphu Thromde had changed rules and violated the Thimphu Structure plan and possibly the LG Act in 2016 to commercialize residential areas which was resulting in many landlords asking tenants to move out and converting their apartments into hotels or with hotels coming up instead of apartments in residential areas.

The 27 April 2019 issue raised doubts over a Nu 167.20 mn estimate for a 2.5 km road widening in Phaling Thromde under Lhuentse Dzongkhag with a source indicating possible corruption. The story resulted in an ACC review and rectification.

On 11 May 2019 the paper reported that IL&FS that would have owned 51% of Education City is bankrupt and under investigation.

In 15 June 2019, the paper reported on how stolen artifacts from Bhutan were being put up for sale in Hong Kong.

On 29 June 2019, the paper reported on how Zhemgang with two Opposition MPs was arbitrarily taken out of the Tourism Flagship project as one of the four Dzongkhags from each region and instead Sarpang with two DNT MPs was chosen. The story resulted in the Opposition and others taking up the issue and eventually resulted in the entire flagship being redone.

From 21 September 2019 onwards, the paper did detailed stories on the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Paro and followed up with the RBP for years. There were those who advocated the death penalty, but the paper took a stand against it.

The same issue also highlighted the conflict between the ACC and the OAG which decline to appeal the JPLP tax evasion case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court eventually allowed the ACC to appeal which won the case. 

In 7 December 2019, the paper carried an in depth investigative and financial story on the RICBL’s Nu 1.4 bn loss, downgraded credit ratings, record high NPL and other issues and how poor management decisions, greed for bonuses and dividends and poor oversight contributed to Bhutan’s largest insurance company being in troubled waters.

The issue also carried an offer by 21 private schools to surrender their schools to the government if it took all the cut off students. The government responded by deciding to share students with them.

The 14 December 2019 issue of the paper did a detailed story on the death of 9-year-old Dina Koirala and showed various lapses including by the RBP which took too long to look for the girl.

On 16 May 2020, the paper carried the first ever case of a major agency head in the form of the former STCBL CEO losing his job over sexual harassment allegations.

On 12 December 2020 the paper reported on a major shift in the Cabinet Secretariat as the Cabinet Secretary and his team were relocated to the Tashichhodzong while a new PMO with a new Director formed the core of the PMO.

On 27 February 2021 an ACC in transition with a lone Commissioner took the controversial decision to not look into the appointment of DNT leader Tenzin Lekphell as BIMSTEC Secretary General after a request was made by the National Council.

On 14 August 2021, as the government decided to not reopen Drayangs on moral grounds, this paper did stories to show that as per surveys and studies most Drayang girls are happy with their work environment and transactional sex is low, and how shutting down Drayangs would push them into a more vulnerable situation.

In 4 December 2021, The Bhutanese did a major story showing how Bhutan maybe turning into a remittance economy as the record remittance in 2020 and 2021 overtakes Tourism, FDI, CIT and BIT. The paper looked at both the pros and cons of the remittances.

Check Also

Loan deferral to be more targeted after June 2024

The loan deferral is coming to an end for various sectors in June 2024 and …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *