Public hearing by PAC conducted with the ministries and agencies to expedite audit irregularities

Deadline of 20th June 2019 to resolve irregularities audit issues

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) conducted a public hearing this week with seven ministries and nine autonomous agencies in Thimphu, with the aim to expedite and seek update on the audit irregularities that remained unresolved as per the Annual Audit Report 2010-2016.

The report states Nu 816.411 million (mn) as unresolved sum as of 31 March. It shows that the ministries have the highest amount of irregularities amounting to Nu 301.903 mn followed by autonomous agencies with Nu 164.591 mn.

The ministries and agencies were asked to resolve all the pending audit irregularities from 2010-2016 as per the Annual Audit Report by 20 June 2019 as endorsed during the 11th Session of the Second Parliament. The PAC committee informed that due course of action will be taken against any particular ministry or agency in case of failure or non-compliance to their notice.

The heads and the representatives from Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Information and Communications, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance and the autonomous agencies like, Bhutan Cricket Federation, Bhutan Development Bank Limited, Bhutan Education City, Bhutan Football Federation, Election Commission of Bhutan, Gross National Happiness Commission, National Land Commission, Royal University of Bhutan and Royal Society for Protection of Nature attended and presented an update on their respective pending irregularities in presence of the representatives from the Royal Audit Authority and the PAC members.

Chairman of the PAC, Phuntsho Rabten, and the PAC Deputy Chairman, Dophu Dukpa, said that the public hearing was mainly conducted with the objective to expedite the irregularities by bringing together concerned authorities to discuss and clear the issues out. “Such a hearing provides a great platform to hear the stakeholders’ perspective, gather more information and gain deeper understanding of the issues, apart from educating and informing the public on the issues,” said Phuntsho Rabten.

During the hearing, it has been learnt that while some of the agencies have already resolved the audit irregularities, it wasn’t reflected with the RAA due to a lack of proper channel of communication. “It is important that the concerned ministries or agencies should have evidence of correspondence carried out with the person or institution accountable, in written form for authenticity,” said the chairman after it was found that some of the agencies have only communicated verbally in trying to resolve the issues.

There are agencies like, hydropower project, Tourism Council of Bhutan, Royal Civil Service Commission, among others, which were not called upon even with huge amounts of unresolved irregularities. This, according to the chairman, is due to the fact that it requires involvement of many people outside Thimphu, and they could not consider involving most of the local leaders as it might affect other pressing service delivery. He further said the committee first wanted to work with agencies and ministries that are based in Thimphu. Such similar hearings were carried in the past.

As for hearing involving the agencies from outside Thimphu, the chairman said that the next schedule for such a hearing will be cutting close to the National Assembly elections. “The PAC comprises of three members from National Assembly and two from the National Council. So the committee will more or less be dissolved within the first week of August, but once the new government comes into power, PAC will also be reconstituted, and we will carry out such public hearing again with all the ministries and agencies involved.”

However, Phuntsho Rabten said that PAC is sending timely notifications to all the ministries and agencies involved, seeking an update on their progress and effort to expedite and solve the pending audit irregularities.

After the public hearing with the ministries and the autonomous agencies in Thimphu, it has been observed that there are serious coordination issues among the relevant agencies in solving the pending audit irregularities. “We have also noticed that some agencies and ministries lack seriousness in trying to expedite the pending issues, which would otherwise have been resolved at the earliest, had some of the concerned agencies put in extra effort. However, we are not trying to point out that to all the ministries or agencies, as some have been genuinely trying to resolve it as early as possible, despite the challenging circumstances,” said the chairman.

Phuntsho Rabten also pointed out that there is no proper communication and coordination among the agencies with their most relevant stakeholder, which is the Royal Audit Authority. “So such hearing provided the timely platform for the ministries and agencies to improve on their coordination issues with the RAA and update on the progress of their case to the PAC and RAA. It also gave an opportunity for the committee to review and improve on the matter by involving the relevant stakeholders to formally communicate with the RAA.”

The budgetary agencies, which include ministries, dzongkhags, gewog administrations, and autonomous bodies, have resolved irregularities worth Nu 104.359 mn (36.77 percent) with pending irregularities amounting to Nu 179.454 mn.

The non-budgetary agencies like, corporations, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations, have resolved irregularities worth Nu 14.781 mn (14.29 percent), which leaves pending irregularities amounting to Nu 88.61 mn.

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