The Ministry of Information and Communication’s woes with the domestic airports may not just end with a damning Royal Audit Authority Report (RAA) as the RAA report has been sent to the Anti Corruption Commission as well.
The RAA report says, “Lack of segregation of responsibilities and strong supervisory mechanism had exposed the project implementation to possible corrupt practices and risks of errors and oversights impacting quality of works and costs. Accordingly the RAA has as required under the Audit Act of Bhutan 2006, endorsed a copy of this report to the ACC for necessary action. ”
The report says there was no proper control and system of check and balance in implementing the projects. One civil engineer without experience in airport construction works was made to handle all the three projects involving massive investments.
It says he was responsible for preparing estimates, preparing design and drawings, supervising the work, taking over of works and passing the bills.
The report also says that in the view of the significance and seriousness of audit findings, the ministry and the government is requested to further review the whole process followed in planning, budgeting, tendering and execution of infrastructure works to rule out the possibility of collusive and malpractices and take appropriate actions as per the law of the land.
An ACC official said the procedure for ACC in such cases would be to look at the report and see if there is any additional requirement for investigation or fact finding. The official, however, clarified that the ACC had not yet examined the report to make such a judgment on it.
The official said that it would also depend on the action taken by the parent agency during the three month period in which the agency can act on the RAA’s recommendations.
The report in several cases involving all three airports asks for further review and investigation.
There are strong potential areas and prime facie cases of corrupt practices in all three airports where ACC could look into. One of them includes overpayments to contractors in the tens of millions raising questions on possible collusion between project staff and contractors.
The report shows how ineligible bidders were selected while eligible ones were disqualified questioning the level of transparency in selecting bidders.
There are also issues of conflict of interest with the contractor carrying out activities meant to be done by the Ministry.
The preparations of estimates and BoQs in some airports have led to huge deviations while in other cases proper studies were not even done for huge works involving huge amounts of money.
There are also issues of airports not meeting technical standards and substandard works.
The RAA report has also not been able to get information on certain technical aspects like the relation between the lack of density of the pavement and also the resultant financial implication.