… transpired following the PAC’s report on pending audit issues

Parliament: Of the Nu 523.3 million (M) irregularities reflected in the annual audit report 2015, the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) has resolved Nu 299.2M, meaning irregularities amounting to Nu 224.15M are yet to be resolved.

The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report submitted to the Joint sitting yesterday stated that some agencies have high unresolved irregularities because the cases have been either forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Office of the Attorney General (OAG) or are subjudice.

In fact, from the remaining 39 cases from 2009 to 2014 that were forwarded to ACC, 31 have been resolved. Eight cases remain pending either with ACC or OAG.

The Parliament’s recommendation from the sixth session to resolve all irregularities between 2009 and 2013 within March 30, 2016 did not materialise. Nu 331.48M still remains to be resolved from that period.

During the same session a resolution was also passed to resolve all irregularities pertaining to the 2014 audit report by September 30 this year. Of the Nu 375M irregularities, Nu 284.9M still remain unresolved.

Samtse’s Council member, Sangay Khandu, said the amount of irregularities under fraud, corruption and embezzlement has decreased from Nu 90M to Nu 46M.

“There has been substantial reduction,” he said.

He however said that ministries account for Nu 277M worth of irregularities between 2009 and 2013. “The ministers should be in a position to clear all the doubts,” he said.

Trongsa’s Council member Tharchin said that it is often told that the local government doesn’t have the capacity and all planning and expertise are provided by the central government. “Even with all the expertise and resources, irregularities pertaining to mismanagement and violation of rules and laws are highest among the ministries,” he said.

The foreign minister Damcho Dorji said that most cases are either with OAG or ACC. The Bangkok embassy case, the Gelephu airport case, and irregularities pertaining to the finance ministry have all been forwarded to ACC and OAG. He said that some cases are in court. “This is all the government can do and it did,” he said.

He added that the Constitution provides clear separation of power between the judiciary, executive and legislative bodies and that the government’s intervention is tantamount to interference in justice delivery.

Gasa’s Council member suggested finding means to request the judiciary to expedite the cases reflected in the audit reports if the cases are being prolonged. He said it is important to understand whether it is the government or the RAA or ACC or OAG or the Judiciary that contributes to the delayed proceedings in the audit recoveries.

The deliberation then swayed to invasion on the separation of power between the legislative, judiciary and executive arm.

All the ministers who spoke on the topic were of the view that the independence of the judiciary must be respected and that by doing so, precedent would be set. Education minister Norbu Wangchuk said that the government’s intervention in the judicial process would undermine democracy, the basis of which is separation of powers.

Wangchang Lamgong representative, Khandu Wangchuk, said democracy is not the only basis for separation of powers among the three arms of the government. Good governance, he said, is one of the bases and it is all right to have a healthy discourse with the judiciary.

He said the judiciary, for instance has shed light on the taxation measures during the former government’s tenure and recently on the thromde issue.

The NC member from Gasa also said that separation of power should depend on situations and in this case he said it is the government’s responsibility to request the judiciary.

Panbang’s representative Dorji Wangdi said the principles of state policy are enshrined in the Constitution: “The state shall endeavour justice through fair, transparent and expeditious process.”

He said it is a state policy and not about undermining the judiciary. Further, he cited another clause from the Constitution: “Parliament may, by law, establish impartial and independent administrative tribunals as well as alternative dispute resolution centres.”

He clarified that it is not to point out that the judiciary is under performing but to recommend the government to hold discussion with the judiciary.

Chairman of the committee, Dophu Drukpa, said that the OAG and the judiciary have lots of other cases to deal with and that it would not be ideal if Parliament asks the judiciary to prioritise the corruption cases. Doing so, he said, would benefit the government but there are cases relating to land, matrimony, and substance abuse, among others, that benefit more people.

Deputy chairperson of the National Council, Tshering Dorji, pointed out that the unresolved irregularities under subjudice is very small. Of the Nu 47M under fraud, corruption and embezzlement, the majority of the cases are sitting with the OAG.

Separation of power, he added, does not mean the three branches of the government work in isolation, however.

The joint sitting decided to direct  the OAG to expedite the cases within its purview since a larger number of unresolved cases is with the OAG and the ACC.

The joint sitting will continue to deliberate the report tomorrow.

Tshering Dorji