ACC asks Bhutan Duty Free Ltd. to revoke 10 appointments

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has asked the chairman of the Bhutan Duty Free Ltd (BDFL) to revoke the appointment of 10 officials who were recruited without meeting the employment criteria.

In three separate letters issued earlier this month to the board chairman, chief executive officer (CEO) of BDFL and finance secretary, the commission asked them individually to take stern administrative action against the responsible officials.

The commission recommended BDFL chairman to revoke the appointment of 10 officials and fix accountability on its CEO Kapil Mani Sharma for supervisory lapses.

Sources say that 10 officials, comprising of deputy general manager, marketing manager, finance manager and sale executives were allegedly recruited by deviating the set criteria of 65 percent marks sometime in mid 2016.  They didn’t fulfill the terms of reference, which states that an applicant should have a minimum of 65 percent in the degree of relevant field of study with not less than 65 percent in classes X and XII.

The commission’s investigation found that the applicants who were shortlisted had scored less than 65 percent. Some recruits had reportedly submitted invalid medical fitness certificates while one didn’t have Class X mark sheet.

In a separate letter written to finance secretary Nim Dorji, who is also the BDFL chairman, ACC has asked him to take an appropriate action against four members on the selection panel for not following due process and recruiting them without meeting the criteria. The panelists include the revenue and customs director, budget director, senior programme officer of Public Enterprise division, and BDFL’s CEO. The panelists are BDFL’s board members.

The commission also wrote to the CEO of BDFL to recover about Nu 114,000 from the responsible officials such as the deputy general manager and sale executives for shortage of sunglasses. While investigating, the ACC reportedly found that some sunglasses were missing. The CEO refused to comment on this.

BDFL’s chairman Nim Dorji said that the board has held an emergency meeting. “We are working to implement ACC’s recommendations and submit an action taken report to the commission in a day or two,” the chairman said.

The ACC letter stated that in the event the commission is not satisfied with administrative sanctions taken by the BDFL, the ACC may take necessary action on its own as required by the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan.

The commission investigated the recruitment process after receiving two anonymous letters and a walk-in complaint alleging that the company recruited officials despite them not meeting the cut off point of 65 percent on the summative score sheet and violated the labour Act and its service rules.

The issue reportedly surfaced after the management terminated three employees from its branch office in Paro in September and November 2016 without a termination notice.

While two female sales executives were terminated on September 9 for travelling to Nepal on September 1 without taking leave, another male sales executive was asked to resign on November 4 for writing an e-mail to the CEO to reconsider his transfer to Phuentsholing.

The anonymous letter stated that the candidate employed on November 7 with a score of 64.75 percent was recruited despite not meeting the cut off point of 65 percent on the summative score sheet. The minutes of the human resource committee meeting on June 17 stated that the candidates failing to secure 65 percent would not be considered for employment.

Bhutan Duty Free Ltd, a new state enterprise, was established on May16, 2016 and all duty free outlets throughout the country now operate under the company. It was corporatised in keeping with the Public Finance Act, 2007.

First established in 1972 and operated by the government as the “foreign drink shop”, duty free shops contribute about Nu 94M from sales to the exchequer every year.

Rinzin Wangchuk 

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