No information was shared with ACC on why the abuse of function against former minister isn’t being pursued

Update: Even as court proceedings for three appeal cases are ongoing at the High Court, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has written to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to justify why it isn’t pursuing the case of the former minister awarding the works to saw timber.

An ACC official said that the commission wrote to the OAG on August 10 after the commission learnt that the prosecuting agency was pursuing only the case pertaining to the misuse of DCM truck at the appellate court and not the case of awarding timber works.

The commission claimed that it has not received any information on the OAG’s decision to not appeal against the Haa district court, which acquitted former minister Rinzin Dorje on the grounds that he had not taken a unilateral decision in awarding the sawing timber contract to Tshewang Penjor.

“What we know is what was reported in the media about the OAG not appealing on the timber sawing tender award,” a commission official said.

The three cases at the High Court today are – the former minister Rinzin Dorje’s alleged misuse of pool vehicle; the project manager Wangchuk Tshering waiving off labour contribution for his relatives and neighbours; and the project engineer taking bribes to accept inferior sand quality.

This is the second time the commission has written to the OAG in connection with the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project. On July 5, the former commission had written to the Attorney General after the OAG decided not to appeal against the lower court’s ruling.

The commission in its first letter had stated that it had prepared its grounds for appeal against the lower court’s judgment and taking full cognisance of the OAG’s position on the case, the commission was concerned that the OAG is only going to appeal on its behalf and not because OAG believes that there was a ground for appeal.

“Such a situation inherently and seriously complicates matters, besides it may undermine further prosecution of the case by the OAG,” the letter had stated. “Further, the very rationale of neutrality that OAG explains for such a situation will also be undermined if it prosecutes the case.”

It also stated that pursuing a case that OAG is not convinced of will lack ownership and would tantamount to planning to fail. “For the commission, reasoning takes precedence over personalities and political association,” it stated.

On July 27, ACC counsel moved the appellate court for taking over the roles of prosecution from the OAG during the show cause hearing.  However, the High Court overruled the submission based on the interpretation of Article 29 of the Constitution concerning the functions and constitutional roles of the OAG and that of the ACC as per Article 27 of the Constitution.

Attorney General Shera Lhendup said the OAG has no comment on the ACC’s recent letter.

The OAG had earlier charged MP Rinzin Dorje for taking an unilateral decision in awarding timber sawing works worth Nu 1.403M (million) to LD Sawmill without consulting the tender committee and paying the sawmill at the original rate of Nu 37.70 per cubic foot (cft).

On June 23, the lower court acquitted him. The commission had investigated the case from October 2012 to April 2014 after receiving an anonymous complaint against project officials of the Lhakhang Karpo project for possible collusions, supply of inferior construction materials, fraudulent payments and fabrication of fictitious muster roll.

By Rinzin Wangchuk