The project engineer and the manager have been indicted for their alleged involvement in lhakhang Karpo corruption

Update: The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday wrote a letter to the Haa dzongda asking him to suspend two civil servants, who were involved in the alleged corruption case of the lhakhang Karpo construction project.

An ACC official said the letter was sent to the competent authority, with copies to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), to suspend the lhakhang Karpo conservation project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen and project manager Wangchuk Tshering.

The suspension order comes three days after foreign minister Rinzin Dorje was granted ‘authorised absence’ after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) registered the lhakhang Karpo case at the Haa district court on January 23.  On the same day, ACC had also reportedly sent a letter to the prime minister’s office to suspend the foreign minister.

Empowered by Anti Corruption Act 2011, the commission writes to the competent authority, when OAG registers a case before the court, to suspend public officials.

As per section 167 (2) of the ACC Act, a public servant, who is charged with an offense, shall be suspended with effect from the date of the charge till pending the outcome of any appeals.

Both project engineer and project manager were charged with allegedly accepting bribes, embezzlement and abuse of functions.

ACC officials, after two years of investigation, found that the project engineer, Tashi Gyeltshen, had solicited and received a bribe of Nu 100,000 from TNW Construction’s owner, Tshewang Rinzin.

In May 2011, the project floated a tender to supply sand for lhakhang Karpo, where 18 contractors participated in the bid.  TNW Construction was awarded the work, as the owner quoted the lowest rate of Nu 27 a cubic feet.  However, ACC found that TNW supplied poor quality sand from the IMTRAT helipad area.

ACC investigation found project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen to have cleared a bill of Nu 0.705M in August 2012, after accepting a gratification amount of Nu 100,000 from Tshewang Rinzin.  Tashi Gyeltshen is also charged with accepting a Samsung phone worth Nu 33,500 from a shop owner called Nima in Paro, in return for allowing forged bids and clearing an amount of Nu 0.624M in payments for repairing the existing water supply system at lhakhang Karpo.  Nima is charged with forgery, and Tshewang Rinzin for passive trading in influence.

Based on ACC’s findings, OAG also charged Tashi Gyeltshen for abuse of function, as he won the bid in procuring GI wire for lhakang Karpo by forging three fictional bids.   He is alleged to have supplied the wire at Nu 230 a metre after buying it at Nu 118/m from Jaigaon.   The project engineer is also charged with official misconduct, for doing private engineering work outside his job, earning Nu 0.79M.

Project manager Wangchuk Tshering, along with Tashi Gyeltshen, is also charged with embezzlement of Nu 74,985 through ghost names on muster rolls.  The project manager is also alleged to have waived off Nu 0.10M worth of woola (labour contribution) for his relatives and neighbours.

OAG also charged construction supervisor (lapon), Lhab Dorji, for embezzling Nu 3,000 each that was collected from 30 households in lieu of labour contributions.  Lhab Dorji had also worked as a lapon in the Chukha dzong construction.

Some households had paid Nu 3,000 as monthly labour contribution to reconstruct the lhakhang.   There was also a corresponding daily per-head labour payment of Nu 165 from the government.

The foreign minister, who was the former Haa dzongda, was charged with favouring a local saw miller, Tshewang Penjor, by awarding timber sawing works worth Nu 1.4M without approval of the tender committee.

Tshewang Penjor, a former Katsho gup, had leased LD sawmill from Leki Dorji during the lhakhang’s construction, and is also charged for passive trading in influence.

Meanwhile, Haa drangpon Duba Drukpa yesterday declared in writing his conflict of interest of being a dorji puen (spiritual brother) in the case to the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Rinzin Wangchuk