Commission asks foundation to revoke the appointment of the selected development officer 

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is expected to review the action taken report (ATR) submitted by a civil society organisation, Loden Foundation with regard to the procedure lapses that occurred in employing a development officer.

ACC officials said that the commission might take up a detailed investigation to establish favouritism, as the response submitted by Loden Foundation was not satisfactorily.

The commission on April 2 wrote to Loden Foundation’s Executive Director (ED) to review the recruitment of Phuntsho Namgay as development officer with appropriate administrative recourse and submit an ATR within a month. “There was a procedure lapse in the selection process and selection was not done transparently,” an ACC official said. “We asked Loden Foundation to revoke the appointment order.”

The commission reportedly looked into the selection process and found that Phuntsho Namgay, who was not among the 10 shortlisted, was selected. ACC’s letter to the ED stated that the procedure adopted to include the applicant whose name did not appear in the announcement of shortlisted candidates was untenably flawed and lacked transparency. “The matter could have been solved by correcting the administrative lapse and following the due process to complete the recruitment process,” the letter stated.

ACC conducted a preliminary investigation after receiving a complaint letter on February 8. The complaint letter reportedly questioned the basis the selection committee selected Phuntsho Namgay although his name was not in the shortlist.

Of the 95 applicants, 10 were shortlisted on January 21 and a written examination conducted the next day. The viva voice was conducted by two separate panelists including a two-member panel from abroad through skype on January 23 and 25. The panelists of three from Bhutan included two board members and the ED. The selection result was declared on January 26.

President and founder of the Loden Foundation, Karma Phuntsho (PhD) said that the trustees of the Loden board accepted the administrative lapses in the compilation of applications and informing candidates but nothing of serious ethical concern to warrant a revocation of the selection. “The board seriously regrets the administrative lapses, and reprimanded the team and made remedies so that such lapses would not occur in the future,” he told Kuensel.

The office team and the president also explained to the complainant how the lapses occurred and apologised. “The lapses, however, did not affect the outcome of the selection, which was carried out in the most fair and rigorous manner following best practices,” Karma Phuntsho said.

The board announced a vacancy to fill up a post that would play a key role in Loden’s development by taking up fundraising, proposal and report writing, management of network of donor organisations and individuals, and also help in public relation (PR) and communications.

Karma Phuntsho said that the foundation’s ED had delegated the task to an intern to compile the applications. The selection committee worked on the initial shortlisting on January 19 and 20. Few incomplete application packages and mismatch of names in the list were discovered, after which the committee instructed the ED to crosscheck the applications as priority on Monday morning.

On January 21, which was a Sunday, the ED consolidated the scores and invited 10 shortlisted candidates for a written test on January 22, sharing with them the list of the preliminary shortlisted candidates. Karma Phuntsho said that the ED informed the committee that one application has been overlooked during the compilation of applications. The committee decided to evaluate the missing candidate’s application to give fair opportunity as it was received on January 10 before the deadline.

In her ATR letter to ACC, the officiating ED Tshering Pelden stated that the missing application of Phuntsho Namgay was fairly shortlisted. “There was no malpractice involved, and he was interviewed on the same day along with the other shortlisted candidates and that his written test was also conducted on the announced day,” she stated.

Karma Phuntsho also said that there was no conflict of interest as there was a separate selection committee for shortlisting, a different evaluation team for the presentations and another panel for the Skype interviews.

He also said that the panelists from home and abroad found the applicant, who was selected, exceptionally good among 10 other candidates.

The Loden board observed that there was a serious lapse in due diligence and in relying on an intern to compile the applications as inexperience could lead to increased risks such as manual entry errors. It also noted that the ED should have subsequently updated the shortlist and informed the candidates of the updated shortlist.

“Both the ED and the intern are today separated from Loden Foundation. The board strongly reprimanded the management, that no space for errors would be tolerated in future and corrective measures must be introduced,” Karma Phuntsho said.

Loden Foundation was founded in 2000 to foster an enlightened and happy society through promotion of social entrepreneurship, education and Bhutan’s culture and tradition across the society.

Rinzin Wangchuk