Department of Adult and Higher Secondary Education (DAHE) will approach alternative sources for recognition of university degrees for aspiring candidates only if the university does not respond in two months, the council’s chairperson Education Secretary Karma Yeshey, said.

As of today, Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC) has approved Bhutan Medical and Health Council, Royal Civil Service Commission, Royal Bhutan Army, and the Supreme Court as alternative sources for authentication of university degree.

Karma Yeshey said that the alternative sources are reliable because they recruit graduates only after confirmation of the genuineness of their certificates. He added, however, that it would not be applicable to those who have worked only in the corporate and private sectors.

“A lot of controversies would arise if the same is applied to those from the private and the corporate sectors,” Karma Yeshey said.

A public notification issued by BAC on March 31 states that alternative sources are used only after the process of seeking validation from the universities is exhausted.BAC verifies and authenticates tertiary education qualifications of any individual based on the request from individuals or agencies.

According to the notification, applicants must submit, in person, all the documents to the secretariat. After verification of the application, the secretariat processes for validation of qualification from the universities.

This public notification was the second BAC issued concerning recognition of university degrees. The first notification was issued in July 2017.

The July notification states aspiring candidates that the process of recognition of a degree would involve validating qualifications with the awarding institutions and that the genuineness of the certificate would solely depend on the response from the university.

BAC had said that the documents must reach the secretariat at least two months before the date set by the Election Commission of Bhutan to file nominations.  However, BAC officials said that some universities did not respond to DAHE’s request to confirm the degree even after months.

Consequently, BAC in January decided that RCSC would be a secondary source for authentication of degrees for former civil servants.

According to BAC, in addition to seeking confirmation from the university, DAHE also checks the recognition status of the university through the use of accreditation body of that country.

Karma Yeshey said that allegations that BAC took a shortcut to authenticate some candidates’ degree were unfounded. “We do our job diligently. We follow all the rules to authenticate degrees,” he said.

BAC started recognising degrees based on authentication from alternative sources since January this year.

One of the candidates from Bidung gewog of Trashigang, Dorji Wangchuk, said that no one told him about the change in the rule that allows candidates to seek authentication from alternative sources.

He could not file for nomination because he didn’t get confirmation of his degree from the university. “I kept trying from the university not knowing there were alternative sources.”

One of the candidates from Thimphu Thromde, Sonam Penjor, had lodged a complaint to the election commission stating that the new rule had benefited candidate Tshokey Dorji.

Tshokey Dorji had obtained authentication of his LLB degree from the Supreme Court after BAC had identified the top court as a source for authentication for people from the legal background.

His mother and representative, Phub Zam, said that the March 31 notification comes into effect from the day it is out in the public domain and not when it remained an internal decision. She claimed that for this reason, getting attestation from the Supreme Court before March 31 is not valid.

Sonam Penjor also alleged that that Tshokey Dorji and his supporters were involved in ferrying voters and receiving help from religious personality. He also accused Thromde Tshogde Tshogpa Phub Dem of soliciting votes by issuing VPICs at the zomdu.

Sonam Penjor submitted a voice recording of a bus driver, who according to him, had said that he had ferried passengers believed to be Tshokey Dorji’s supporters. According to the election commission, however, the driver told the commission that he had said that jest.

According to the election commission, 43 people were questioned and the commission didn’t find any concrete evidence to establish the claims.

The commission also found that the polling officials had allowed Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorji at the polling station after he had cast his vote. He was cautioned that he couldn’t stay at the zomdu in future elections.

The election commission upheld the central election dispute settlement body’s decision to penalise the dzongkhag electoral officer and the driver, stating that such a lapse would affect the electoral process in future.

The complainant can appeal to court after 10 days from the date of declaration of the NC election results.

MB Subba