Bangkok referral fund ball in OAG court

The misappropriation first came to light in 2011 due to huge outstanding bills with some hospitals there

Embezzlement: Following more than four years of investigation on the misappropriation of referral funds by the former head of chancery at the Bhutanese embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, the case is now with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) forwarded the case to the OAG last month.

One of the cases that the ACC took the longest to investigate was on the alleged mismanagement of medical funds, the status of which is still under review, according to OAG officials.

“It’ll take some time to review the report and then prosecute it before the court of law, as it contains huge volume of documents,” an OAG official said.

He also said that all OAG prosecutors were currently bogged down with other ACC cases.

ACC took about three years to investigate the alleged misuse of funds and another year to compile the report. “Actually, the report was ready and even made available to public last year, but we couldn’t forward it to the OAG,” an ACC official said, refusing to comment further.

ACC has reportedly charged former head of chancery, Chenda Tobgye, for alleged misappropriation and embezzlement of referral funds meant for treatment of Bhutanese patients in Bangkok.

In its report, released in May last year, ACC found that a senior accounts personnel at the embassy was managing the fund through proper books of accounts, and expenditure was periodically submitted directly to the finance ministry before July 2008.

Chenda Tobgye, however, had allegedly withdrawn every incoming remittance from the finance ministry directly out of the “Special USD account” in cash from July 2008, and kept the embassy in the dark as to what he was doing with the money.  The accused also discontinued the earlier practice of maintaining subsidiary cashbook to reflect receipts and payments.

The mismanagement of referral funds surfaced some time in 2011, when the government became aware that a huge outstanding had accumulated with certain hospitals in Bangkok, despite funds being released.  The ministry of foreign affairs forwarded the case to ACC for investigation towards the end of November 2011.

During its investigation from February 2007 until August 2011, ACC found that the accused had withdrawn about USD 1.4 million or Nu 63.5 million for the purpose of settling medical bills and other related expenses between July 2008 and December 2010.

The finance ministry had remitted about Nu 85M between 2008 and 2010, as advance or reimbursement against medical treatments and travel expenses.  However, the accused had operated the fund transaction and it did not go to the hospitals.

ACC’s investigation also found that, along with hospital invoices, the accused had also submitted expenditure statement to the foreign ministry with respect to 17 Bhutanese patients treated in Bangkok.  The bill amounted to Thai baht 5.966 million or Nu 8.369 million, but was later found to be unpaid.

Although the foreign ministry certified the invoices, many of them did not carry evidence of payment, like money receipts.

In 2011, the government had to pay about Nu 18 million, when some hospitals in Bangkok threatened the embassy with legal actions.

ACC, in its annual report, stated the medical fund management was done without financial discipline, administrative procedures and effective chain of control.

The report stated that the head of chancery not only caused huge financial damage, but also seriously tainted the reputation of the country.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

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