The Civil Society Organisations Authority dispatched the action taken report (ATR) on the Prime Minister’s Awards 2016 case to the Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.

Running out of options to resolve the issue, the authority and the Bhutan Film Association (BFA) has now asked ACC to deal with the issues of restituting the prize money and taking administrative actions.

A week before the National Film Awards last month, ACC wrote to the Cabinet Secretary stating that the Prime Minister’s award scheduled on February 23 be kept in abeyance.

The letter stated that the ACC is yet to receive the ATR, review and reach a logical conclusion on the case. Therefore, giving away the Prime Minister’s award this year would set a wrong precedence.

On November 17 last year, ACC wrote to the authority asking it to direct BFA to restitute the Nu 3 million-prize money besides taking administrative actions on former board members for the administrative lapses and the flawed process, among others. BFA was given a month to implement the recommendations of the ACC’s investigation.

The ACC recommendation did not mention where to return the money or any act of corruption, BFA officials said.

In the last year’s case, BFA President Karma Tshering said that he immediately wrote to the two producers of best films to return the prize money which the two refused citing they did nothing wrong.

Karma Tshering wrote back to the authority to inform about the decisions of the producers. “There was nothing we could do then,” he said.

The authority board felt the same as the matter was beyond their regulatory jurisdiction. Member secretary, Tshewang Tobgyel said that there was nothing more than they could do.

“So we’ve submitted whatever was reported to us by the BFA and asked the ACC to handle the matter hereafter,” Tshewang Tobgyel said.

He said that the ATR was delayed as the board members could not meet.

“The members were busy in their duties with their organisations and we could not meet the required quorum,” he said.

Meanwhile, the former president of BFA submitted an appeal letter to the authority  against the ACC’s findings and recommendations last year.

Despite the ACC’s recent letter to the cabinet secretary and the Prime Minister’s instructions to hold the award, the BFA board, after two meetings with producers on the issue, through a majority vote decided to declare the awards.

“First, there is no link between the two awards as last year’s award was conducted by the previous board,” a board member said. “Moreover, the fund for this year’s award was already approved by the Prime Minister before the ACC’s reached us.”

Members of the BFA Kuensel talked to say that the Prime Minister’s award was to motivate film producers to produce good movies promoting Bhutanese art, and culture, among other reasons.

ACC officials earlier said that the authority’s ATR is further subject to review. They said that if the commission is unsatisfied with administrative sanctions taken by the authority, the ACC might take necessary action on its own as required by the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan.

The recent winners of the Prime Minister’s award of Nu 1 million each were declared during the national film awards on February 23. The winners were, Nge Tsawai Lam, Hingtam Bangzoe, and Dari Naba.

Tshering Palden