Contractors and accountants vanish after misusing state funds

Tashi Dema

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) has about 18 cases amounting to Nu 14.9 million (M) still unresolved, as those accountable for the irregularities are ‘at large’ or missing.

Of the 18 cases, 14 could not be registered in court because seven contractors, two accountants and a businessman could not be traced or are missing, according to the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report.

The report stated two cases are with the Anti-Corruption Commission and Office of the Attorney General. An accused was convicted for choeten vandalism.

A revenue misuse of Nu 5.6M remains unresolved in Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, as the accountant, Kinzang Choden, who is alleged of embezzling the money could not be traced.

RAA forwarded the case that surfaced in 2015 to ACC and ACC forwarded it to OAG. OAG returned the case to ACC as it could not locate Kinzang Choden.

In another 2015 case, criminal charges could not be filed against an accountant of information and communications ministry, who was accused of making unauthorised and fictitious payment of Nu 2.1M.

The report stated that the amount was recovered and deposited but the accountant, Pema Chheney, is still missing.

In a 2011 case, agriculture ministry could not register a case of excess payment of Nu 229,000 since the contractor, Kinley Tshering of Kabji Construction, is missing.

The report stated that the case was once registered in court but it was dismissed on the condition that the ministry could file the case again if they found the contractor.

With a contractor absconding, Pemagatshel dzongkhag could not recover Nu 2.9M advances and penalties although the Supreme Court ordered the contractor to refund the full amount.

According to RAA, contractor of Ugyen Dorji construction in Samdrupjongkhar was paid advances while constructing the multi-purpose hall of Woongchilo community primary school and absconded.

Sarpang dzongkhag also could not recover Nu 1.3M paid as advances to a contractor, as contractor Sherab Zangmo of RD construction in Trashigang has absconded. The contractor was involved in the construction of BHU grade II in Sarpang Seer.

Sarpang dzongkhag court passed the judgment but the judgment could not be enforced as the contractor is still at large.

In another case, the dzongkhag could not recover Nu 130,000 from a contractor Tshering Tobgay of Tsheringling Geysar Construction in Sarpang although the court ordered the contractor to pay liquidated damages and 20 percent penalty.

The contractor, who was involved in the construction of aqua privy toilet in Dekiling School, is still at large.

Supreme Court’s larger bench is reviewing a non-termination of contract of Natural Resource Development Corporation Ltd (NRDCL) in Samdrupjongkhar but the contractor of Druk Sharchok construction in Thimphu is missing. He was involved in construction of office and staff quarter at Golanti, Jomotsangkha. The amount is Nu 657,000.

The report stated that OAG is still reviewing as 2012 case in Wangchuck Centennial National Park, Bumthang, for alleged misuse of Nu 241,000 project fund.

Wangchang gewog in Paro could not register a case against the contractor of Ghana Builders involved in providing and fixing water pumps and HDPE pipes after he disappeared. The gewog, therefore, could not settle a case involving Nu 980,000.

Similarly, Trongsa dzongkhag could not register a case against a contractor who constructed two staff quarter and went missing. The dzongkhag could not levy liquidated damages and inadmissible payment of Nu 155,000.

The report stated that ACC is reviewing an irregular land purchase for a board director’s spouse. Although the case surfaced in 2012, it was reported that the case was assigned for investigation in August 2017. ACC officials said they forwarded the case to OAG for prosecution.

Trashigang dzongkhag did not resolve Nu 407,000 disbursed as salary to an official on training. The report stated that the person did not return from longterm studies.

Chukha dzongkhag could not recover an excess payment of Nu 658,000, as the accused is serving life imprisonment for choeten vandalism.

Health ministry could not levy liquidated damages of Nu 505,000 against an Indian supplier, Agarwal Healthcare, for incomplete medical supplies. The report stated that the case could not be registered in court, as the supplier could not be traced.

The cases are related to audit reports from 2010 to 2017.

The report stated that the PAC chairperson and the Auditor General requested the Chief Justice to look into the matter. “The response from the judiciary is awaited.”

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