The government has asked the finance ministry to compile the details of fiscal incentives granted to business firms since 2008 so that they can be released for public review.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said this yesterday at a press conference in response to the Opposition’s demand that the latter wanted the government make public the details on fiscal incentives granted between 2010 and 2018.

Should it find any acts of corruption, the government invites the opposition to take the government to court or ask the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for an investigation.

“Don’t threaten us, please take the government to court,” the prime minister said.

A press release from the prime minister’s office, states that the government acknowledges the opposition party for raising several issues through their press release on “Fiscal Incentives granted to Hoteliers by the DPT Govt,’ and that the opposition’s allegations required a response.

“The government would like to thank the DPT for raising these issues as it supports strengthening practices of good governance through transparency, check and balance and establishing accountability,” it stated.

Fiscal Incentives and Le Meridien

The prime minister said the government has full confidence that the ACC will investigate the government’s charges of alleged corruption by former minister Yeshi Zimba as soon as possible and in accordance with the laws of the land.

“As such, the government will not comment further on its charges or the opposition party’s counter charges. This is best left up to the ACC,” the prime minister said.

No political motives

The Opposition has alleged that reporting the case on former minister Yeshi Zimba to ACC is politically motivated.

The prime minister said that, the opposition has successfully managed to lead several sections of the society to believe that the government had raised the issue to gain political favours.

“Based on prima facie evidence, the government should have directed the Attorney General to directly file a case in the courts of law against former minister Yeshi Zimba for corruption and restitution of Nu 76.9 million to the government. Instead, the government deliberately chose to send the case to ACC to rule out political motive,” the prime minister said.

According to the press release, the opposition’s allegation of political motivation against the government implies that politicians should not charge any other politicians. If that were the case, the press release stated that politicians and political parties would escape the law under the excuse of being politically motivated.

“This is a dangerous precedence being created by the opposition as political parties or politicians would shy away from calling out the misdeeds of the other for fear of being accused of being politically motivated,” it stated.

The prime minister said the opposition must demonstrate itself as a responsible political party and actually welcome the ACC investigation, especially if it is confident that they have done no wrong.

He said that more than anybody else, political parties must support the ACC in its fight against corruption and it must begin by allowing the institution to conduct a thorough and an unhindered investigation. “The government calls on the opposition to allow the law to take its own course and not to confuse the public by distracting them from the matter at hand,” he said.

The prime minister said that the government wants to clarify that MP Yeshi Zimba will not be able to contest the next elections due to the age limit. “As such, requesting the ACC to investigate Yeshi Zimba cannot be politically motivated,” he said.

“The government believes that the opposition is engaging in the oldest trick in the books by trying to escape the due course of law by branding the responsible actions of the government as politically motivated,” he said.

Why now?

The opposition leader had questioned the motive of raising the issue at the fag end of the government’s tenure.

However, the prime minister said that the possibility of corruption vis-à-vis fiscal incentives was made known to the public in 2015 during the discussion on tax exemption of books.

The opposition had said that the exemption was granted without following due parliamentary procedure.

The prime minister said the government still has six months to complete its term and must function responsibly until the last day. He said it would be irresponsible to absolve itself of its duty just because it feels that the term would end after six months.

The government, the prime minister said, is confident that the ACC would take up the investigation seriously and offers its support in anyways should the ACC require of the government. “We would also like to request the opposition to support the ACC in fulfilling its mandate.”

The opposition had claimed that the government’s request to investigate Yeshi Zimba was an attempt to divert attention away from its own failure and plummeting credibility.

The prime minister said these issues have nothing to do with the matter under scrutiny, and can only be a desperate attempt by the opposition to divert the attention of the public from a corruption scandal.

The opposition party has warned that it would take the government to court on charges including the exemption of tax, import of second hand electric vehicles and the procurement of boleros.

The prime minister said that the Boleros were purchased in accordance with the Procurement Rules and Regulations 2009.

He also said that the exemption of tax to small and micro businesses in rural areas was granted in accordance with prevailing laws. According to the press release, BOiC was established by Parliament.

According to the government, the purpose of opposition’s threat is to intimidate the prime minister and the government.

The prime minister said the government would not trade off with the opposition, as it seems to indicate. “The threat that the opposition will take the government to court on several matters if the investigation should persist is unacceptable,” he said.

MB Subba