Four years after the former government shut down the Education City, the government is yet to decide on the utilisation of the land opposite Wang Sisina, Thimphu.
The Education City whose authority is with the works and human settlement ministry has since remained idle and entry into the site locked. The former government looked for ideas to put the space and infrastructure to some use, formed a “think tank” and explored other options, but nothing has materialised so far.
The former government shut down the project in March 2014 after the National Land Commission said that land acquisition at Wang Sisina had contravened provisions of the Land Act 2007. An area of about 1,000 acres of land was identified for the project. The Land Commission called it “illegal”.
The project office at Motithang and infrastructure like bridge, a power substation, boreholes, and a 2.4km road at Wang Sisina were handed over to the department of roads in 2015.
After the official with the roads department that was responsible to look after the project superannuated, the project was handed over to the MoWHS’s directorate service.
Director Dhak Tshering said that there are still no directives from the government. In the meantime, the Royal Audit Authority has issued three audit memos on the project.
However, the director said that of the three memos issued in the name of the former minister, Dorji Choden, one memo issued in 2015 and 2016 still stands. The former minister was the chairperson of the Education City board.
“The Audit memo was issued on the project’s facilities like bridge, road, substation not being put into use,” he said. “Although explanation was given to the audit, the memo was not dropped.”
He said that another memo was on the underutilisation of project office at Motithang, office equipment including the office rent. However, the memo was dropped after the Directorate Service surrendered the office and equipment to the department of national property.
The third memo was issued for retaining of the fund in the fixed account with Bhutan National Bank in the name of the project. “Audit asked the ministry to surrender the fund to the finance minister, which the ministry did accordingly. We’ve already surrendered about Nu 127 million including the interest,” said Dhak Tshering. “The education city is closed.”
Works and human settlement minister, Dorji Tshering said that since the board had dissolved by the time he assumed office, he did not take the chairmanship of the board. However, Lyonpo said that the government is exploring options to put the land to use.
“It is not sure, but we’re hopeful that the land would be put to use by next one or two years depending on the government’s priority,” Lyonpo said. “For instance, the government is looking into the possibility of coming up with a tertiary hospital.”
Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that MoWHS was never involved in the Education City project, but the project was handed over to the road department because of the presence of road and bridge.
Meanwhile, an official from the ministry earlier said that unless the Education City Act 2012 is repealed, the project can neither be closed nor any other developmental work could take place as the project is governed by the Act. The Parliament passed the Education City Act in 2012.
The Act, however, was submitted to the National Law Review Task Force for review. The task force found the Act redundant since the Education City project stands cancelled.
Yangchen C Rinzin