The finance minister Namgay Dorji, during the meet the press session on June 23, said the government has revised the maintenance and fuel allowance for gewog utility vehicles to enhance the use of the vehicles in the gewogs.

He said the government revised the fuel and maintenance allowance from Nu 60,000 to Nu 100,7000 in the 2017-2018 financial year as the usage of the Bolero utility vehicle is more since it has to cover gewogs, chiwogs and villages.

“The vehicle is used for gewog’s developmental activities and we revised the allowances to enhance their usage,” Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said. “We also received requests from the gups.”

He also said the revision is equal to the allowances provided for pool vehicles.

According to the minister, the policy guidelines issued in January 2016 for gewog utility vehicles allocate Nu 60,000 for fuel and maintenance allowance as per the government allocation for pool vehicles imported from India.

“The government realised that its intention and role of the utility vehicle in the gewogs is much more than other imported vehicles used by the government,” he said.

Lyonpo Namgay Dorji also said that the government deliberated on the issue before tabling the budget in Parliament.  “The government considered and decided to increase the budget, which was later approved by the Parliament.”

He said that the increase in the fuel and maintenance allowance for gewog utility vehicle is equivalent to fuel and maintenance of a Hilux vehicle or the imported vehicles, which has more movement than the ones used in the ministries.

Meanwhile, most gups Kuensel talked to agree that Nu 60,000 allowance was not even enough for the fuel. The gups said that although the vehicle did not require much maintenance since it is still new, the fuel consumption was more because of the road condition.

Merak gup Lama Rinchen said the road condition is bad and that they frequently have to drive slowly, which consumes more diesel. “I hope the revised allowance would be sufficient for at least one financial year.”

Gups said they use their salary to fuel the gewog utility vehicle and travelled in private cars because of the allowance shortage.

Gups say they use the utility vehicles for site visits, which they take for monitoring progress, handing and taking of projects, attend chiwog zomdus and to travel outside gewog for trainings or workshops.

Mendrelgang gup in Tsirang, Yeshi, said they finished the allowance before the financial year and he minimised the vehicle use.

However, gups are skeptical whether the revised allowance would be enough after two or three years when the maintenance allowance and fuel consumption would increase.

Some gups said the allowances should be based on the distance of the gewog centres from the dzongkhag headquarters.

Lauri gup Tempa Gyeltshen said providing equal allowances to gewogs that are near the dzongkhag headquarters and far-flung gewogs do not make sense. “The fuel consumption would be more for far-flung gewogs.”

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, while answering the government’s plan to curb increasing allegations about misuse of utility vehicles in the gewogs as alleged on social media sites, said the government would take action if there are imperative data, facts and evidence.

Lyonchhen said since utility vehicle is the first vehicle provided to local government, gewog officials should be encouraged to use vehicles for gewog’s developmental works. “People and media should support the gewog officials instead of attacking them.”

He also said there are issues of misuse but because of few incidences, it should not be projected as a national problem. “I’m not saying let’s ignore the problem but let us know when there are multiple or dozens of incidences. We would take action.”

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay also asked if the media was concerned about misuse of pool vehicles in the capital. “If the media is concerned about gewog utility vehicles, it should also be concerned of pool vehicles in ministries, departments including my office. I request you not to attack gewogs.”

Yangchen C Rinzin