The joint sitting of Parliament yesterday endorsed the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) recommendation to sign an annual performance agreement (APA) with Bhutan Chamber of Commerce (BCCI) to enhance its performance.

The PAC reported that BCCI was not able to tap its revenue potential and was not able to meet the salaries and allowances from annual membership fees. The Chamber, PAC recommended, should be provided grants.

The recommendation was made based on a review of the BCCI’s performance audit, which covered the period from January 2013 to December 2017.

However, National Council (NC) member from Gasa, Dorji Khandu, questioned the validity of an APA between the government and BCCI, saying the Chamber lacked legal status.

Dorji Khandu also questioned the legality of documents signed by BCCI with entities outside the country. He said that the BCCI’s income had declined since 2013 while its expenses increased.

NC member from Trashigang, Lhatu, said that terms of reference for the BCCI president should be reviewed. He said that expenses on hospitality should be justified.

Athang-Thedtsho MP Kinley Wangchuk said that the government had earlier sent a legal officer to BCCI to study its legal status and that the matter would be clear once the report is released.

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) had made 15 recommendations in the performance audit report.

The report found that although BCCI was an apex body for private sector development, there was no clear legal mandate and legitimacy for its operation.

The PAC reported that BCCI had drafted a Bill in 2006 but the then Speaker suggested BCCI to register as a CSO. BCCI generates 50.4 percent of its revenue from annual membership fees and 45 percent from rental income and voluntary fees, among others.

BCCI also receives grants from the government to meet its total expenses.

The audit pointed out that BCCI did not have long-term strategic planning, framework and clear working modality with sector-specific associations. The Chamber also did not have financial rules and regulations and lacked internal control and risks oversight systems and internal audit function.

The performance audit had observed several irregularities in the procurement of goods and services.

The tenures of the president and vice president were also increased from three years to five years by the general body in 2016, which the audit  found was in contravention of the BCCI Charter.

The BCCI was established in 1980.

MB Subba