Lack of evidence leads to ACC dropping cases

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), over the past month, dropped a number of alleged corruption cases, including a high profile case involving foreign minister Damcho Dorji due to lack of evidence.

Recently the ACC dropped a cased that allegedly involved illegal talc mining in Samtse. It was alleged that the company, which mined talc under the guise of constructing a school,  exported talc worth more than Nu 20 million (M).

The ministry of education approved the construction of a private higher secondary school at a closed talc mine site at Sukreti, Samtse on January 13, 2010.  However, a year later, the ACC received an anonymous complaint informing the office that the contractor was illegally mining talc and that the proponent was digging more than 100m into the earth, deploying four to five excavators and 12 trucks daily.

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) also confirmed the allegation when they were auditing the leasing of government land and mines in 2013. The audit report stated that the joint team was constituted to verify the complaints as directed by the ACC, comprising of officials from the education ministry, the department of geology and mines and Samtse dzongkhag. It was concluded that the proponent had deviated from the original construction proposal and was mining talc.

The joint team also reportedly found that the authority concerned, geology and mines department of the economic affairs ministry, had not taken any action against the proponent.

The commission began investigating the illegal mining of talc at Sukreti in April 2015 along with alleged customs mal-administration and entrenched corruption in the fraudulent export and import businesses in the country’s commercial hub, Phuentsholing.

However, the commission withdrew the Samtse team to help the ongoing investigation in Phuentsholing, which took almost one and half years. ACC then sent its team to Samtse and found the case didn’t merit prosecution.

“We found it was an administrative issue,” an ACC official said. “However, the commission will write to the geology and mines department to restitute about Nu 17M from the proponent for exporting talc.”

ACC also dropped a similar case forwarded to the commission by RAA. The case concerns suspected collusion between the labour ministry’s tender committee members, engineers and contractor in connection to tendering of the Nu 20 million Dolungang VTI construction in Sarpang.

The commission found no elements of corruption and dropped the case. It was alleged that the ministry had made payment of cost escalation against contract terms and conditions.

The other cases that ACC dropped are the alleged irregularisation of excess land in Hongtsho and suspected collusion involving two former land commission officials in the fraudulent regularisation of excess land in Phuentsholing.

In this particular case involving former land record officials, ACC officials said that it was presented to drangpons at a meeting as a case study. The judges said that there was no case legally, but only morally. Based on this, the commission had dropped the case.

Allegation of mismanagement of school funds by a principal in Trongsa was also dropped.

The commission, meanwhile, has forwarded its findings of alleged embezzlement of Nu 1.6M by the officer-in-charge at the telecom exchange office in Wamrong, Trashigang to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.

Rinzin Wangchuk

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