ACC has suspended three trade licenses and a CDB license of businesses involved 

Update: The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) on January 26 suspended three trade licenses and a construction development board (CDB) license of three business entities in connection with the alleged corruption case of lhakhang Karpo conservation project in Haa.

ACC suspended the trade license and CDB license of TNW Construction, Haa, and the trade licenses of Pema tshongkhang and Druk Leading enterprise, both based in Paro.

Their licenses were suspended for allegedly bribing project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen and supplying poor quality of sand to lhakhang Karpo.  TNW construction’s owner, Tshewang Rinzin, is also charged with passive trading to influence, as he had bribed the project engineer with Nu 100,000 in May 2011.

Pema tshongkhang’s trade license was suspended for forging bid documents and offering a Samsung phone worth Nu 33,500 to the project engineer, who in return allowed forged bids and cleared an amount of Nu 0.624M in payments for repairing the existing water supply system at lhakhang Karpo.  Nima of Pema tshongkhang is also charged with forgery.

ACC has notified all public agencies to refrain from entering into any contractual relations with these business entities. “The suspension shall remain in force, unless otherwise rescinded by the commission, or until the completion of legal proceedings and adjudication by the court,” the ACC notification states. “However, the suspension should not affect the current works in hand.”

Earlier on November 8, 2013, ACC also revoked the contract for sawing timber, which foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, who was then the former Haa dzongda, had unilaterally awarded to LD sawmill. Tshewang Penjor, a former Katsho gup, had leased LD sawmill from Leki Dorji during the lhakhang’s construction.

The open tender for establishment of sawmill for sawing logs for lhakhang Karpo project was floated on September 13, 2011.  About 10 people participated in the tender.  The tender committee had decided to re-tender the contract, due to “abnormally” high rates offered by the lowest bidder, in comparison to the prevailing market rate at that time.  Tshewang Penjor, who was the lowest bidder, quoted Nu 37.7 per cubic feet (cft), although the market rate was between Nu 18 and Nu 20.

However, it was found that re-tendering had not been done, and the work was awarded to the same bidder, LD Sawmill, on January 21, 2012 without approval of the tender committee.

On investigation, ACC officials found that Tshewang Penjor had submitted an application to the former Haa dzongda, stating he would supply sawn timber for Nu 27 per cft.  Based on his request, the then dzongda had remarked on the application, indicating the price could be 50 percent more than the market price.

ACC officials then found that the contract was awarded illegally, without consulting the tender committee, and the payment of Nu 1.4M was made based on Nu 37.7 per cft, which the committee had initially rejected.

Tshewang Penjor is charged with passive trading in influence.  The ACC Act stated that a person, who directly solicits or accepts an advantage from any other person for himself or herself, or for any other person in order to make use of his or her real or supposed influence to obtain any work, employment, contract or other benefits from a public agency, shall be guilty of an offence.

Meanwhile, the Haa district court judge, Duba Drukpa, who declared in writing his conflict of interest of being a dorji puen (spiritual brother) of foreign minister in the case to the Supreme Court Chief Justice, on January 26, said court officials are compiling the charges against seven individuals implicated for corruption. “The court proceedings will begin very soon,” drangpon Duba Drukpa said.

Rinzin Wangchuk