The head of operations for International Institute of Hospitality and Wellness Studies (IIWS), Manav Dhingra has refuted the allegations and findings of the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) investigation on corrupt practices in the overseas employment programme in India.

The findings established that IIWS bagged tenders repeatedly for training and placements of Bhutanese youth in India and Manav Dhingra was also accused of bribing and giving expensive gifts to labour ministry officials.

The case was reported to ACC in November 2017.

IIWS is an academy based in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India that provides training on beauty, hair, spa and hospitality. It is owned by Manav Dhingra’s wife, Vineeta Dhingra. Manav Dhingra manages the academy as a head of operations.

The IIWS has been involved in training and placement of Bhutanese youth to various firms in India since 2010.

In a telephone interview with Kuensel yesterday, Manav Dhingra refuted the allegations and said that the findings had clearly stated that there was no discrepancy in the award of tender.  “What is ACC trying to find out by establishing collusion that has no link with the tender process?” he said.

Manav Dhingra claimed that the entire placement contract he got was through lawful tender processing where he trained and employed youth in India and he did not bribe both the former minister and DG including other labour officials.

While the ACC findings was unable to establish ‘quid pro quo’ relationship between former labour minister and Manav Dhingra, the team found that the former labour minister had proposed to jointly set up an earth moving equipment-hiring business, M/s Tshomo Hiring, which was established on April 15 2016.

According to ACC, the former minister accepted jewelry worth INR 156,983 from a prohibited source, Manav Dhingra.

“How can ACC establish that the minister favoured me? I only accepted the business proposals because I was offered repeatedly and couldn’t say no to the minister,” he said, adding that this has nothing to do with the placement contract he got from the labour ministry.

Manav Dhingra said he was doing business but was not bribing officials to get tender and that his business was not as lucrative where he could bribe officials with huge amount.

ACC’s finding allege that the DG solicited and accepted a favour from Manav Dhingra to set up tissue business for his son and that the son had also gone to pick him up from Paro airport.

“Why is ACC linking our personal business ideas with the placement contract tender as I have been participating in the tender legally?” he claimed. “What has their findings to do with our personal business, which I was not even involved in apart from helping them procure the machine?”

He stressed that if DG or the former minister had favoured him, why would he lose two tenders to other institutions in 2016.

“DG was not the only tender committee member; there were 15 other officials. So how can one person influence the tender processing,” he said. “I used to get placement contract directly prior to 2014 because there was no other institutions , international and local participating in the process.”

He also said there were many other officials who came to pick him from the airport, which ACC did not mention in their findings apart from the DG’s son.

“Picking up from airport was just a help from the ministry just like I provide such facilities like transportation and accommodation when Bhutanese officials are in India,” he said.

ACC’s finding also established Manav Dhingre of gifting labour ministry officials pens, mobile phones and watches (valued below INR 9,000) and providing financial help.

Manav claimed that it was a mere exchange of gifts or a token of gratitude given to officials during their visit to India and ACC should prove which officials received these gifts as bribe.

“ACC asked me if I gave anything and the worth. I told them that when the entire tender process and awarding of work is complete, the ministry holds a party in which we receive or give gifts. Then ACC quoted that prices and established as bribe, which is not fair.”

Manav Dhingra said if he had bribed the officials then why would he call ACC to interrogate him. “Why is ACC not investigating other local institutions where the ministry has found many discrepancies and is only after us just because we had a relationship at personal level.”

Yangchen C Rinzin