Ceiling for such expenses fixed at Nu 1.5M for ministers and equivalent post holders

MB Subba  

Ministries spent “unjustified expenses” amounting to Nu 9.8 million (M) on account of payments for soelranyendartshokchang, khaddhar and semso from the hospitality and entertainment budget between 2016 and 2018, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report 2020.

The PAC report, which is jointly compiled by the two houses of parliament, was presented at a joint sitting of parliament which concluded recently.

“The PAC noted that a number of observations were recurrent lapses reflected across different budgetary and non-budgetary agencies, year after year. The irregularities occurred not because of a lack of rules and regulations, procedures or systems, but failure on the part of implementing agencies to comply with,” PAC’s chair, Choida Jamtsho, said.

The PAC also observed that in many cases, agencies had not learnt from the past audit observations or followed the recommendations of Royal Audit Authority (RAA).

The committee stated that there was a need for guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses.

The use of the hospitality and entertainment budget was one of the thrust areas of audit in the fiscal year 2018-19. The RAA report points out various inconsistent practices adopted in the use of budget by the government.

“In absence of appropriate guidelines to regulate such expenditure, there is a risk of indiscriminate use and misappropriation of government fund,” reads the PAC report.

The report states that to provide appropriate control over the hospitality and entertainment expenditure, there is a need to develop guidelines that specifies principles, scope and purpose of such expenditures.

However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, during the discussion on the PAC report, said that the ceiling for the hospitality and entertainment expenses for ministers and minister equivalent post holders per year was fixed at Nu 1.5M.

NC Member from Gasa, Dorji Khandu, said that there should a proper guideline on the use of hospitality and entertainment expenses by cabinet members and equivalent post holders to control expenses.

“We need to follow certain rules when we use funds from the government’s consolidated fund,” he said. He said that proper guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses should be framed and implemented.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses were already formulated and that they were shared with all government departments. He said that the new guidelines are in force since July this year.

Former ministers, National Assembly Speaker, National Council Chairperson, Opposition Leader and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court spent Nu 55M on hospitality and entertainment from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, according to RAA report.

The expenditure excludes the discretionary grants of Nu 3M paid to ministerial rank individuals by the government.

The expenditure exceeded the approved hospitality and entertainment budget of Nu 40M for the year by Nu 15.01M, where re-appropriation of hospitality and entertainment expenses is not permitted as per the budgetary norms.

Of the 55.01M, more than Nu 14.74M was spent without supporting documents for soelra and tips, contributions, donations, chagyep, semso, nyendhar and other miscellaneous expenditure.