Nu 191B worth assets are still not restored to government

With many cases where assets have not been restituted to the government in accordance with court judgments, the National Assembly yesterday passed a recommendation asking the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to expedite the recovery of assets.

Almost Nu 191 billion worth of assets has not been restituted to the government since 2008. Only about Nu 45 million has been recovered so far.

This, according to the Drametse-Ngatshang Member of Parliament (MP) Ugyen Wangdi was because some of the convicts were either in prison, at large, have already served the imprisonment terms or have expired.

“These have posed challenges to recover the assets,” he said. “So, the Parliament must come up with a separate order to ensure how such cases could be dealt with and recover the assets.”

The Good Governance Committee of the House reviewed the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) report 2019 and tabled the recommendation. The members unanimously supported the recommendation.

Dewathang-Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji, who is a chairperson of the Committee, said that there should be a separate clerk to deal with such cases to expedite the recovery process. Some members pointed out that such challenges were because of a lack of human resources.

However, the Committee learnt that OAG has an ombudsman unit but it has only three officials, which was not enough to deal with such an increasing number of cases.

Bji-Kartshog MP Ugen Tenzin said that during the review it was found that many were unable to restitute the asset because they were imprisoned and some have not even recovered for almost 10 years. “We need to look into such cases and find ways to expedite the resolution of such issues.”

The Committee also recommended ACC conduct corruption risk management for policy and electoral system hereafter.

MP Ugyen Dorji said that this was because the review revealed that most of the corruption was committed at the policy level and in the electoral system.

Many members shared that there was a need to deploy an ACC official during the election period to prevent any kind of corruption from taking place related to the election. A few members said that the Election Commission of Bhutan already deploys officials as observers during the election, so there was no need for a separate one.

Despite members arguing among themselves citing examples of how corruption would have taken place during the different elections, some members said that it was not important to focus on the issue that was already resolved but instead prevent corruption from happening.

All 37 members present in the House voted in favour of the recommendation. The recommendations will be now submitted to the government for further action.

The ACC received 396 complaints in 2019, which was an increase of 63 complaints as compared to 2018. A total of 138 complaints were from known sources and 258 complaints from anonymous sources.

As per the record with ACC, most complaints were in the area of resources followed by contract and personal, and abuse of function.

By Yangchen C Rinzin

Edited by Tshering Palden