NC: The National Council decided not to deliberate the formation of a new agency to maintain and store seized goods and properties as recommended by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in its 2015 annual report.

In its recommendations from the report, the commission stated that currently, ACC with other regulatory authorities like the police, Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority, Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority, Department of Forests and Parks Services and the revenue and customs department have maintained and stored goods they have seized.

“For efficient and professional management of such goods and properties, creation of dedicated and centralised agency is desirable,” the recommendation stated.

Anti-corruption Commission also opined that the Department of National Properties under the finance ministry is responsible only for government properties and may not be the appropriate agency to undertake this responsibility. But the recommendation on a new agency however was discarded from the Good Governance Committee’s agenda following which some members pushed for its inclusion in the committee’s agenda.

“Their recommendation is whether the parliament would support formation of such agency,” Samtse National Council member Sangay Khandu said, adding one of the houses should begin deliberating whether the parliament supports such recommendations.

“If such office is opened in Thimphu, the same office might also have to be opened in all the 20 dzongkhags and whether opening of so many offices is affordable or not has to be studied,” Sangay Khandu said.

He therefore asked if the Good Governance Committee could include in the recommendations agenda, the formation of a new agency for further deliberations.

“If it can be deliberated now then its outcome can be presented in the next year’s session to make things more clearer,” Sangay Khandu said.

Tashi Wangmo said that the Good Governance Committee discarded the recommendations from its recommendations because it needed to be deliberated either with other committees or the house. “Moreover, the need for more deliberations in the house was also felt necessary to understand whether the parliament forming such an agency would not cause other problems,” Tashi Wangmo said. “There was also need to study properly whether there are no other options.”

Bumthang National Council member, Nima however said that initiating such recommendation would be in contravention to the Royal Civil Service Commission’s human resource policy to have a compact and efficient bureaucracy.

“Options must be studied whether there are no other options to setting up a new office to take care of the seized goods and property,” he said. “Only if other available options fail should adoption of new office be supported.”

Pemagatshel Member of Parliament, Jigmi Rinzin said though the recommendation is important, it is difficult to say whether a new agency and new law can be formed without proper review.

“It would be better for now if the commission could frame a regulation on seized goods and property as an interim measure based on its own ACC Act,” Jigmi Rinzin said.

Jigmi Rinzin added when the case has been resolved from the court depending upon the outcome of the verdict, seized goods and properties can be either returned to its owners or can be handed over to the government. Then it could be surrendered to the national property department.

The National Council Chairperson, Dasho (PhD) Sonam Kinga said that though it is an important issue, it could not be included in the agenda for deliberation.

“Whatever problems it is, the idea of adopting a new agency and regulations should be kept as among the last of the resorts,” Dasho (PhD) Sonam Kinga said. “Only under dire situations when there is no choice such solutions are adopted,” Dasho (PhD) Sonam Kinga said.

Tempa Wangdi