The Opposition has warned that it is considering taking the government to court for corruption and violation of law.

Speaking at a press conference on February 7 in Thimphu, opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said it exercised restraint on several incidences of violations of law to allow smooth functioning of the government and to maintain peace and harmony. “However, the unfounded allegations against former works and human settlement minister Yeshey Zimba is forcing us to pursue legal course of action,” he said.

One such incidence of corruption, he said, was the development of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s private residence at Taba, Thimphu with public resources.

Pema Gyamtsho said, a thorough investigation needs to be carried out into the alleged misuse of public resources by the Prime Minister to develop his private residence. The misuse of public resources for private benefits, he said, was a serious form of corruption.

A press release issued by the Opposition states that, “If the prime minister is a champion of controlling corruption as he seems to claim, how about the use of government money amounting to Nu 3 million (M) to develop his private residence at Taba? We will have to request ACC to investigate this issue as a case of corruption by the highest elected official.”

A memo signed by the works and human settlement secretary, Phuntsho Wangdi, states that the ministry carried out construction works worth Nu 2.959M for a security system at the prime minister’s residence at Taba.

The work included the construction of a guard house, a compound wall, electrification works, works related to water supply, construction of an electric sliding gate and carving and painting works. The memo stated that the work was carried out as per the instruction received from the Cabinet Secretariat through letter No S-11/410, dated July 22, 2015.

The Opposition called the press conference in response to the government’s request to ACC to investigate an alleged case of conflict of interest against the former works and human settlement minister.

The government last month alleged that the fiscal incentive granted to hotels in 2013 by the 156th Cabinet session, which was chaired by the former minister, benefited Hotel Le Meridien, which belongs to his daughter.

DPT’s vice president, MP Ugyen Wangdi, said evidences were easy to produce as the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) had already issued a memo regarding the issue.

Ugyen Wangdi said it had come to the notice of the Opposition that the prime minister had refunded the money to the government coffer after the RAA uncovered the lapse. “We are exploring options to urge an investigation,” he said.

The Opposition also says that it has kept options open to request the ACC to investigate possible commitment of conflict of interest on the import of second hand vehicles against the existing rules for the benefit of party supporters and exemption of tax on them.

“There are many issues on which we can sue the government. We exercised restraint because we didn’t want to create unnecessary disharmony in the society,” Ugyen Wangdi said.

The Opposition also said that the government’s decision to procure a huge number of Bolero vehicles for gewogs from a single dealer was against the Constitution, which does not allow monopoly.

The party warned that it could also sue the government for illegal income tax exemption to small and micro business in rural areas without the Parliament’ approval.

According to Ugyen Wangdi, the customs duty and sales tax exemption given to booksellers for a year in 2015 without following due process of tax alteration by Parliament was illegal.

The establishment of the erstwhile Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BOiC) in 2014, the Opposition says, was not only illegal, but also a waste of public resources for the benefit of few individuals. That the establishment of BOiC was illegal has been proven,” Ugyen Wangdi said.

“The prime minister was spearheading the government’s desperate attempt to defame and discredit other political figures by bringing up ridiculous charges against them,” the opposition leader said.

The prime minister asking the Office of Attorney General (OAG) to investigate a possible case of corruption involving one of his MPs and party officials, he said, showed that he was not sincere in fighting corruption and questioned the prime minister’s decision to refer the case to OAG instead of the ACC.

“It was the affected people who brought up the issue, not the prime minister. The people had complained to him and agriculture minister, but no action was taken,” he said.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the opposition’s press release contains many wild allegations. “The sole purpose of which is obvious  – to divert the nation’s attention from the main issue at hand, which was the major political corruption involved in the fiscal incentives that was granted by the previous government,” he said. “Since I am not in Thimphu at the moment, I will look forward to addressing each and every one of the allegations as soon as I return.”

MB Subba