… Finance minister says it is his prerogative and that of the ministry’s

MB Subba 

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday issued a press release, drawing the attention of the government on the use of Nu 19 million (M) from the General Reserve (GR) to meet the capital expenditure of gewogs in Paro in the financial year 2020-21.

The party stated that it was alarmed that the finance minister had “recklessly misused” the amount from the GR to finance non-critical works such as improving farm roads and irrigation channels and the construction of a lam’s residence.

“In a brazen disregard to prudent financial governance, the Finance Minister has actually used the Nu 19 million to finance projects in his constituency (Dogar Shaba) in Paro,” it stated.

The party stated that it was surprised that the money was in addition to the normal gewog budget received by the gewogs in the minister’s constituency.

“This reckless action of the finance minister has breached the guidelines of GR usage and has now deprived the nation of a proportionate amount during the times of disaster and emergencies.”

The press release stated that Nu 19M from the GR was “siphoned to the minister’s constituency”, and that it tantamount to political corruption where public finance has been “abused for political gratification”.

“In view of the gross violation of budgetary guidelines, misuse of authority, and political corruption, PDP calls on the concerned agencies to correct the wrongdoing of the finance minister and hold him accountable,” it stated.

However, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that making “technical adjustments” in the allocation of budgets was within the prerogative of the Ministry of Finance and the minister.

He cited the Financial Management Manual, which states that the ministry may authorise additional budget through technical adjustment but remaining within the total approved budget. He said that the technical adjustment was made within the budget passed by Parliament.

The minister said that the fund was used for building public infrastructure at the request of the local government. 

He said that Paro was one of the dzongkhags that received the least amount of budget. He also said that there were no rules on the general reserve, which could be used for such purposes.

“The fund has been used within the budget passed by Parliament,” Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, who is also the MP of Dogar Shaba constituency in Paro.

He said that in 2016, the former finance minister delegated full power to the finance secretary on matters relating to technical adjustment within the approved budget and that includes transfer from the General Reserve for new capital activities.

“This means the Minister has the full financial power when it comes to technical adjustment within the total approved budget of that particular fiscal year,” the minister said.

He said that the PDP had politicised the issue and that it tried to gain the attention of the people. 

The finance minister added that the capital budget utilisation in the past fiscal years was low and that spending needed to be increased through the allocation of budget in activities that did not require foreign workers.

The PDP acknowledged RAA for the “thorough investigation” and its report on the misuse of the GR by the finance minister.

“We are alarmed that the Finance Minister who is charged with the responsibility of prudent use of national finances would actually abuse his authority to misuse the GRF,” PDP stated.

The party urged the Prime Minister’s Office, the Opposition Party, the National Council, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the media to take up the matter with due seriousness it warranted to set a good precedent for future political governments.

According to the party, GR is a fund created for specialised needs such as during natural disasters, emergencies and for national interest works.

The press release stated that the governments in the past have traditionally exercised great prudence in the use of GR. “The country has therefore been served very well by the General Reserve during disasters, emergencies and specialised national interest projects.”

Edited by Tshering Palden