Rinzin Wangchuk

Thimphu police are zooming into the alleged fraud, forgery, and collusion at the Bhutan National Bank Limited (BNBL) in connection with the recruitment of 15 supporting staff.

This is the third investigation of the same issue. The suspected fraud and corruption first surfaced in 2019 after the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) conducted compliance auditing in the bank.

Since there were some elements of corruption and forgery, RAA forwarded the report to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for further investigation. ACC officials confirmed that the commission forwarded the case to police as it involved manipulation of documents and forgery.

An investigating police officer said that they don’t have any comment on this as they have just begun investigation into the allegations.

Kuensel learnt that the police began the investigation on July 15 and reportedly began interrogating individuals, who submitted forged documents, and officials involved in the recruitment process.

How the issue surfaced?

BNBL announced vacancy for support staff in April 2017 and February 2018 with certain criteria. There were 1,070 applicants, of which 75 applicants were shortlisted for viva voce and then 15 were finally recruited for the various announced posts.

Later, some contestants knew that they were deprived of the opportunities due to collusion and fake class eight mark sheets. Sources said that some disgruntled applicants complaint anonymously to the management of BNBL, RAA and ACC to investigate the recruitment process.

The anonymous letter stated that it was learnt later that the staff within the BNBL were involved and colluded in abetting the mass forgery of documents to eliminate other genuine competitors and victimised the innocent.

They also alleged that some members of the recruitment panel encouraged and abetted few applicants related to them from the same village.

One of the criteria for selection processes the applicants were supposed to submit was the Class Eight Marksheet. In the format, there were two columns indicating half-year assessment marks and end of the year assessment marks obtained by the students without which the academic documents were considered incomplete. But some of the class eight mark sheets submitted to HRO had only the end of the year assessment marks.

“This has been deliberately overlooked by HRO to recruit the candidates on collusion,” the anonymous statement stated.

Sources said that the recruitment viva interview was just to fulfil the required formality and the selection and recruitment was done purely based on the marks obtained in class eight.

They alleged that besides other members colluding with the panellists, some staff allegedly influenced the recruitment committee to secure job for their spouses.

According to officials from BNBL, the management formed a high-level committee to look into the recruitment process and decide accordingly. The committee then took a decision to send 10 supporting staff on compulsory retirement but with service benefits.

“Since they were from the lowest level, the management decided to give them retirement benefits on humanitarian ground,” an official said.

Final RAA’s findings

RAA also issued two audit reports of the BNBL along with it audit annual report 2019 on July 20.  RAA found that the bank had recruited 10 staff who had submitted forged mark sheets at the time of selection. The candidates had deliberately manipulated and forged their original result to fulfil criteria.

The report also stated that the concerned dealing officials had failed to exercise due diligence in verifying the genuineness of the documents submitted by the applicants.

Of the 10 staff recruited based on forged documents, five employees were separated from services with benefits instead of being terminated, according to the audit report.

The remaining five employees are still serving with the Bank. “Three employees have been confirmed to have also submitted forged documents but no actions were taken at the time of audit in August 2019, “ the report stated.

It also stated that the documents for two employees could not be authenticated as the concerned school authorities were unable to validate their results due to non-availability of records as stated in their response. “Non-termination of such employees, despite being aware of the deceptive practices was in contravention to the BNBL Human Resource Policy Manual 2016.”

BNBL paid Nu 0.154 million as retirement benefits to six staff in contravention to the Human Resource Policy Manual. “The bank instead of terminating services of those staff who had been recruited based on forged documents had asked the employees to put up resignation letters, which were then accepted and employees relieved from service with benefits,” the report stated.

There were 13 observations amounting to Nu 230.785M, which were not resolved as of 31 January 2020 and Nu 0.884M did not qualify for inclusion in the AAR 2019.