Yangchen C Rinzin 

To curb excessive expenditure and ensure equal business opportunity for hotels, the government instructed all agencies to hold meetings, conference, and official gatherings in registered hotels.

The public agencies should comply with the Guidelines on Standard Rates for Food and Lodging and Hiring of Vehicles.

As per guidelines, agencies must inform or route through a focal officer appointed in each dzongkhag to book a hotel for the conference or meetings.

No agency is allowed to book a hotel directly with the registered hotels with respective dzongkhags.

Some of the agencies, Kuensel learnt, bypassed the procedure and booked venues for meetings directly. In some cases, the focal official knew only after the agency was done with the conference and left the hotel.

A few learned after hoteliers informed them that some agency directly booked conference hall and enquired if it was allowed. Focal officials Kuensel talked to said that some agency demanded they be given the particular hotel or resort.

The decision to provide only registered hotels was following the finance ministry’s notification issued in December 2020. The government had decided that budgetary bodies should use hotels registered with the Department of National Properties (DNP).

The government also decided that only 50 percent of the daily allowance would be applicable if food and lodge are provided.

Learning about such incidences, the DNP, which drew the guidelines, issued a notification on February 10, asking all agencies to comply with the guidelines.

The notification stated that with the relaxation of lockdown, an increasing number of conferences/meetings/retreat is being organised by the government agencies. “There have been issues of noncompliance to the guidelines when logistic are being undertaken by the officials related to the project without consultation and guidance from the procurement personnel.”

The guidelines’ objective is to set the standard rate of hotel and transportation services, provide an equal opportunity to host meetings/conferences or official gatherings for government agencies and provide income to hoteliers and hiring agents.

To ensure that hotels in particular dzongkhags get equal opportunity and for effective implementation, DNP appointed Dzongkhag focal officials from each dzongkhag.

The official should ensure that hotels are allocated on a rotational basis fairly and equitably by directly liaising with the requesting agencies.

Agencies will have to fill the form and submit it to the focal person to book a hotel for any programme. Based on the requirement like the number of participants, it can allot the available hotel after discussing with internal management at dzongkhag level.

The management can also review cost-benefit and decide whether to hire a vehicle or permit private cars. Otherwise, an agency should hire vehicles for transportation.

“There was one incident where an agency had booked the hotel that was not registered and came for the conference. We had to intervene before the conference, and I requested them to shift to another hotel, which they agreed after several negotiations,” a focal officer said.

A few focal officers, especially in the West, said they receive call almost daily seeking for a hotel to conduct a training or seminar in particular hotels.

There are 74 hotels registered in nine dzongkhags.

Each hotel was registered after they agreed with the fixed rates. It would cost Nu 875 per night for budget hotel per head and Nu 1,062 per head per night for 3 star and above.

However, if a meeting is only for one day, an agency can book a hotel through focal officer for conference hall at Nu 6,000 and Nu 800 per day for 3-star hotel and above.

Another focal officer said that some agencies requested some hotels, as they had to leave the training half due to lockdown and the payment was already made.

“If the agency is not happy with the hotel that we arranged and decides to bypass, they are defeating the sole purpose of guidelines,” an officer said. “Some demands for spacious parking space and big rooms.”

While some agencies are not aware of the protocol, some have deliberately not route through focal officers.

Meanwhile, the guidelines would be piloted for six months, and the DNP will review accordingly.