… they were unaware they have to address the audit issues 

Dechen Dolkar 

More than a month after they completed their terms, more than fifty retired Local Government (LG) members could not avail of their retirement benefits owing to various reasons.

The LG members are entitled to get gratuity, provident fund (PF) and group insurance scheme (GIS) when they complete their terms. The LG members ended their term in October this year.

Some retired LG members said that they have not received gratuity from the respective dzongkhags while they received the provident fund and GIS contributions.

Retired LG members said that they have been waiting to recieve their benefits. Some are recontesting in the third round of the LG elections. They said that if the benefits were disbursed it would help them to spend for their campaign.

The maximum amount of gratuity that LG members will get is more than Nu 200,000 and the minimum amount would be around Nu 65,000.

The dzongkhag tshogdu secretary in the dzongkhags collects documents from the LG members and submits them to the finance section for processing.

Some of the dzongkhags have already released the gratuity amount to the members while others have kept some on hold to disburse the amount to members since the LG members submitted incomplete documents.

Officials said that some of the members have submitted their documents late. To get the benefits they should submit documents before the 20th of the month.

If LG members submit their complete documents on time, the officials said they will release the money by the beginning of next month.

Some dzongkhags finance officers Kuensel talked to said that they are in the process of collecting documents from the members.

They said that they are planning to release the money to all members around the same time since the fund has to be routed through a supplementary budget from the Ministry of Finance.

Finance officials also said that since some of the members have submitted incomplete documents the other members’ claims had to be put on hold from processing.

The incomplete documents are audit clearance from the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) and tax clearance certificate from the regional revenue and customs office.

According to the RAA, around 35 gups and 19 mangmi are not issued the audit clearance.

The Deputy Auditor General heading the Department of Follow-up and Regions, Minjur Dorji said that if the pending audit issues are not resolved the RAA is not able to facilitate the audit clearance for them.

The LG members are held accountable for any audit issues in the gewog. They are held accountable either for supervision or directly liable.

The Deputy Audit General said that direct accountability is for individual-level and supervisory accountability can be transferred to the next incoming members if they agree and RAA will facilitate in issuing the audit clearance.

He also said that there are around five cases of embezzlement which are under the Anti-Corruption Commission. Until these cases are resolved they cannot issue the audit clearance.

“In the supervisory accountability most of the cases are with gup since they are the head of the agency which they have to supervise,” He said.

He said for fixing direct accountability, most of the cases are on excess payment and related to travel allowances and daily allowances.

In the first LG members, even one of the members could not take the retirement benefits as the audit clearance was not issued.

He said that most of the LG members were not aware that they need to clear the audit issues and obtain audit clearance.  They neglect to clear the audit issues and resolve them since they are not educated on such issues.

“They are unaware if they are accountable for any kind of developmental activities in the gewog,” he said.

For instance, in the annual RAA report 2020-2021, pointed out  that the gewog administration, Bjabcho had made payments of Nu 0.039M against petty purchases where invoice numbers did not match with the details reflected in the disbursement voucher raising questions on the authenticity of the payment.

The gewog administration, Shaba had also made payment amounting to Nu 0.268M for works not executed at site in the renovation of irrigation channel at Zhengo Thangyul.

The accountant of the dungkhag administration in Gelephu had misappropriated cash of Nu 6.464M from the LC accounts of Dungkhag and gewog. The accounts of both agencies were operated single-handedly. The absence of proper check and controls provided an opportunity for perpetrating the fraud.