Appeals to ACC to investigate the selection process

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The General Manager, Research and Development Department of the Bhutan Development Bank Limited has appealed to the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate “the lapses in the selection process” of the bank’s post of Chief Executive Officer.

Two candidates were shortlisted including the General Manager. However, he was disqualified 30 minutes before the interview on December 2. To his surprise, a candidate who had not applied for the post was interviewed on the same day.

How it happened

On August 5 this year, the BDBL management announced the vacant post of CEO in the media and the company’s website for selection through open competition as per the Corporate Governance Guidelines for State Enterprises (CGGSE) 2019.

The criterion stated that the candidate should have a minimum of Bachelor’s Degree (full-time) with preference specified for candidates having Master’s degree in finance, economics, business administration or other relevant fields. Other criterion included a minimum of 15 years of work experience in government agencies/public or private companies and a  minimum active service of five years at senior managerial level (P1 A and above in the Civil Service and General Manager and above or equivalent position in the Corporate/Private Sector). The announcement also stated that preference would be given to candidates having relevant work experience.   

The last date for submission of application to the BDBL board’s company secretary was August 20 at 11.30am.  Eight candidates applied.

On October 21, the management re-announced the CEO’s position with some changes in the work experience criteria. The minimum active service of five years at senior managerial level (P1 A and above in the Civil Service and General Manager and above or equivalent position in the Corporate/Private Sector) was reduced to three years in the re-announcement.

The last date for submission of application was on or before 5 pm of October 31, 2022. Candidates who submitted the applications earlier were not required to submit again. Two more candidates applied and the number of applicants increased to 10.

The management shortlisted two candidates after screening 10 applicants. The CGGSE  requires a maximum of five potential candidates to be shortlisted and invite them for interview by the Board and rank the candidates.

Before short-listing the candidates, it requires to conduct due diligence of the applicants which include checks on integrity and records of past performance.

Allegations of  favouritism 

The General Manager’s complaint to the ACC on December 2, 5 and 9 stated that a senior MoF official informed BDBL’s officiating company secretary to reduce the number of experience served at P1 level from five to three years after the post was already announced in the media.

“Is MoF official empowered to make changes in the selection criteria after the criteria was approved by the Board and made public through media?” the letter to ACC stated. It stated that the CGGSE was signed by the incumbent finance minister in 2019 and the MoF official should have at least referred this guideline.

The General Manager in his letter to ACC also  alleged that the Transformation Taskforce (TTF) sent a letter to BDBL chairman nominating a candidate after the expiry of the application submission deadline. “The same candidate was interviewed by an interview panelist comprising three members from TTF. Such intervention is breaching section 63 of Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan, 2011 and section 3.2.11 on Model Guideline on Managing Conflict of Interest in the public Sector, 2017 (ACB),” the letter stated.

The BDBL Board chairman did not want to comment when contacted.

Why was the GM  disqualified?

The General Manager was disqualified by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) based on an objection letter from ACC on November 24. However, he was informed only on December 2, when the applicant was about to enter the interview room.

The former CEO issued a reprimand letter to the applicant on September 15, 2017 for some oversight and management lapses.

He also questioned why RMA waited until December 2 to inform him that he is barred from the interview. “By the time I knew the interview panellist have reached the interview hall and I was all set to enter the interview hall since my reporting time was at 10.15am as notified by officiating company secretary.”

He said that he submitted his filled “Fit and Proper test form and CIB report” to the officiating company secretary on November 14, a day earlier than the submission deadline. On November 19 at 11.52am, he was informed over email that he was shortlisted for the CEO interview.

The applicant was also denied clearance by the RMA to compete for the post of FITI’s CEO in mid this year.

In his letter to ACC, he submitted that he was not accountable for the lapses that resulted in the reprimand letter from the former CEO and challenges the investigation and how accountability of lapses was fixed. He also claimed that his written explanation to the investigation team was hidden. “I fail to understand the basis for the Board’s decision to reprimand me. I have reported the incident to my CEO, Board chairman and ACC as no conclusive action was taken from their side.”

The General Manager also questioned the validity of the reprimand letter. “Even in the court judgements there is a timeframe on the penalties imposed,” he said. His reprimand letter was issued on September 15, 2017.