Transporting private timber is not an emergency: OAG

Defendant Rinzin Dorje is liable to restitute Nu 111,640 for misusing pool vehicle

Judiciary: Submitting the grounds of appeal against the Haa court ruling in favour of the former foreign minister yesterday, the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) prosecutors requested the High Court Bench I to interpret whether the pool vehicle the defendant had used can be construed as pressing and emergency personal need.

Such interpretation, according to OAG prosecutors, is necessary to prevent and control misuse of pool vehicles.

Dissatisfied with the ruling of the lower court, the appellant submitted that the Haa court dismissed the second charge of embezzlement of public property based on the finance ministry’s circular of January 13, 2000, which allowed a civil servant to use pool vehicles under pressing and emergency personal needs.

“For the OAG, transportation of private timber from Haa to Pamtsho in Thimphu does not fall under this category,” prosecutor Ugyen Wangchuk said.

Haa court’s verdict stated that, “under pressing and emergency personal needs, a public servant who is using the pool vehicle is responsible to fuel the car and pay DSA for drivers. He is also responsible for the loss if the vehicle meets with an accident.”

The verdict had stated that the prosecutor also failed to prove that the defendant had intentionally resorted to embezzle public property.

The prosecutors yesterday submitted that the finance ministry’s amended rules on the use of pool vehicles’ section 3.3 stated that use for pressing and emergency personal need of the government servants may be permitted with prior approval of the head of the agency. “However, at that point of time, defendant Rinzin Dorje was the head of the dzongkhag administration as the Dzongdag and he should sought approval from the central government to use the dzongkhag DCM truck,” the prosecutors stated. “But he didn’t do so.”

The OAG also submitted that the lower court had considered only eight trips that the defendant had made to transport his timber based on the movement order record maintained with the dzongkhag administration even though the DCM truck made 10 trips. The prosecutors requested the court to verify movement orders with entry records maintained at the Chuzom check post between Haa and Thimphu and admit as 10 trips. “The defendant also submitted his statement to the lower court that he transported made 10 trips,” the appeal letter stated.

The Anti Corruption Commission’s (ACC) investigation found that the movement orders of the DCM truck were signed by Rinzin Dorje and his subordinates on his instruction.

The ACC found that he should refund Nu 80,000 for the transportation of his private timber for 10 trips.

However, the court asked him to restitute Nu 4,166 to the government for being unable to produce two receipts for fuelling the vehicle.  The prosecutors submitted that section 5.3 of the amended rules on the use of pool vehicles stated that the concerned heads of agencies shall levy a fine of Nu 1,000 on the defaulting officials for misuse of pool vehicles within the duty station. Further, unauthorised travel beyond duty station will entail an imposition of a fine of Nu 1,000 and three times the mileage at the prevailing government rates.

The prosecutor submitted that the mileage rate at the time was Nu 14 a kilometer. Therefore, the OAG requested the court to restitute a sum of Nu 111,640 from the defendant for the misuse of pool vehicles and transportation cost.

OAG representatives also requested the court to take administrative action against the defendant as the misuse of pool vehicle does not construe a criminal liability.

Meanwhile, MP Rinzin Dorje, who joined office on August 7 has hired a legal counsel to represent him in the court. His legal counsel will rebut to OAG’s appeal on August 24.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

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