The ACC had left the decision up to the dzongkhag following the gup being charged with corruption in Dagana

Law: Trongsa has decided not to suspend the Langthel gup, Lham Dorji, despite an Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) directive that permits the dzongkhag to suspend him after he was charged for criminal offences in Dagana court.

According to an ACC letter dated June 19, the gup was allegedly involved in corruption during construction of the drubkhang of Shathong Goenpa in Tseza gewog. The gup had constructed the drubkhang as a contractor in 2009 before becoming a gup in 2011.

Reliable sources shared that the case involves discrepancy between the quoted price and actual claims made by the gup. The gup allegedly claimed Nu 5.6 million (M) against a quoted price of Nu 5M for construction of the drubkhang.

The Royal Audit Authority later discovered the discrepancies, which are now being handled by ACC in the court of law.

On June 19, ACC wrote to Trongsa permitting the suspension of the gup on charges of corruption.

“In line with section 168 of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB), 2011, the commission would like to inform that the following public servant has been charged with criminal offence before the honourable dzongkhag court in Dagana in connection with corruption case in construction of drubkhang at Shathong goenpa,” the letter stated.

The letter also stated that suspension once charges are filed must be based on whether the public servant when in office has the opportunity or is in a position to impede or frustrate the prosecution or commit further acts of malfeasance or both.

“If the decision is not to suspend him, the office must ensure that he does not use public resources including office time to appear before the court,” the letter stated.

Department of Local Government (DLG) also wrote to the dzongkhag to follow up on the suspension of the gup recently. Following the letter from DLG, the dzongkhag formed a committee consisting of the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) chairperson, and legal, electoral, planning officers, amongst others, where the decision was made recently.

DT chairperson, Tashi Peldhen said since the committee found no room for the gup to either use public resources nor office time to appear in the court, it decided to forgo the suspension. The committee also saw no need to suspend the gup because the case has already wound up with its hearings.

The other reason the committee decided not to suspend the gup was because the letter from ACC did not order the suspension of the gup. “We didn’t suspend the gup based on the discretionary power left to the dzongkhag by the ACC to see whether adequate factors exists to suspend the local leader,” a committee member said.

“A competent authority must be engaged in executing the administrative responsibility of ordering suspension in consonance with the principle of administrative law, natural justice and procedural due process,” the letter stated.

The committee also did not see the need to suspend the gup as the case indiscriminate of its nature happened outside Trongsa. The committee felt that the case has nothing to do with the gup’s current post since it was executed under a different occupational capacity.

“It was decided for the larger interest of the public service delivery since suspension of gup would rather affect people in need of public services,” another member from the committee said, adding the notification also came quite late to the dzongkhag.

“They have already wound up the trial by the time the suspension letter reached us,” the member said.

Tashi Peldhen added that it would depend on the nature of verdict on whether the gup would have to resign if convicted by the court. “He might have to vacate the office if it’s a criminal offence but he needn’t if it’s a civil case,” Tashi Peldhen said.

The Supreme Court recently notified that an elected leader upon conviction irrespective of prison time  sentence must resign.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trongsa