For awarding construction work contravening procurement rules

Staff Reporter

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Kuensel learnt, has forwarded a case for prosecution related to abuse of power to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) implicating two former ministers.

Officials of the OAG confirmed receiving the case recently, but declined to share details. A committee, it was learnt, was reviewing the case, which was not even sent to the OAG’s corpus.

Kuensel learnt that ACC investigated the case after the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) forwarded its 2019 Annual Audit Report to the ACC. However, ACC officials declined to share details of the case.

The alleged abuse of power is in relation to contravening procurement rules and directly awarding construction work  –  Package XV of the Northern East-west Highway Project (NEHP) – to Empire Construction resulting in a financial loss of Nu 15.861 million (M) to the government.

The RAA forwarded the case to the ACC in 2020.

The 2019 audit report stated that the “Ministry of Finance” had approved the direct award of work for pavement construction from Nobding to Dungdungnyelsa covering chainages from 395km to 392.25km with a total road stretch of 2.75km to Empire Construction.

The direct award was based on the proposal submitted by the former minister for work and human settlement, Dasho Dorji Choden, in lieu of the work made to surrender by the previous contractor under the Regional Office, Trongsa, according to the report.

The former finance minister, Namgay Dorji, it was learnt, was made accountable for directly approving the award.

The audit report stated that the direct award had led to exorbitantly high analysed rates for sand and aggregates in comparison to the Bhutan Schedule of Rates leading to huge cost differences. “The surrender of ongoing work and direct award of additional work were not justified besides violation of the procurement norms,” the audit report stated.

The previous contractor was paid for the whole contract amount despite only completing 30 percent of the work leading to the financial implications besides total disregard to the procurement rules.

The report stated that Empire Construction was executing another construction work at Dzongkhalum at Trongsa and that although the progress of the work was very slow and the Contractor faced a penalty, the DoR had asked the contractor to surrender the work after paying the full amount and also given another work without following procurement norms.