The Gakidling gup has appealed to the district court against the dungkhag court’s verdict

Corruption: Two local government leaders were sentenced to prison terms, ranging from seven months and 15 days to 15 months, for misappropriation of a lhakhang construction’s budget in Gakidling gewog in Sangbeykha dungkhag, Haa.

Gakidling gup Tshering Wangdi, however, appealed to the district court this week against the Sangbeykha dungkhag court’s verdict, which sentenced him for 15 months in prison on January 30.

Explaining his ground for appeal, the gup, over the phone, said he was dissatisfied with the court judgment as he had not misused the lhakhang’s fund. “I was falsely implicated,” he said.

He said that he was also charged for using rotten timber for the construction. “Which is why I’m appealing to the appellate court to investigate the condition of timber used for Ngatsena lhakhang.”

Gup Tshering Wangdi said that, if the government really wanted to root out corruption, a proper investigation must begin from dzongkhag level where corruption was rampant. “Instead of doing that, they’d falsely implicated me for doing good service to the community and the nation. It’s totally unacceptable,” he said.

The dungkhag court sentenced the gewog’s tshogpa, Tobgay Dukpa, to seven months and 15 days for aiding and abetting the crime.  However, both defendants were given the option to pay thrimthue in lieu of their sentences.  Gup Tshering Wangdi was asked to pay thrimthue of Nu 56,250 in lieu of the 15-month prison term, while tshogpa Tobgay Dukpa was charged Nu 28,125 for his lesser term.

Representing the Office of the Attorney General, the Haa dzongkhag administration charged the duo with official misconduct.

According to the court verdict, the dzongkhag administration charged gup Tshering Wangdi for being involved directly in the construction work, without discussing at the gewog tshogdu, and for breaching the community contract rules, local government act and penal code of Bhutan.

The verdict stated that the gup had taken Nu 716,471 from lhakhang construction budget, but utilised only Nu 329,007.  The court ordered him to refund Nu 387,471.

Gup Tshering Wangdi submitted a receipt of Nu 40,000 spent on a power chainsaw, but couldn’t produce it for physical verification and to serve as evidence.

The alleged misappropriation of the fund was discovered after the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) audited the Gakidling gewog administration in 2013, and issued a memo of Nu 0.796M under the observation category of fraud, corruption and embezzlement.

Auditors observed that the gewog administration had booked an expenditure of Nu 0.796M without completing the construction of Ngatsena lhakhang. “Physical verification revealed that the construction work was still under progress and the overall completion of the work was only about 40 percent,” the annual audit report of 2013 stated.

The construction work was awarded to Ngatsena village committee.  The RAA fixed both direct and supervisory accountability on gup Tshering Wangdi.

The gup clarified that there was a fear among people that, at the end of the 10th Plan, the remaining budget for lhakhang construction might go back to government, which might not release the budget in the 11th Plan. “Therefore, I released Nu 0.4M to tshogpa and Ngatsena villagers to carry out the construction work,” he said.

Based on audit memo, the dzongkhag administration carried out the investigation and registered the case with dungkhag court on July 14, 2014.

By Rinzing Wangchuk