Update: The four former members of the tender committee for the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project were not on the same page, when the Haa district court conducted a cross-examination hearing yesterday.
Of the four, the former dzongkhag engineer (DE), Lhabchu, and project engineer, Tashi Gyeltshen, submitted that they informed the chairman, the then dzongda, of the lowest bidder’s rate being 100 percent above the market rate.
“Being the project engineer for the Lhakhang Karpo reconstruction, I prepared a comparative statement of the evaluated bids, which were participated by seven bidders, and LD Sawmill was found to be the lowest evaluated bidder at Nu 37.70 per cubic feet (CFT),” Tashi Gyeltshen said. “After the tender committee members signed it, I took the statement to DE Lhabchu, who then told me that the rate was much higher than the market rate.”
Tashi Gyeltshen said the duo then discussed with the chairman, the current foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, who then remarked on the comparative statement to re-tender the work.
Lhabchu, who is now the district engineer of Wangduephodrang, also agreed with Tashi Gyeltshen. “We decided to re-tender for sawing of timber. However, I was not aware on why the re-tender was not called and how the negotiation was done since I was transferred to Wangdue,” he said.
Both engineers submitted the same statements to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC).
However, project manager Wangchuk Tshering and Lapon (supervisor) Lhab Dorji submitted conflicting statements. Contrary to their statements submitted to the ACC, the duo said that they were not aware of the tender committee’s decision to re-tender.
Wangchuk Tshering submitted before the court that they were involved only when the tender committee opened the bids and signed on the comparative statement prepared by the project engineer. “After that we weren’t involved,” he said.
They were testifying as witnesses after the foreign minister claimed that the tender committee didn’t inform the chairman of the lowest bidder’s rate being 100 percent above the market rate. He said he noted a remark on the paper proposing for the tender committee to re-tender, after finding that the lowest quoted rate of Nu 37.70 was 100 percent higher than the market rate.
Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje also denied to have taken a unilateral decision to award timber sawing work for the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has accused him of awarding the contract work illegally to LD Sawmill without consulting the tender committee, and for paying the sawmill Nu 37.70 per cft.
The foreign minister in his statement to the ACC also stated that the decision to re-tender was taken by the committee. However, he submitted conflicting statement to the court.
Yesterday, the court took more than four hours to go through evidences submitted by both the parties – OAG and foreign minister against his two charges of omission amounting to abuse of function and embezzlement of public property.
On his second charge of using the dzongkhag DCM truck to transport his timber from Haa to Thimphu, lyonpo submitted eight receipts for fuelling the truck. While cross checking the receipts, both OAG representative and the court found that one receipt was for private car and the other receipt was issued on February 24, 2013. The DCM truck was actually used from January 16, 2011 to March 24, 2012. The movement was recorded at the forest gate.
The OAG representative also questioned two receipts of fuelling 14 and 15 liters of diesel, which was not possible for the DCM truck to make a round trip from Haa to Thimphu.
Lyonpo challenged that they should not go for petty issues. “Instead, we should focus on whether it is permissible or not,” he said. He also said that he used the dzongkhag DCM truck as per the finance ministry’s circular of February 13, 2000, on amended government rules and regulations on pool vehicles, which allowed a civil servant to use pool vehicles under pressing and emergency personal need of the government servant.
Lyonpo was asked to restitute Nu 80,000 for the 10 trips that were made to transport the timber.
The OAG’s representative also requested the minister to explain what pressing and emergency meant in this case.
The OAG will rebut the minister’s evidence submission on April 20.
By Rinzin Wangchuk, Haa