The finance ministry has not released the Prime Minister’s Nu 3 million award for the three best films this year after it received a letter from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The winners of the Prime Minister’s award of Nu 1 million each were declared during the national film awards on February 23. The winners were: Nge Tsawai Lama, Hingtam Bangzoe, and Dari Naba.

In the letter sent to the cabinet secretary with a copy to the Information and Communications secretary on February 15, the commission recommended that the Prime Minister’s award for upcoming 17th National Film Awards scheduled on February 23 be kept in abeyance.

“Since the Commission is yet to receive the Action Taken Report (ATR), review and reach a logical conclusion on the case, the Commission believes that continuing to implement the Prime Minister’s award will set a wrong precedence,” the letter stated.

ACC investigated the allegations against the Bhutan Film Association (BFA) pertaining to the 16th National Film Award (NFA), 2016. “While the investigation could not prove criminal intention of rigging the award, the investigation established that the procedures for the selection of the three best films for the Prime Minister’s Award were flawed and lacked transparency thus creating unnecessary controversies,” the ACC letter stated.

To strengthen the system, ensure transparency and promote a culture of accountability, the commission, in pursuant to Section 137 of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) 2011 recommended the CSOA Board to take administrative actions on November 17 last year.

According to ACC officials, the CSOA board is required to submit an ATR, which is further subject to review. They said that in the event the commission is not satisfied with administrative sanctions taken by the CSOA, the ACC might take necessary action on its own as required by the ACAB.

BFA president Karma Tshering said the association wrote immediately to the two producers who won the PM’s awards last year after getting the directives from the CSOA. The producers wrote to us saying that they cannot return the amount and we submitted that to the authority.

“There is nothing more we can do,” he said.

ACC officials also said that they received a copy of the BFA’s submission to the CSOA.

Karma Tshering said that the copy of the ACC’s letter to the cabinet secretary reached the BFA office on February 19.

The next day, the president with the information and communications secretary met with the prime minister. “Lyonchhen told us to hold the award for some time until the ACC’s case concludes and organise it at a later date,” said Karma Tshering, who then met ACC chairperson to reconsider the matter.

The following morning, the BFA board met and decided to request lyonchhen to declare the awards.

Karma Tshering said that the fund was approved and ready for disbursal, but the Prime Minister repeatedly asked the BFA not to declare the awards.

The board after discussing the issue, decided to vote on whether to declare the awards and the majority of the five members present decided to declare.

“If the ACC didn’t stop at the last hour, we would have declared and even given the prize money,” he said. “Now since we have declared the PM’s awards despite directives from the ACC and instruction from the PM, I’m wondering how the cash awards be given to the declared winners.”

Some members of the film industry said it was necessary to declare the PM’s award.

“It is a big motivating factor for the producers to make quality films and if it gets dropped by any reason, then the industry would suffer a major setback,” a board member said.

There are more than 170 movie producers in the country. The film industry produced 19 movies in 2015, 26 in 2016, and 14 last year.

Tshering Palden and Rinzin Wangchuk