The court is trying to verify whether they did indeed contribute labour to the project

Update: Of the 18 names submitted to the court, 14 people testified that they worked for the Lhakhang Karpo project in the ongoing case at the Haa district court on March 20.

They also submitted in writing that four people, including one deceased, who were not present during the witness hearings, worked with them.

The court summoned them as witnesses to testify if they were deputed by lapon (supervisor) Lhab Dorji on behalf of the 28 households that paid Nu 3,000 each in lieu of their labour contributions.   Some hired workers worked for 15 days to five months.

Based on the findings of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), attorney general’s office (OAG) charged Lhab Dorji for embezzlingf Nu 126,305 after he failed to account for the persons deputed on behalf of the 19 households.

He also failed to account for 513 man-days of woola, amounting to Nu 126,305 collected both from individual households and the muster roll of the project.

During the testimony hearing, some witnesses could not provide the names of the households that paid them to work on their behalf.  However, the court accepted their testimony, based on their statements, despite reservations from the OAG representative.

A labourer from Wangduephodrang is yet to appear before the court. “If he also testifies that he worked for a month, then Lhab Dorji would be liable for only 15 days of woola,” a court official said.

Lhab Dorji was responsible for reconciliations of woola (labour contribution) and issuing the woola receipts.   The people requested him to depute a labourer on their behalf, and the hired workers also received national work force wages from the project.

Lhab Dorji submitted before the court that he could not provide the names of all 19 people because of ACC’s pressure during interrogation, and he was not given enough time to recollect those names.

“It was unfair to charge me for embezzlement of labour payment by reflecting fictitious labourers in the muster roll,” Lhab Dorji said. “I had no authority to misuse the fund, as the accounts and muster roll were manned by different people.”

However, Lhab Dorji pleaded guilty again on the second charge, an offense relating to tempering with witnesses to testify in an untruthful manner.  Lapon Lhab Dorji had mentored a woman to admit before the investigation team that she had represented woola for three households.  He also admitted having tutored his wife to falsely admit to representation of woola for a man.

The court conducted another cross-examination on March 20 to verify whether Nima of Pema Tshongkhang in Paro had really forged the bid documents.  It was found that the seal and signature of Yangdon of Sonam Enterprise, also in Paro, matched the bid documents submitted by Nima.

The court summoned Yangdon, wife of Sonam Enterprise’s proprietor Sonam Tshering, after Nima requested the court to call her for cross-examination.  Nima, who was charged with forgery, claimed that the bid document was sealed and signed by Yangdon.

During the investigation, the ACC found that Nima had forged the bid for Sonam Enterprise for procurement of plumbing materials to repair the then existing water supply system at Lhakhang Karpo, and the construction tools, on March 16 and 30, 2012.

Sonam Tshering, on being questioned, told the ACC that he did not participate in spot quotation pertaining to Lhakhang Karpo project.  He had also confirmed that the seal and signature used in the bid submitted on behalf of his firm did not belong to his firm.

Both parties, Nima and the OAG, will submit their evidence on March 25.

By Rinzin Wangchuk, Haa