Gov­ern­ment’s charges are noth­ing but a ma­li­cious po­lit­i­cal vendetta: Op­po­si­tion Party

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Sonam Pen­jor

The gov­ern­ment has al­leged that the fis­cal in­cen­tives ap­proved by the then Druk Phuen­sum Tshogpa (DPT) gov­ern­ment in April 2013 by the for­mer min­is­ter of works and hu­man set­tle­ment, who had chaired the Lhengye Zhungt­shog meet­ing was al­leged to have com­mit­ted pol­icy cor­rup­tion and en­gaged in con­flict of in­ter­est and of­fi­cial mis­con­duct.

How­ever, op­po­si­tion party be­lieves that the gov­ern­ment’s charges are noth­ing but a ma­li­cious po­lit­i­cal vendetta.

The press re­lease from the op­po­si­tion Party states that it’s shock­ing that the gov­ern­ment could make such wild al­le­ga­tions against a very se­nior and re­spected mem­ber of the for­mer gov­ern­ment and who is on the verge of re­tire­ment.

“The fis­cal in­cen­tive was granted to ben­e­fit all tourist stan­dard ho­tels which ful­filled the set cri­te­ria. Hence, 92 ho­tels in­clud­ing Ho­tel River­side be­long­ing to the brother of the present fi­nance min­is­ter Nam­gay Dorji have ben­e­fited from the in­cen­tives.”

The press re­lease states that the ex­emp­tion amount availed by Le Meri­dien was the high­est sim­ply on ac­count of the very high cost of its in­vest­ment as a five-star ho­tel and not based on

any other con­sid­er­a­tion.

“All ho­tels el­i­gi­ble for ex­emp­tion dif­fer in stan­dards and level of in­vest­ment and there­fore are bound to dif­fer in amounts of ex­emp­tion.”

Op­po­si­tion mem­ber from Bartsham-Shong­phu, MP Wangdi Norbu said that while im­ple­ment­ing the fis­cal in­cen­tives 2010, anom­alies were ob­served that made the ground im­ple­men­ta­tion dif­fi­cult. In­te­gral parts of com­po­nents or cat­e­gories of items were treated dif­fer­ently for tax­a­tion pur­poses.

So in or­der to clar­ify these anom­alies, the con­cerned agen­cies un­der­took ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sions and con­sul­ta­tions fol­low­ing which a multi-sec­toral com­mit­tee con­sist­ing of the Min­istry of Fi­nance, the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Af­fairs, the Tourism Coun­cil of Bhutan and the Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutan was formed to re­view and sub­mit a spe­cific list of items that fall un­der a par­tic­u­lar cat­e­gory of ex­emp­tion with re­spect to the ho­tel in­dus­try.

“Due to the time taken in the process of pre­par­ing and sub­mis­sion of the rec­om­men­da­tions, the Cabi­net could only ap­prove the de­tailed list of el­i­gi­ble items in April 2013 only.”

The press re­lease fur­ther states that, the Cabi­net did not ap­prove “ad­di­tional in­cen­tives” as the gov­ern­ment has falsely charged but had merely clar­i­fied the anom­alies. It must be noted that the gov­ern­ment had been grant­ing cus­toms duty and sales tax ex­emp­tion on im­ports for all in­dus­tries and tourist class ho­tels since the 1980s.

There­fore, the Fis­cal In­cen­tives 2010 was noth­ing more than a rep­e­ti­tion of the ear­lier tax ex­emp­tions.

If the con­flict of in­ter­est needs to be in­ves­ti­gated, Op­po­si­tion Leader (OL) Dr Pema Gyamt­sho said that it has to be done to all 91 other ho­tel which had ben­e­fited equally, not just for the Ho­tel Le Meri­dien.

“We are truly shocked with such undig­ni­fied and un­think­able acts and tac­tics of the Gov­ern­ment to di­vert at­ten­tion away from its own fail­ures and try­ing to harm the op­po­si­tion party by as­sas­si­nat­ing the char­ac­ter of a se­nior mem­ber. This at­tack is clearly on the op­po­si­tion party,” he added.

He said that in any case, why they waited for four and half years. If there was some­thing wrong, they should have acted from day one. “They came to power in July 2013, now it is Feb 2018. Why did they wait for so long?”

As far as we con­cern, there was noth­ing wrong with the de­ci­sion. “Just be­fore the elec­tion, when such al­le­ga­tions are com­ing, it is just to gain po­lit­i­cal mileage for the rul­ing party and this is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated,” added the OL.

The mem­ber of op­po­si­tion from Dramedtse-Ngat­shang con­stituency, MP Ugyen Wangdi said that the al­le­ga­tion of con­flict of in­ter­est by the gov­ern­ment against Ly­onpo Yeshey Zimba were base­less.

He said that as the Min­is­ter for Works and Hu­man Set­tle­ment did not have any con­trol over other min­istries and agen­cies.

In keep­ing with the pro­ce­dures and stand­ing prac­tice, in the ab­sence of the Prime Min­is­ter, the se­nior-most min­is­ter of­fi­ci­ates and chairs the cabi­net ses­sions. He added that Ly­onpo Zimba would have needed to de­clare con­flict of in­ter­est if the in­cen­tive was for ho­tel Le Meri­dien only. How­ever, he said that this in­cen­tive was meant to ben­e­fit all tourist stan­dard ho­tels.

He cited an ex­am­ple with the pay re­vi­sion for the civil ser­vants; he said that mem­bers of the Lhengye Zhungt­shog, the Speaker, the Chair­per­son of the Na­tional Coun­cil, the Op­po­si­tion Leader, and equiv­a­lent cabi­net posts hold­ers did not re­cuse them­selves dur­ing the de­lib­er­a­tion of their pay re­vi­sion.

“Since they were to ben­e­fit enor­mously, they could have re­cused them­selves and left the de­ci­sion for the rest of the mem­bers. This did not hap­pen as the salary re­vi­sion was not for any one per­son but for sev­eral cat­e­gories of of­fice bear­ers.”

There­fore, he said that there was no per­ceived con­flict of in­ter­est in the de­ci­sions taken. Like­wise, the ques­tion of “pol­icy cor­rup­tion” aris­ing out of “con­flict of in­ter­est “does not arise at all as the Cabi­net ap­proved the rec­om­men­da­tion of the in­ter min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee and not a re­quest from Ly­onpo Zimba’s daugh­ter for spe­cific ben­e­fits of the Le Meri­dien ho­tel.

Al­le­ga­tion of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct, Ugyen Wangdi read out the Pe­nal Code of Bhutan 2004, the sec­tion 294 of the Pe­nal Code of Bhutan 2004 states that “A de­fen­dant shall be guilty of the of­fence of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct, if the de­fen­dant know­ingly: com­mits an act re­lat­ing to the of­fice con­sti­tut­ing an unau­tho­rized ex­er­cise of the of­fi­cial func­tions or unau­tho­rized di­vulging of re­stricted of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion or se­crecy; or re­frains from per­form­ing a duty, which is im­posed upon the de­fen­dant by law.

Based on the above pro­vi­sions of the Pe­nal Code of Bhutan, he said that Ly­onpo Yeshey Zimba acted upon duly au­tho­rized author­ity and per­formed his duty as im­posed upon him by the law. There­fore, there is no act of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct com­mit­ted by him. Rather he said we feel that this is a case of a des­per­ate gov­ern­ment try­ing to le­git­imize their ill-in­tended at­tempt to dis­credit and de­fame Ly­onpo Zimba.

The press re­lease stated that the Op­po­si­tion Party has been per­form­ing its duty dili­gently and con­struc­tively in and out­side the Par­lia­ment so as to en­able to the gov­ern­ment to func­tion and to main­tain peace and har­mony in the coun­try in the larger na­tional in­ter­ests. If, how­ever, the gov­ern­ment is bent on tak­ing ad­van­tage of the sin­cer­ity and re­straint ex­er­cised by the Op­po­si­tion Party, then it will be left with no other op­tion but to take the fol­low­ing course of ac­tions that in­cludes the de­mand the Gov­ern­ment that the ben­e­fits, cus­toms duty and sales tax on im­ports from third coun­tries and In­dia ac­crued to ma­jor in­dus­tries, busi­nesses, ho­tels be­tween 2010 and 2018 be pub­lished for pub­lic view­ing and scru­tiny.

Op­po­si­tion party re­quest the ACC to in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble com­mit­ment of “con­flict of in­ter­est” on: ex­emp­tion of tax and im­port of sec­ond hand ve­hi­cles against ex­ist­ing rules for the ben­e­fit of party sup­port­ers and pro­cure­ment of a huge num­ber of Bolero ve­hi­cles from a sin­gle dealer which is against the Con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion of dis­al­low­ing mo­nop­oly.

The sec­tion 10 of arti- cle nine of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the King­dom of Bhutan stated that the state shall en­cour­age and foster pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment through fair mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion and pre­vent com­mer­cial mo­nop­o­lies.

The op­po­si­tion had also de­cided to take the gov­ern­ment to court on many ac­counts in­clud­ing the: il­le­gal in­come tax ex­emp­tion to small and mi­cro busi­ness in ru­ral ar­eas with­out fol­low­ing the due process of tax al­ter­ation by the Par­lia­ment; il­le­gal cus­toms duty and sales tax ex­emp­tion given to the book sellers for a pe­riod of one year in 2015 with­out fol­low­ing the due process of tax al­ter­ation by the Par­lia­ment; il­le­gal es­tab­lish­ment of BOIC and wastage of pub­lic re­sources for the ben­e­fit of a few in­di­vid­u­als and il­le­gal grant of fis­cal in­cen­tives for the pe­riod of Jan­uary 2016 to May 2017.

Mean­while, press re­lease also states that if the Prime Min­is­ter is a cham­pion of con­trol­ling cor­rup­tion as he seems to claim, how about he re­flect on the use of gov­ern­ment money amount­ing to Nu. 3m to de­velop his pri­vate res­i­dence at Taba?

The op­po­si­tion party said that they will have to re­quest ACC to in­ves­ti­gate this is­sue as a case of cor­rup­tion by the high­est elected of­fi­cial.

The press re­lease states that he knows that the mis­use of pub­lic re­source for pri­vate ben­e­fit is a se­ri­ous form of cor­rup­tion and needs to be in­ves­ti­gated thor­oughly. “The ev­i­dence is not dif­fi­cult to pro­duce as we un­der­stand that the Royal Au­dit Author­ity has al­ready is­sued a memo.”

The op­po­si­tion party mem­bers speak­ing to the press

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