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Audit points out failures in employment programme

A mid an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in the overseas guaranteed employment programme, the annual audit report 2017 states that the labour ministry had failed to implement the contract agreement with one of the partner agencies. Under the programme, the training provider must ensure that the job seekers work with a particular employer for two years after training. If this condition is not fulfilled, the partner agency must reimburse 20 percent of the money to the ministry. The audit report does not mention if there were irregularities in the overseas guaranteed employment programme implemented by the ministry. However, the report states that the department of employment had not recovered a sum of Nu 1.364 million (M) from a Thimphu-based employer, M/s iSoft. The company had failed to provide jobs to the trainees for a minimum of two years after regularisation. There was no review carried out to validate the claims made by the employer on losses sustained by the company. “The department had failed to exercise due diligence as there was no investigation done to validate the genuineness of grounds for non-employment of participants by the agency,” states the report. Under the programme, job seekers are given employment either in India or Bhutan after training. The programme is funded by the government with the economic stimulus plan budget that India provided during the 11th Plan. The government spent about Nu 80,000 on just one job seeker for training and placement in India last year. A Noida-based company, Alfresco Solutions LLP, had taken about 80 youths to India in April 2017 with the agreement to provide training and placement in Indian firms. However, most of them returned home in December last year, citing harsh working conditions and the company’s inability to find jobs for them. Some of the local training institutes in an earlier interview had told Kuensel said that the labour ministry was biased against local training providers and that most of the contracts under the overseas employment programme were awarded to Indian firms. They had blamed the lack of transparency in the tendering process for the failures in the employment programmes. They also said that it was almost impossible to get all the trainees employed and to make them work with the same employer for two years. Earlier in January, the prime minister asked the Anti-Corruption Commission to conduct an “immediate and thorough” investigation on the alleged corruption in the guaranteed employment programme and other such schemes. This led to labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo going on a paid leave for six months. He resumed office last month even though the investigation is underway. It remains to be seen whether or not the labour minister is implicated in the case. Kuensel learnt that the probe into alleged corruption relating to trainings and employment provided in Japan has been completed. Last year, Royal Audit Authority issued 12 audit reports for the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource, its departments, divisions, and units. There were 10 observations amounting to Nu 5.282M, of which five amounting to Nu 3.326M were either resolved prior to the compilation of the draft report or did not qualify for inclusion. Based on the response received after the issue of the draft report and actions taken by the ministry, observations amounting to Nu 454,000 were resolved. The total unresolved significant irregularities amount to Nu 1.5M.

Source: Kuensel onlibe


The PAC members question heads of agencies yesterday

Agencies asked to resolve audit irregularities by June 20 next year

The deadline to resolve the irregularities worth Nu 816.4 million was set by Parliament. Ministries and agencies must resolve unsettled irregularities from 2010 to 2015 by June 20 next year, members of the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) informed the heads of agencies yesterday during a public hearing on annual audit reports. The deadline was issued as per the resolution of a joint session of Parliament that concluded last month. Committee chairman Phuntsho Rapten and deputy chairman Dophu Dukpa urged the heads of agencies to take early actions towards resolving the unsettled irregularities. The public hearing, which was held in the National Assembly hall, lasted for about six hours. Among the heads of agencies summoned for the public hearing were Secretary of the National Land Commission, Pema Chewang, Vice Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan, Nidup Dorji and government secretaries. As of March this year, irregularities amounting to Nu 816.4 million (M) remained unresolved. However, agencies reported that some of those reflected in the report had been resolved. Instituted in accordance with Article 25 of the Constitution, the PAC comprises five Members of Parliament  – three from the National Assembly and two from the National Council. The agencies briefed PAC on the measures being taken to resolve the issues. It was submitted that some of the agencies could not trace the officials involved in the irregularities. Unresolved issues include uncollected taxes from business ventures and lack of restitution of properties from convicts of corruption. Officials from the finance ministry explained that some of the unsettled taxes needed to be reassessed and that the process took time. Officials from the health ministry said they were planning to auction a three-room apartment belonging to a former accountant who was convicted of corruption. The former accountant is serving a nine-year prison term, the officials informed. It was also found that the RAA did not update their reports in few cases although the issues were resolved. RAA officials said they did not received documents about the action taken by the concerned agencies. The first public hearing on unresolved irregularities was conducted in 2016. Aimed at resolving pending irregularities lying with the agencies without any actions being taken, the recently concluded summer session of Parliament had resolved that a public hearing be held as soon as possible. The public hearing provided an avenue for the agencies to provide their perspective and clarifications on the unresolved audit issues. It was also helpful for the RAA and PAC members to gather more information and gain deeper understanding of the issues. Officials the ministries of agriculture and forests, economic affairs, health, information and communications, works and human settlement, foreign affairs and finance showed up for the public hearing. Also summoned for the public hearing were Bhutan Cricket Federation, Bhutan Development Bank Ltd, Bhutan Education City, Bhutan Football Federation, the Election Commission, GNH Commission, National Land Commissions and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature.

Source: Kuensel online