The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has blatantly accused the finance minister of ‘siphoning money and political gratification’ over the Nu 19 million General Reserve Fund issue
By Tashi Namgyal
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a press release this week drew nationwide attention and stated that the finance minister has recklessly misused Nu 19 million (M) from the General Reserve (GR) Fund to meet the capital expenditures in Paro during the last financial year for non-critical works such as improving farm roads and irrigation channels and the construction of a lam’s residence. The press release stated that Nu 19M from the GR was “siphoned to the minister’s constituency”, and that it tantamount to political corruption where public finance has been “abused for political gratification”.
Alarmed by the brazen disregard to prudent financial governance, PDP stated that the finance minister has actually used the Nu 19 M to finance projects in his constituency, and was surprised that the money was in addition to the normal gewog budget received in the constituency.
“This reckless action of the finance minister has breached the guidelines of GR usage and has now deprived the nation of a proportionate amount during the times of disaster and emergencies. In view of the gross violation of budgetary guidelines, misuse of authority, and political corruption, PDP calls on the concerned agencies to correct the wrongdoing of the finance minister and hold him accountable,” it stated.
In his rebuttal, the finance minister said that it was within the prerogative of the Ministry of Finance and the minister to make technical adjustments in the allocation of budgets. Citing the Financial Management Manual, which states that the ministry may authorize additional budget through technical adjustment but remaining within the total approved budget, he said that the technical adjustment was made within the budget passed by Parliament.
The minister said that the fund was used for building public infrastructure at the request of the local government and that Paro was one of the Dzongkhags that received the least amount of budget. He was also cited as saying that there were no rules on the GR, which could be used for such purposes.
He said that the former finance minister in 2016 delegated full power to the finance secretary on matters relating to technical adjustment within the approved budget which also includes transfer from the GR for new capital activities. “This means the Minister has the full financial power when it comes to technical adjustment within the total approved budget of that particular fiscal year,” the minister said.
While reiterating that PDP had politicized the issue in trying to gain public attention, the finance minister added that the capital budget utilisation in the past fiscal years was low and that spending needed to be increased through the allocation of budget in activities that did not require foreign workers.
In their press release, PDP also acknowledged the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) for the thorough investigation and its report on the misuse of GR Fund by the finance minister.
The party specified that GR Fund is a fund created for specialized needs such as during natural disasters, emergencies and for national interest works.
“The governments in the past have traditionally exercised great prudence in the use of GR Fund. The country has therefore been served very well by the Fund during disasters, emergencies and specialized national interest projects,” it read.
In view of the gross violation of budgetary guidelines, misuse of authority and political corruption, PDP alerted the concerned agencies to correct wrong doing of the finance minister and to hold him accountable.
The party urged the Prime Minister’s Office, the Opposition Party, the National Council, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the media to take up the matter with due seriousness it warrants and set good precedent for future political governments and politicians for good conduct.