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Corruption Watch: Clamping down fake TA/DA and mileage claims

By Tandin Wangchuk

While fixing of accountability is crucial for treatment and prevention of corruption, the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) states there are some agencies who have not taken appropriate actions against individuals involved in corrupt practices.

This, the Authority say, is one of the biggest impediments to fighting corruption in the country.

While the actions to be taken solely rests with the implementing agencies, it has been observed that the agencies tend to be protective of officials and resort to either refraining from taking actions or initiating mild actions like transferring them to another place.

In some instances the perpetratorโ€™s increment is withheld just for a year or, at the most, is barred from training nominations for a year even when involved in serious cases.

RAA has also come across cases where officials continued with similar corrupt practices even in the new place of posting.

The authority cited a case pertaining to the embezzlement of Nu 0.732 million in 2018 by an accountant who was transferred in another agency where he again embezzled another Nu 0.503 million in 2019.

โ€œWhile this exhibit signs of complacency on the part of concerned agencies, it also indicates an increased tolerance towards corrupt practices,โ€ RAA states.

While fraud perpetrators would naturally have incentives to monetary benefits or otherwise, some acts of commission or omissions could be fueled by factors not related to individual incentives.

RAA said that it is a common trend that for the similar construction works implemented by different agencies, there would be huge variations in duration of constructions specified.

The construction projects for which the duration specified is unreasonably short, it puts pressure on the officials overseeing the project to complete the project in time.

When it is practically not possible for engineers to meet the deadline, officials resort to collude with contractors to request for time extension on the basis of hindrances unjustifiably certified by the official.

For instance, the Highway Formation Cutting (FC) works was awarded with initial contract duration of 18 months. However, the actual time taken to complete the project was whopping 65.5 months showing a time overrun of 364% from the initial estimate.

Besides impacting the quality of work, either due to short construction time or due to prolonged construction duration, RAA states it deprives timely services to the nation and bloats the costs of construction and substantial increase in workload on supervision and monitoring activities.

On various occasions, the RAA noted that people who had unsettled issues with RAA had not applied for audit clearance and the requirement was not enforced by some agencies.

Further, RAA observed several instances where government officials, who were supposedly on tour, have signed the attendance register on the days they were supposed to be out of station.

โ€œIt is also widely known fact that there exist cases of table tours though such incidences have been reducing over the years. Such instances seriously undermine the efforts of oversight bodies besides creating platform for manipulative practices by individuals and agencies,โ€ RAA states.

On Travel and Daily Allowances are remunerations provided to officials for undertaking official works beyond their duty station, the RAA observed instances where officials are granted specified number of days in a month as eligible for TA/DA.

RAA states while such practice can be a way of ensuring that only legitimate tours are undertaken, it also allows officials to claim the remunerations as a matter of right. It also breeds grounds for corrupt practices as officials claim TA/DA irrespective of whether the travel has been performed or not.

In addition, mileage claims in many agencies are paid based on the eligibility criteria. The fact that a vehicle may not be used in the actual travel is not considered.

RAA stated if three officials travel to same place for any official purpose, all three officials are paid mileage claims. However, more often than not, RAA stated the officials travel in a single car.

Officials and agencies argue that mileage is the entitlement of the civil servant for travelling for any official duty when the government vehicle is not able to reach them to their duty station.

โ€œThe notion that every eligible individual should receive mileage claims irrespective of whether they are using their own vehicle or not, is how such practices are rationalized,โ€ RAA states, adding it is an indication that officials are not being ethical in their behavior and agencies not being judicious in the use of limited resources of the government.

Putting a stamp on corruption

RAA states all institutions in the accountability cycle as well as individuals at all levels as trustees of the public resources have significant roles to play to ensure that collective actions lead to creating a society that upholds the principles of good governance.

The Authority opines that strategies should be focused on creating conditions to counter factors that induces and allows undesirable behaviors.

Further, RAA states that the responsibility should be taken by individuals either in the position of leadership or as an individual to create ethical culture, drive desirable behaviors, and embrace highest level of professionalism at all times.

In addition to prevention and detection, there should be a system for strict enforcement of accountability and sanctions to further stimulate good governance and accountability in the public sector.

In order to combat irregular practices contributing to fraud, corruption and embezzlements and in continuing our efforts towards improving the public financial management system, the RAA will continue to implement a system of fixing accountability to be reinforced to ensure that right people are held to account.

The RAA will review the accountability fixed by the agencies and discontinue the practice of issuing audit clearance on the basis of undertaking letter from the agencies.

โ€œIt will continuously engage and collaborate with RCSC to review cases against civil servants and prescribe sanctions against erring civil servants and collaborate and coordinate with ACC in sharing of information on corrupt practices,โ€ RAA states.

The RAA will also report in the Annual Audit Report if action taken by the agencies are not uniform or adequate and do not address the issues reported by RAA, and recommend issues and observation from the Annual Audit Report to the Public Accounts Committee for Public Hearing.

Meanwhile, the RAA will issue AGโ€™s Advisory Series from time to time highlighting issues in the areas of governance in the public sector and seek appropriate interventions of authorities for improvement.

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