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Deliberation on ACC (Amendment) Bill gathers steam

By Tandin Wangchuk

The Good Governance Committee this week presented the new subsection under section 119 of the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill to the National Assembly in the ongoing parliament session.

During the discussion, a few members raised their concerns about the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) investigating corruption cases at the behest of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The new subsection under 119 states: “Immunity under this section shall be effected by entering into agreement with the commission or lawful authority authorized by the Commission at any stage of investigation or any other proceedings.”

The issue was raised after questioning the usage of the term ‘lawful authority’ in the new clause.

However, some members said it is not right for these two institutions to investigate corruption cases as their mandates are different.

The Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said it is not appropriate for the RBP and OAG to investigate corruption. Different organizarions have different mandates and this would be against the constitution.

He said the RBP’s mandate is protection of law and to prevent crimes. OAG is for prosecution as per the constitution and ACC is to investigate corruption.

Tshewang Lhamo, the member of parliament of Bongo Chapchha, also opined that going by the responsibility and mandate of the RBP, investigation of corruption is not their task. She added that if we mention clearly one’s responsibility in line with the constitution, there won’t be any issue in the future.

However, the Prime Minister said the clause is not against the Constitution. He said he feel it depends on how one interprets. PM said the law is not about making another organisation to carry out the task by any means.

“It says that the two organisations would do only if ACC asks them to do so. The clause says that the two authorised organisations are RBP and OAG,” the Prime Minister said.

Meanwhile, the members also agreed to two other new subsections proposed under 104 and 108 of the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill. The committee presented the two clauses again with some changes.

While the earlier clauses required payment of money or money’s worth while allowing the usage of seized or confiscated properties, the new clause allows usage without payment.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly this week completed its third reading on the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021.

The Good Governance Committee made over 30 recommendations for amendments. The Bill will be adopted on Monday and will be referred to the National Council.

Labour minister questioned on employment plans

Labour Minister, Ugyen Dorji, in the ongoing NA session said the ministry alone has engaged about 14,000 individuals so far through various training and programmes besides His Majesty The King and the government’s commendable effort to solve unemployment in the country.

The labour minister added that around 1,400 individuals have been engaged in the Build Bhutan Project and 1,300 in the tourism sector. Likewise, the employment service centre under the labour ministry has also helped about 1,500 individuals in finding a job.

He said that under the critical skills training programme, in the last year, MoLHR has engaged about 1,154 individuals. Likewise, under the Youth Engagement and Livelihood Programme, 848 youths were benefited.

In addition, the Entrepreneur Development Programme has helped 371 and Course sharing and skills sharing programme, almost 8,000 individuals have been provided help.

The minister added that the pandemic has increased both unemployment and youth unemployment rate in the country.

He said that over the last one year, due to the pandemic, many have lost their jobs. At the same time, not many jobs are available in the market due to the pandemic.

“As per the Labour Force Survey Report 2020, over 22 per cent of youth are unemployed. And the overall unemployment rate has also increased to 5 per cent in the last one year,” he said.

The youth unemployment rate in the country has almost doubled from 2019 to 2020. According to the Labour Force Survey Report, 2020, the overall youth unemployment rate has increased from 11.9 per cent in 2019 to 22.6 per cent.

Further, the youth unemployment rate for 2020 is the highest to date. As per the Labour Force Survey Report 2020, there were about 17,000 persons unemployed in 2020, of which almost 7,000 are youth.

Meanwhile, questions were raised to the Minister for Work and Human Settlement, ranging from construction of drainage for gewog farm road and blacktopping of remaining the road in Gasa Dzongkhag.

Other queries like measures taken up to resolve issues of insufficient budget for carrying out Granular Sub Base (GSB) for the Chiwog roads, status of the Government’s pledge to construct a shorter route from Sherichhu-Gyelposhing and Nganglam Highway, status of the connecting road between Mongar and Zhemgang Dzongkhag, and blacktopping and maintenance of Khothakpa to Tshobalay which falls under the Secondary National Highway were also raised.

The Agriculture Minister was also asked on the Ministry’s policies, strategies, plans and status for achieving the vision of food self-sufficiency in the country whereas the Minister for Foreign Affairs was asked on the plans and programs of the Government to address the problems of those affected by the global pandemic after the 15 months of His Majesty’s Financial support.

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