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GAB to file case โ€œon benefit of doubtโ€

The Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB) is mulling to file a case on โ€œbenefit of doubtโ€ against โ€œa person or twoโ€ who lodged an anonymous complaint to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bhutan (ACC).

The complaint letter requested ACC to investigate and intervene โ€œfor better accountability and transparency of the associationโ€.

Currently, GAB is finding out whether they can file the case on benefit of doubt or not.

Chairman and founder of GAB, Garab Dorji said that the association is suspicious of a person whom he did not name. He said that the person intends to tarnish the image of GAB which the association took a long time to build.

He said, โ€œThis person, not only commented against GAB, but he also commented about all of us on social media mentioning us individually.โ€

However, the chairman said that the mainstream media took it up even though the accusations did not hold a grain of truth. โ€œThe complaint was from a disgruntled member of the association who lodged the complaint out of jealousy, grievance, anger, frustration and personal grudge.โ€

Further, the chairman said that the ACC would have called them if the allegations were true. He said that from what they heard, the complain letter was considered baseless by the ACC and was left on a table until someone grabbed it and made an issue out it.

โ€œWe will write to ACC to be more stringent and not too casual with cases they receive. If it is confidential, it has be kept confidential and if it is not, they need to file it, keep it there but not on the table where somebody can grab it,โ€ he said.

Meanwhile, according to Business Bhutan, the complaint letter accused the association for appointing the executive director (ED) without following the Terms of Reference, for not abiding by the mission and vision of GAB as registered with the Civil Society Organization Authority, not conducting audit, thereby questioning its accountability and transparency.

It also questioned the accountability of the membership fees and regional tourist services from the Dzongkhags particularly, Paro, Punakha and Thimphu. It also accused the association of possible misuse of membership fund and training license, nepotism and for depriving guides as nominee to sit for board meetings.

It also requested the ACC to investigate and make the staffs and the chairman declare their asset following the asset declaration rule and regulation of ACC.

The ED of GAB, Sonam Tashi said the allegations were not only baseless but also an ill-intended taunt with a sole objective to tarnish the reputation of GAB and its members.

The ED said that the vacancy for the post of the ED was announced through Kuensel on 20thApril, 2018, followed by posts on GABโ€™s website and other official social media pages. Accordingly, two candidates turned up in which, one of the candidates was barred from the final interview since the candidate failed to meet the set criteria.

He added that the interview was conducted on 25th May, 2018, by the five officials from GAB and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in the presence of three external observers.

In addition, he clarified that GAB has never moved an inch away from our mandates. He added that the association has conducted several trainings and workshop in the last one year.

On the misuse of fund and budget Sonam Tashi said that GAB is a โ€˜cash-strapped organizationโ€™ sustaining on meager budget which were collected through membership fees, license printing and some amount from TCB as financial aid.

The ED also said that the association has been doing auditing since the time of its establishment and they can present the evidences. He said, โ€œIn fact, GAB was the first amongst GAB to file case โ€œon benefit of doubtโ€ CSOs to request Royal Audit Authority (RAA) to carry out auditing in the office.

Sonam Tashi also said that GAB has no authority over the money collected from regional service counters and entrance fees. He added, โ€œWhatever amount we collect from the counters, we deposit it to bank accounts of respective Dzongkhags every week. And these are audited on time.โ€

He also claimed that the only secretariat staff get training opportunities is not true. He explained that the opportunities were given to all the guides depending on the training programs. He added, โ€œIf the complainant is disgruntled over Australian Scholarship Award that we received, the program itself was designed for the secretariat staff. Not only GAB, all other NGOs were part of this Award.โ€

Regarding the accusation towards the chairman, he said that GABโ€™s chairman is not paid direct remuneration like the secretariat staff.

โ€œThe chairman is the founding member of GAB with vast experience in guiding profession and is GABโ€™s helping hand,โ€ he said.


By Kinley Wangchuk

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