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The FM and GRF – abuse, accountability, civil service reform

I do not know if it is the same case. During the question answer session of the Finance Minister in the National Council (NC) in the last session of the parliament, NC member from Trashigang, Lhatu, asked the Finance Minister about more funds given to Paro. Before even answering the question, the Finance Minister said that as he is from Paro, the question seems to imply that he is giving more money to his constituency. And as all politicians do, the Minister justified.

Now media reports say that the Finance Minister had used Nu 19 million from the General Reserve Fund (GRF) for activities in his constituency. If what Trashigang NC member questioned was about the same issue, then it is really disheartening. If it is the same case, the minister lied in the hall of the NC. Even if it is not, how can the Finance Minister do this at such a period when our economy has fallen to such a level. He is the Finance Minister.  

Just look at the three words, General Reserve Fund. Look at the middle word – Reserve, meaning something that is kept aside for use should the need really arise. Was the need really there?

The PDP, based on RAA has said that the money was used to improve farm roads, build irrigation channels and a lam’s residence. I do not think these are critical activities. Maybe the irrigation channel can be given the benefit of doubt but not the farm road and the lam’s residence.  The road could have waited and the Lam could have stayed somewhere for sometime.

Most disheartening and pissing off is that this was done when the country is going through a serious problem. The Finance Minister should know best about it. His Majesty the King had commanded that not a single pie from the government resources should be used for the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu. The Sungchop and Kidu Fund shares were sold. When our King is making such sacrifices, a minister doing something entirely different is not right.

This case is one that can be used as a case study for accountability. The Minister would not have just taken Nu 19 million from the government fund and send it to his constituency directly. There are due process, where our civil servants are involved. A lot of paper work would have been involved in this transaction, from GNHC or other government agencies. Our civil servants also know that GRF cannot be used for such purposes. So, couldn’t even one civil servant tell the minister that this is not permisible?

I am not implying that the minister does not know GRF. He does. He should. But it is also the responsibility of civil servants to convey this simple message. These are the very reasons why reforms are needed in the civil service and why accountability is very important.

What will happen. The PMO will write a long sweet letter in its facebook page beginning with this issue and few paragraphs later saying something entirely different. In other words, people will forget about it by the time they read the last sentence.

The media will write about it for sometime and then give up. Sadly, there is no opossition. Even PDP and Dasho Tshering Tobgay will forget it after some days. The ACC does not seem interested in policy corruption at all. Maybe Dasho Karma Ura’s team could pick up this case and use it as a case study. Atleast it can be of some use.

Karma Tshering

Thimphu

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