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Updated: 58 min 22 sec ago

ACC disagrees with High Court’s ruling

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:23

Rinzin Wangchuk

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said they could not agree with the basis of the judgment the High Court’s Larger Bench issued in the Jatan Prasad Lal Chand Prasad (JPLP) tax evasion case.

The controversy surrounding the case is on the interpretation of “purchase cost and direct cost”, weather it should be considered as “expenses related to income” under section 35.2 of the Income Tax Act (ITA). The Larger Bench on August 15 ruled that direct cost is not an expense under ITA and considered purchase cost deductions of Nu 118.651M for the income of four years from 2011 to 2014 in favour of JPLP enterprise in Phuentsholing.

As far as the tax law is concerned, and as always maintained by the tax authority in all tax evasion cases, ACC stated that expense also included direct cost.

“There is unmistakable interference within the law to show that term cost and expense has been used interchangeably without distinction,” the commission’s press release on September 20 stated.

Part I, Chapter 4 of the ITA only prescribes category of expenses considered as allowable deduction under ordinary circumstance.

“In the tax evasion case and with obvious punitive intent, Section 35.2 categorically deprives tax offenders of such deductions that would have been otherwise allowed if the tax payer had honestly disclosed its income and expenditures,” the press release stated.

The larger bench ruling stated that taxpayers are mandated to pay just, fair, and equitable taxes as determined by the specific tax laws, whether it is direct or indirect tax. Such taxes are levied on the basis of net profit earned from the operation of a business.

The ruling also stated that for the purpose of earning profit or income, there has to be an investment. “The basic essence of Income Tax Law is that the taxable income is the net profit of a business and not the total sales amount or turn over,” the ruling stated.

ACC is arguing that the court’s ruling that direct cost cannot be considered as an expense merely because the term ‘expense’ had not been used categorically in the law requires us to explore further and understand how those terms are applied and understood in accounting parlance.

In business sense, according to ACC, expense refers to cost that has been used up. The term direct cost, like purchases, refers to expenses that are traceable and tied to the production of goods and services.

ACC stated that the phrase ‘expense related to income’ would be more appropriately related to direct cost because indirect cost cannot be attributed to the concealed income. For example, one cannot segregate how much of the salary expenses or rental expenses claimed by the defendant in those relevant years would be related to the income concealed.

“The ruling of the Larger Bench therefore stands incoherent to the general accounting principles and precedent set by the Supreme Court in the tax evasion case of Yeshi Choden Scrap Dealer,” stated in the ACC press release.

ACC appealed to the Supreme Court on August 29 for the final ruling after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) refused to appeal.

Case background

The commission investigated JPLP enterprise in 2015 after discovering that it had concealed sales by operating two different electronic systems. The defendant and his employee Rajesh Choudhary were charged for tax evasion in Phuentsholing drungkhag court with restitution of Nu 126.897M in back taxes and penalties.

The trial court ruled that the defendant should be given the deduction of direct cost and accordingly ordered the total restitution of only Nu 14.487M and additional Nu 7.875M as fines.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the OAG appealed to the High Court and Bench III ruled in favour of the prosecutor and sentenced the defendant to five years non-compoundable imprisonment term in addition to the restitution of Nu 126.897M.

An official from Department of Revenue and Customs said that there are certain qualifications needed to claim deduction of expenses under ITA. “However, if there was concealment of income or evaded tax by a tax payer, he or she is not allowed deduction,” he said. He said that Section 35.2 states that “Expenses related to income under section 35.1 shall be disallowed as deductions”.

The defendant moved the appeal to Larger Bench and upheld the trial court’s ruling.

ACC then reviewed the ruling and formally suggested the OAG twice in writing to appeal, but the Attorney General did not respond. ACC acknowledge that OAG being the State Prosecutor has the authority to appeal or not on any judgment rendered by the courts.

“The ACC, however, had to consider this motion after learning that Attorney General, despite its internal committees having decided to appeal against the larger bench ruling, refused to appeal,” the commission stated.

ACC officials said that they consulted with the tax experts and senior officials to interpret section 35.1 and 35.2 and made presentation before the trial court from beginning of adjudication process.

“The OAG also consistently maintained its ground of appeal based on the interpretation of the section 35.2 of the Act staring from Phuentsholing drungkhag court all the way upto the Larger Bench, High Court,” an ACC official said.

The commission during its press conference on September 20 said that Attorney General formerly owned Bhutan Legal Service, the defense law firm of JPLP. Attorney General Shera Lhendup denies the allegation.  “It is heights of absurdity as the firm was the first thing I disowned upon my appointment in May 2015.”

Picture story

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:23

Afcons Infrastructure Limited, an Indian company working on the Amochhu Township Development Project in Phuentsholing donat

Saving children for 37 years in Bhutan

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:22

Choki Wangmo

Dorji Wangmo was 15 when she was sentenced to one year and six months for burglary last year. She was sent to rehabilitation centre for girl juveniles at the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre (YDRC) supported by Save the Children Bhutan.

At YDRC, as a part of rehabilitative activity, Dorji Wangmo attended non-formal education and computer classes. She learnt baking too. She hopes to become a baker after she is released the centre.

Save the Children’s country office works to strengthening child justice system in the country through child protection programme to help children like Dorji Wangmo who are in conflict with the law.

Last year, the programme reached out to 310 children. The project’s focus is on brining important policy changes and support services for the children in the country.

“All children have the right to protection. They have the right to survive, to be safe, to belong, to be heard, to receive adequate care and to grow up in a protective environment,” said an official with Save the Children.

National Child Helpline was introduced to protect the rights of children; to prevent violence against children; to respond to child rights violations; and to provide need-based services from a response team.

Children in the country often find themselves in conflict with the law due to varying circumstances— divorce, poverty, peer pressure, neglect, lack of support and guidance, for example. This is according to the Save the Children Bhutan’s annual report 2018.

From a broken family, Dorji Wangmo lived with her grandmother and had early on picked up a habit of nicking little things.

The juvenile justice system is expected to strengthen and maximise the capacity of the institutions involved for the protection of minors. The programme has helped children reintegrate into the society through a range of rehabilitation, social and legal assistance programmes.

“A child-friendly system should include children in decisions that matter to them, including the legal and court proceedings so that children in conflict with the law are protected,” said the official.

Save the Children, which have been in the country for the last 37 years, initiated the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Education in 2003.

It has helped establish 11 ECCD centres in the country. Last year, 333 children directly benefitted from the project.

“From 2017 to 2019, the office partnered with Department of Public Health to pilot an ECCD parenting programme for 3-5, 0-3-year-old children and secured a multi-year funding to scale-up a holistic playful parenting programme. It targeted 0-3-year-old children in all the 20 dzongkhags,” said the education manager for Save the Children Bhutan, Karma Dyenka.

Karma Dyenka said parents observed that the children who attended ECCD centres were more confident and performed better.

Children in the programme took part in routine child development and health checkups, which included screening for malnutrition, stunting, vision and hearing loss, severe developmental delays, abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence.

Caregivers and parents attend counselling sessions to improve children’s cognitive, language, social-emotional, and motor development.

The country office supports ECCD and special education needs division under the Ministry of Education to develop a policy document for children with disability in the country. The document would ensure access to quality education and support services for the special needs children.

In the last eight years, Save the Children Bhutan piloted school-based disaster risk reduction programme. The project targeted mainstream schools, ECCD centres, schools with special needs programme and monastic schools in collaboration with the education ministry.

Last year, the programme reached out to 25,707 students and 4,847 adults in the country.

According to the annual review, in 2018 alone, the Save the Children Bhutan programmes reached out to 44,912 children and 7,587 adults.

As Save the Children celebrated its 100th year and 37 years of service in the country last week, 18 staff at the country office committed themselves to 100 hours of community service.

The country director for Nepal and Bhutan, Edward Webster Olney Jr. said that since Save the Children was established in the country, in 1982, the office has collaborated with the government to achieve some of the significant changes for children in the country.

“Recently, we have been working with the juvenile justice system and the Royal Bhutan Police. We have worked with the government to launch the women and children’s helpline—1098,” he said.

Eglantyne Jebb, an English woman founded the Save the Children In 1919 in response to children suffering as a result of World War I.

NFE benefits residents of remote Jangphutse village

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:21

Neten Dorji  | Trashiyangtse

As dusk envelopes Jangphutse village in Trashiyangtse, Kezang is all set to go to school.

The mother of three is attending a non-formal education (NFE) in the school located 10 minutes walk away from her house.

In the school, she joins seven other learners, who have completed the post-literacy course since 2003. They are learning English now.

Kezang said NFE changed her life. “I learned about cleanliness. I could not only read the numbers and prices of commodities but also help my children in their studies.”

Another NFE learner, Norbu Lhaden, said she joined the programme to learn both languages so that she could contest as a tshogpa in future local government elections.

The mother of three said with functional literacy test necessary to contest for elections, she is now confident that she would get through. “I thank the government for the opportunity to learn even we are old.”

Many learners could write their names in English and introduce themselves.

There are two programmes under NFE, a basic literacy course aimed to provide functional literacy equivalent to class VI Dzongkha informal education system and a post-literacy course equivalent to class VIII Dzongkha and Class VI English.

The learners have completed their post-literacy course. They say it helped them read and write the national language.

Kezang Tshomo from Dungtse village said after learning English, they could read signboards and kilometre posts along the road. “In the past, we are confused about where to go when the doctor says the chamber number. Now we can read and find the chambers easily.”

Meanwhile, the village tshogpa, Towpo, said they proposed to dzongkhag and gewog administration for an English course after realising its importance.

He said he could now read circulars sent in English. “It helps farmers calculate and keep accounts of income they earn from selling agriculture products across the border.”

NFE instructor, Tshering Palden, said she started teaching English a few months ago and has taught letters, sounds and consonants. “Villagers are interested to learn English in the post-literacy course but some dropout or attend classes irregularly because of their priorities.”

Race for Toorsa boulders begin

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 15:20

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

The race to win the lucrative surface collection and dredging works along the Toorsa embankment in Phuentsholing has begun.

More than 80 contractors have applied for the “thromde administrative approval,” Kuensel learned. Thromde has given the approval.

However, there are only three sites.

Only the first three contractors who can fulfill all the obligatory documents and clearances for the works would get the work. This is as per the “first come first serve basis” allotment notification the department of forests and park services (DoFPS) made.

On September 14, the DoFPS announced 24 feasible sites for surface collections and dredging under Gedu, Samtse and Sarpang forest divisions. Three sites from Toorsa, which falls under thromde, were also declared feasible.

The announcement also clarified that the applications submitted prior to this announcement (September 14) will be “treated cancelled.” Further, it stated that new sites would not be allocated to applicants who have surface collection and dredging sites.

Not much to collect: Toorsa river banks during the monsoon

To be eligible, the notification also emphasised that applicants are required to have a loading machine and two trucks. Sub-contracts are not allowed, the notification clarified.

However, what has taken the interested contractors by surprise is the sectorial clearance they will have to avail from the Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL).

Although the three sites fall under Phuentsholing Thromde, they are currently under the ongoing Phuentsholing Township Development Project (PTDP), which is being executed by CDCL.

Kuensel learned from close sources that CDCL has written to the DoFPS regarding these three sites. It is likely that the sites would not be allowed for surface collections and dredging works.

Most of the contractors who are competing for the three sites shared with Kuensel that DoFPS had not announced any information about the CDCL clearance.

“I heard that CDCL is not giving the clearance,” one contractor, asking anonymity said. “We haven’t got the confirmation yet.”

However, if it were true, it would be waste of time and energy, the contractor said, adding he has been running around to prepare documents and clearances.

The contractor also questioned if CDCL had the authority to not give the clearance when thromde had already approved.

The “first come first serve basis” for allotment has also not gone well with interested parties. Many said it is confusing and not transparent. Some contractors said a lucky draw would rather make more sense. Tendering the sites would also mean transparent and fair.

“First come first serve basis is an invitation for corruption,” a contractor said. “Why did the forest department advertise these sites if CDCL was not giving us the clearance?”

Applicants also said that they are discouraged. The forest department and CDCL should have consulted before it was announced in the media, applicants pointed out. Some said that the announcement didn’t have a deadline to submit applications.

Meanwhile, there are also other documents and clearances that eligible applicants are required to submit. Along with the thromde approval and sectorial clearance, an applicant also needs to submit an Initial Environment Examination for the forestry projects, Environment Management Plan as per the format available at the concerned divisional forest offices, public clearance, gewog administrative approval, sectorial clearance (if applicable) and forestry clearance.

Picture story

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:12

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering at a gathering of Bhutanese community in New York organised on September 21. Lyonchhen is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

Health minister points out lapses in health infrastructure

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:11

The health ministry’s health infrastructure development division (HIDD) with the department of medical supplies and health infrastructure (DoMSHI) is in the process of developing a guideline on the planning and designing of health facilities.

The guideline comes at a time when the construction of health infrastructure is coming under a lot of questions.

Chief engineer with HIDD, Tandin Dorji, during the fifth biennial health conference in Tsirang last week said that there were issues in the construction of health facilities. He said that the cost of construction inflated in the past projects because of inadequate planning and unavailability of design guideline and standards.

During the recent ministry level tender committee meeting, HIDD was instructed to develop a standard guideline for planning and designing of the health care facilities so that there are minimal errors. Tandin Dorji said that HIDD made a presentation to the ministry during its 55th high level committee meeting in March 2019. The division was further advised to scrutinize the guideline.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo pointed out lapses in the hospitals around the country. Lyonpo said the operation theatres and the delivery room in Tsirang hospital had wood flooring on top of the padding. “The blood sips through the spaces between the wooden floor, it gets soaked and then smells. That to me is not green.”

She said the physiotherapy at the hospital was the size of an average bedroom. In Dewathang hospital, in the middle, there is a big ramp with the CGI sheets as the roofing. “It’s dark, which means we have to have the lights on day and night. Forget green, that is not even common sense,” Lyonpo said.

Many doors have been dismantled because medical equipment does not fit through the door. “There are many examples that we can learn from,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that millions of Ngultrums were spent on building the structures and not a single one can be effectively used today. “This is how the cost is exaggerating. I think we must get our fundamentals right.”

Giving Samtse hospital as an example, Lyonpo said that the pillars were so big and the elevator door small that a stretcher could not be put through the elevator door. “If we can use the money efficiently in the construction, we can save about 30 per cent of the cost which can be used for training human resources.”

Lyonpo said: “I think we have to change the way we do business, thinking beyond infrastructures but really aligning infrastructure development with human resource plan and equipment plan. My recommendation would be recommending right from the paint and tiles so that there is consistency in the materials that are used.”

Health secretary Dr Ugen Dophu said that some of the hospitals in the country built with a green hospital concept were not green in terms of efficiency. “Yebilaptsa District Hospital is a good example of a green hospital.”

Lyonpo said she was excited that there would be a guideline soon. “I would even go further to recommend what kind of flooring you should use. After building so many hospitals, we are still not sure what kind of flooring we should use. Who uses wood as the flooring in an OT? Forget about seeing it, I have not even heard about it.”

On the guideline, Tandin Dorji said that when designing a health facility, besides the need of the visitors, emerging issues should be considered, changes analysed while coping up with the change in technology, among others. “We have to forecast while designing health facilities.”

He said HIDD was in the process of developing standards for the hospital building materials in line with the approved Bhutan Standards Bureau standards.

Patient-centred; efficient operations, including clinical safety; value for money; flexibility for expansion and new technology in unexpected ways over long useful life; sustainable design; healing environment, including green hospital concept, would be considered while planning and designing health facilities.

The planning team comprises of the planners from the health ministry and relevant stakeholders, end-users including local government and medical professionals, and HIDD that includes architects and engineers.

Earlier, he said that the HIDD sits with the planners (architect and engineers) from the health ministry, seek some information and then go ahead with the designing. “This was a blunder for us.”

A lot of issues like end-users having problem with design flow, room locations, room sizes, facilities based on the location of health facilities have been raised, he said.

The way forward, he said, would be end-users sitting together with planners and designers. “The advantage is that end-users have equal design contributions, proper planning of spaces, as it will be based on the type of services that they need.”

The Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Mother and Child hospital in Thimphu, he said, was designed after thorough consultation with end-users and planners.  “Similarly, in any projects in the future, we will be consulting end-users and the planners from relevant agencies.”

Some of the pertinent issues with BHUs in the dzongkhags include issues on the room sizes of facilities, finishing of the materials and inadequate facilities. Based on the complaints and recommendations, HIDD revised the drawings, Tandin Dorji said.

The modular concept of BHU includes the construction of additional facilities in BHUs. “As per the ministry’s directives, we have to provide X-Ray and ultrasound rooms to the BHUs, waste shed storage, toilets for a differently-abled person, among others.”

The concept of green hospital design will be considered when planning and designing new hospitals and other health facilities. The new designs also have provisions for additional facilities for future expansion.

“These will be the main focus of the HIDD when designing new hospitals that are in the pipeline,” Tandin Dorji said.

Projects in the pipeline in the 12th Plan include the construction of the 500-bed multi-disciplinary super-specialty hospital, infectious disease control hospital at Gidagom in Thimphu, tropical and zoonotic disease centre in Gelephu, 30-bed EENT hospital in JDWNRH, 20-bed Thimphu district hospital in Kawang gewog in Thimphu and satellite clinics.

HIDD is also providing technical backstopping for the 20-bed Nganglam hospital in Pemagatshel, Sipsu hospital in Samtse, and BHUs for dzongkhags.

“With the guidelines, we hope to minimise the hospital faulty designs,” Tandin Dorji said.

Dechen Tshomo

Nu 340M unaccounted for in Buddha statue project

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:10

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has found that Lam Tshering Wangdi and Damcho Choden had embezzlement funds from Buddha Dordenma Project deliberately to amass personal assets.

Lam Tshering Wangdi could not account for or explain the utilisation of more than Nu 340 million (M) in the construction project of 169ft bronze Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu.

The Commission in 2016 got the wind of allegations against Anim Damcho Choden of misappropriating funds from the project to amass personal wealth.

She was also alleged of running a tourism business and bringing in foreigners in the name of the project and levying the government approved tariff.  However, the then government had already provided the visa tariff waver for visiting foreign workers and sponsors worth Nu 6.138M.


The background   

Planning of the 169ft statue began as early as 2004. The project was conceived and founded by Lam Tshering Wangdi, who is chairman of Menjong Chothuen Tshogpa.

The project was carried out under the banner of Buddha Dordenma Image Foundation (BDIF) registered in Hong Kong. 

A Hong Kong-based account with United Overseas Bank was opened to receive donations and contributions from family and friends of the main sponsors Peter Teo (Singapore) and Kiam Seng Wong (Malaysia). 

ACC found that the BDIF operation in Bhutan was not registered as required under the Religious Organisation Act of Bhutan 2007.

The project was supposed to be completed by 2008.

However, consecration of the statue took place in September 2015. Other structural works continued until 2019.

The then government had also contributed worth over Nu 55M for the installation of water supply, access road construction, electrification and tariff wavers. The government also contributed 400-hectare land to the project.


The modus operandi

ACC’s investigation found that the money that came as donation for the project were misappropriated by Lam Tshering Wangdi from the BDIF account by directly converting into assets or by diverting to other individuals, including Anim Damcho and her family members.

Between December 2004 and June 2018, the BDIF account maintained with Bhutan National Bank Ltd. (BNBL) was credited with more than Nu 480M.

It was learnt that some of the donors had contributed foreign currency in cash. However, in absence of record, no details of such contribution could be ascertained.

Lam Tshering Wangdi was the sole cheque signing authority from the beginning.

In April 2008, an official from the Department of Culture was deputed to look after the project’s finance. Following this, Lam Tshering Wangdi opened a separate current deposit (CD) account with the Bank of Bhutan (BoB).

All expenditures relating to the project were to be routed from this CD account. Anim Damcho and the finance officer were then the joint signing authority.

However, BDIF continued to receive foreign remittance where Lam Tshering Wangdi was the sole cheque signing authority. Any fund requisition for the project had to be put up to Lam, who would then transfer money from BDIF account to the CD account.

From 2009, it was found that Lam Tshering Wangdi started channelling several incoming foreign remittance meant for the project into his personal account.

Investigators observed that until the opening of the CD account, there were only two remittances amounting to Nu 4.7M in his personal account.

However, after the opening of the CD account, until May 2018, about 89 remittances amounting to Nu 272M was credited to his personal saving account.

Also, from 2009 till June 2018, Lam Tshering Wangdi received foreign remittance worth more than Nu 381.62M in the BDIF account.

For the period between 2006 and 2018, of more than Nu 92.5M, Lam Tshering Wangdi had transferred Nu 500,000 to the BDIF account, and about Nu 91M to the CD account.


Assets acquired

Investigation found that the duo acquired and registered several high-value properties, either for themselves or for their immediate relatives by misappropriating project funds.

Evidences showed that Lam Tshering Wangdi assisted in establishing and promoting business ventures for Anim Damcho by making his foreign sponsors believe that the business profits would go to project.

Between 2004 and 2008, Lam Tshering Wangdi has purchased around 13.51 acres of land in Paro, Punakha, and Thimphu and a G+1 building in Motithang in Thimphu.

A Toyota Land Cruiser and Hiace Bus were also purchased from the project fund which were later used by the duo’s relatives.

Anim Damcho also held certain parts directly and indirectly (through her relatives) in the above properties. Besides, she constructed a G+1 building in Zilukha and purchased 0.645 acres of land along with structures at Guma in Punakha.

Between 2009 and 2018, Lam Tshering Wangdi disbursed Nu 690,810 as clearing charges for two unit Discovery Land Rover from the BDIF account. He also bought 3.38-acre land in Medwang gewog in Thimphu.

During the same timeframe, Anim Damcho purchased 0.30-acre land in Samtenling gewog, Sarpang; 9,502sqft land near Swimming Pool area in Thimphu, a Land Cruiser Prado and a Hiace bus.

In 2013, the duo, in partnership, started building a five-storey twin guest house in Taba, Thimphu.

During the investigation, the duo had an accumulated asset worth Nu 9.8M in moveable assets and worth Nu 163.19M in immovable assets.

Besides confiscation of the assets acquired through the project fund, ACC has asked Lam Tshering Wangdi to restitute Nu 317.78M and Anim Damcho Nu 4.59M.

Commission has also found that Anim Damcho, who is the proprietor of Lhaimetog Export and Import, and the company’s chief executive officer and her nephew Younten Jamtsho, had allegedly evaded Nu 21.296M in tax between 2009 and 2017.

Between 2009 and 2017, the company reported taxable income of Nu 88.819M to the tax authority and paid Nu 1.133M as business income tax.

ACC found that the company’s actual earning was much more and that it had concealed export income of at least Nu 70.987M.

Lhaimetog Export and Import, registered in 2009, exported Cordyceps to foreign customers in Southeast Asia.

Younten Tshedup

Satsam residents affected after recent rape and murder of a minor

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:09

It was around 7:49pm of September 19. Dechen and her family were having dinner in Satsam Choeten, Paro, when a teacher of Drugyel Lower Secondary School called her to ask the name of the child she picked up from school that evening.

She was informed about a missing child, the eight-year-old girl, who was later found raped and murdered in Paro last week.

“I remembered dropping her near the junction and helping her cross the road,” Dechen said.

Dechen said she had to go to the bank that day. She is still in trauma, not willing to believe what she saw that night. She is also in a state of denial.

“I regret not being able to drop her home that day,” she said. “I ask myself if the incident could have been prevented if I dropped her home.”

She said the girl usually walks home on her own, but she gave her lift that day, as the girl was waiting near the roadside drenched in rain. “She didn’t talk much in the car and her expression was bit gloomy.”

Dechen and her husband went to look for the child with the victim’s mother and neighbours, using cellphone lights. When they found the body in a bush nearby, they couldn’t believe she was dead.

“There was blood from her right ears,” Dechen’s husband said. “Her body was cold by the time we found her.”

Everyone in the locality is disturbed by the incident.

Lhab Dema, 39, who resides just below the road, said she couldn’t believe what had happened to the girl. “I close my shop early and stay indoor with my children, she said. “I have not been able to go to the place where the body was found.”

The spot where the body was found is just a few meters above Lhab Dema’s shop. The body was kept in the same spot for over a night, as the victim’s mother was staying with a friend in the area.

Police are patrolling the area.

Nima, 47, who stays just above the spot where the body was found, said it is unlikely the murder took place at the same spot as people were weeding in a strawberry field nearby. “My workers would have easily noticed or heard voices if it happened here.” The spot where the body was found and the strawberry field is divided by a short wall.

He said he was threshing paddy till 4pm and there were also people commuting on the road.

Many people from the locality said the crime was committed elsewhere and the body was dumped there.

A source alleged the crime looks well organised, as there was even a gumboot left at the spot.

While a team from Paro police and three officers from Thimphu are still investigating, police sources say they have some suspects. “We are trying to reconstruct the scene for now,” a police officer said.

Sources, however, said the husband of the woman with whom the victim’s mother was staying was detained as a suspect. The suspect’s brother had allegedly gone missing.

Tashi Tenzin | Paro

Picture story

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:08

 As part of the preparation for the consecration ceremony of the Thimphu Hindu Mandir at Kuensel Phodrang and Durga Puja, members of the Hindu community took part in a cleaning and beautification campaign yesterday. The consecration ceremony will be held on October 1, while the Navratri (Durga Puja) will be held from October 2 to 7. 

Getting the fundamentals right

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:07

“After building so many hospitals, we are still not sure what kind of flooring we should use.”

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo did not mince her words and expressed her disappointment at the way hospitals were designed and built. At the recently concluded biennial conference in Tsirang, she laid bare so many things, especially in health infrastructure that were hidden behind plastered walls.

From design to engineering to construction, the minister said everything was faulty.  Operation theatres with wood flooring, physiotherapy room the size of a bedroom, door not big enough to pass trolleys or equipment, the list is longer than many knew.

Like the health minister said, million of ngultrums are spent on building health infrastructure and there are not many, including the national referral hospital, that can be a good example. The problem is that these infrastructures are built with borrowed or aid money and when they are not put to the best use, it is a loss.

There are so many hospitals, big and small planned in the next few years. And given that health is becoming a growing issue in the country, the demand for more and better services will only increase.  We are already talking about super-speciality hospitals.

The health ministry is developing a guideline and standards for health facilities. It is a good intervention to prevent waste of scarce public resources.  The guideline is being developed by departments and divisions within the ministry.

Five key goals are identified in planning and designing health facilities like hospitals being patient-centred, having efficient operations including clinical safety, value for money, sustainable design and green hospital concept. Apart from sustainable design and the green concept, the others are not new concepts, but common standards in building infrastructures.

How did we forget to follow them?

The question is what were the departments and divisions doing when planning or designing the many hospitals, which are now coming under question as roofs leak, wall crack and doors are broken down. Engineers and designers might have changed jobs, but the departments and divisions were there to ensure standards.

There is no accountability fixed once a facility is handed over. Hospitals are already showing signs of poor workmanship. As the peeling paint and cracking walls expose the quality, there are many questions asked. Yet we cannot fix accountability.

However, like we say, it is better to be late than never. Having technical review teams, consulting with end-users, checking procurement procedures and procured goods would ensure some standards. With lessons learnt, building hospitals should be better now.

Like the minister said, we must get the fundamentals right. Besides getting the basics right, we should also ensure fixing accountability. One important point in the guideline perhaps should be issuing a moratorium on constructing private buildings of top health officials simultaneously with the hospital. It may extend to others.

It may sound absurd, but we hear a lot of leakages of materials and manpower from government construction to private.

Permits for sustainable Cordyceps collection

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:06

Cordyceps may be the biggest source of income for the people in the highlands but collection has been decreasing over the years.

The Department of Forest and Park Services so has come up with a strict guideline for collection of the fungus. The highlanders are provided with a permit card with different colour for each gewog.

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DT decision to shift boarding facility from Nabji to Nimshong not implemented

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:05

In the third dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) session in Trongsa, members decided to shift the boarding facility provided in Nabji Primary School to Nimshong school in Korphu gewog.

The reason was that Nimshong is one of the poorest village in the dzongkhag and without any boarding facility, it was becoming difficult for the parents to send their students to school.

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Banks approve only four out of 20 PSL proposals

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:04

When the priority sector lending (PSL) initiative was launched, businessmen in Monger welcomed the news with much eagerness.

There is now a disappointed group today after financial institutions rejected their proposals although they claim their projects qualified for the loan.

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Farmer groups and cooperatives to receive preferential treatment

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:03

The ministry of agriculture and forest (MoAF) has established a RNR Enterprise Development, an opportunity support, unit with the department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives to feed students with nutritious food.

Claiming it as ministry’s strategic plan “white paper” on school and hospital feeding programme, the support unit, which is in line with the government’s pledge, would also buy or procure identified farm produces from farmers at a floor price announced a year in advance, according to the press release from the ministry.

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Haa farmers trained on organic farming technologies

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:02

The Agriculture Research and Development Centre in Yusipang and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) provided training on organic farming technologies to the farmers of Longpa and Nobgang villages in Samar, Haa earlier this month.

More than 35 participants from 56 households attended the training, which is a part of the resilient mountain solutions initiative.

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Under-18 Dragon Boys beat host Nepal 3-0

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:01

Bhutan’s under-18 national team began the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-18 Championship at APF Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal by beating the host and defending champion 3:0.

The Dragon Boys started well and took the lead in the 35th minute when forward Yeshi Dorji broke the deadlock. Nepal fought back, but couldn’t capitalise on the chances they created and the first half ended 1:0.

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‘Run to Give’ donates Nu 250,828 to Cancer Society

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:00

The Bhutan Cancer Society received a donation of Nu 250,828 after the “Run to Give” marathon conducted in Thimphu yesterday morning.

A total of 327 participants from Thimphu and Paro took part in the five km marathon at 7:20am in the morning. Le Meridien Thimphu and Le Meridien Paro, River Front, organised the mini marathon.

Le meridien’s Human Resources Manager, Draupada Sharma said that it is an annual event and a noble initiative to support the Bhutan Cancer Society.

Participants paid a registration fee of Nu 500, which was donated to Cancer Society. Le Meridien hosted a free breakfast for the runners.

Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck graced the event.

Focus point

Sat, 09/21/2019 - 17:27

Lam Tshering Wangdi and Anim Damcho booked for corrupt practices

Sat, 09/21/2019 - 17:25

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has implicated four in the embezzlement of Buddha Dordenma project fund worth more than Nu 320 million (M).

An investigation report from the commission stated that Lam Tshering Wangdi who initiated the project and Damcho Choden (Anim Damcho), the project manager had grossly misused the project fund for their personal enrichment, which also partly explains why the project was delayed by years.

ACC began the investigation on September 5, 2016 however, active operational phase commenced on February 2, 2018.

Lam Tshering Wangdi

During the investigation it was found that there was no satisfactory proof to show that Lam Tshering Wangdi made sincere and honest attempt to infuse transparent practice in the collection and use of donations and contributions for the project.

On the contrary, the manner in which he operated his private account to channel foreign remittances meant for the project and keep substantial amount of such transaction off the record only stands to prove both his intention and will to misappropriate.

ACC’s investigation report stated that between 2004-2008, Lam Tshering Wangdi had misappropriated over Nu 74.649M from the Buddha Dordenma Image Fund (BDIF) account maintained with the Bhutan National Bank Ltd. (BNBL) either by directly converting into assets or by diverting to other individuals including Anim Damcho and her family.

During this period, he had received a remittance of over Nu 114M in the BDIF account and had incurred over 43.75M for the project. However, during the initial phase of construction, not much of the fund was utilised, as the expenses for the approach roads, water supply and electrification works were supported by the government.

From 2009-2018 Lam Tshering Wangdi misappropriated over Nu 75.25M from the BDIF account using similar practices. He had received over Nu 366.47M and had spent over Nu 305.90M for the project, the report stated.

Between June 2006 and 2018, the Lam had misappropriated over Nu 198.10M. After diverting the remittance intended for the project into his personal saving account, he had received over Nu 277.40M and incurred over Nu 84.86M for the project.

It was also found out that between 2008 and June 2018, he had unnecessarily spent over Nu 0.30M from the project’s CD account maintained with BoB. “The investigation does not find any rationale in incurring from the project fund for the luxury of private individuals,” the report stated.

The investigation found that between 2004 and 2008, Lam Tshering Wangdi operated both his personal savings account as well as BDIF account to receive foreign donations.

However, it was learnt that he had not maintained proper records of individual donations received and its purpose, and how the donation had to be used.

It was learnt that as early as 2004, foreign remittance started coming into the BDIF account.

It was found that Lam Tshering Wangdi’s personal saving account did not receive any huge and frequent remittances from abroad although it was opened since 1998.

Investigators observed that until a credit deposit (CD) account with the Bank of Bhutan (BoB) was opened in December 2008, there were only two remittances amounting to Nu 4.7M  received from donors.

However, after the opening of the CD account with BoB, until May 2018, about 89 remittances amounting to about Nu 2.7B has been credited to his personal saving account.


Anim Damcho     

ACC found that prior to the commencement of the project, Anim Damcho had only Nu 46,447 in one of her saving accounts maintained with BNBL. After 2004 up until her business operations in 2009, she had deposited Nu 19.3M into her saving accounts.

During this period, she did not have known source of income to be able to explain such huge cash inflow into her account.

The investigation discovered that the staff members of BDIF project and BNBL were made to deposit the amounts into her saving accounts. The staff members confirmed of having made the transactions into Anim’s account upon her instruction.

In 2011 Anim Damcho allegedly embezzled Nu 2.4M from the project fund on the pretext of purchasing a Toyota Fortuner. However, the vehicle was not envisioned to be used for the project, but for the private use. Her nephew, Younten Jamtsho, the CEO of her businesses, used the vehicle.


Other beneficiaries of the project fund

It was found that between 2004 and June 2018, Anim Damcho’s younger sister Kezang Deki had benefitted with Nu 3M from the project fund. Her younger brother Ugyen, who is the incumbent Phangyul gup also benefitted with Nu 950,000.

There are 108 counts of embezzlement under section 287 of the Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB) 2004 and 27 counts of embezzlement under section 52 of the Anti Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) 2011 against Lam Tshering Wangdi.

Anim Damcho is booked for 125 offences. She is charged  for 89 counts of adding and abetting, 23 counts of participation in an offence, one count of accomplice, two counts of money laundering and 10 counts of embezzlement.

Younten Jamtsho is charged for one count of concealment under section 73 of ACAB 2011 while Ugyen is charged for one count of money laundering under section 72 of the Act.

ACC has forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General on September 13.

Meanwhile, a definite project cost for the construction of the 169ft (52 metre) Buddha Shakyamuni statue is still unknown including the project duration.   

Younten Tshedup