Wednesday, January 31, 2018

National Resources: Sand supply, NRDCL and Royal Command.

His Majesty the 4th King took extra- ordinary actions to reserve natural resources for common good of the nation and the people.

Export of timber was banned and later private ownership of national sand deposits was banned.  

Bhutan Logging Corporation was reorganised to form NRDCL and given new mandates.  In addition to timber, the corporation was tasked with supply of sand and stone aggregates at affordable retail prices.

However, NRDCL seems to have failed in all quarters. By design or simply mismanagement, the Stone Crushing Plants seemed to have failed miserably incurring heavy losses and worse it is now revealed that sand supplies were quietly surrendered to few Transport Companies.

There is no uprooting the tentacles of Druk  Monster Corruption Beast. Even the Command of King is subverted. And all this is possible because there is push and pull in the appointment of key management people.

NRDCL seems to be now making an effort to regain sense of national responsibility. I hope the Corporation positions itself to meet both timber and sand supplies at reasonable rate for the benefit of all consumers. And revive the stone aggregate plants to commercial success. NRDCL must have a Board of Directors which is not a total slave to the government's political party interests.

In the very recent tussle between Trucking Companies and NRDCL, the Truck Companies were able to approach the Prime Minister 3 times and even call a Strike ( unheard in Bhutan ) to force their demand to enjoy continuous monopoly of sand supply. This is how powerful private greed overides national interest.  At my individual level, I appealed to Truckers to concentrate on transportation business and not seek monopoly of sand supplies. 

Today, RSTA is powerless in enforcing new taxi rates ( after oil price drop ) in the face of all powerful and politically pampered Taxi Association of Thimphu.  The association got tge government to ban new taxi registration under Thimphu and then went a step further to get the government to ban taxis registered under other Dzongkhags to ply in Thimphu the most lucrative market. 

The nation has also  totally given in to private mine owners. And National Mining Corporation is a toothless Agency both in Management aspiration and mandate.  And very soon it will become a national liability and private Mining Corporations' bonanza.  


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Did ACC and Military Court of RBA error in haste and objective?

These days Kuensel pages are filled with the drama of military court's arbitrary verdict being dissected and challenged at the High Court. As it is an open court hearing with full press coverage, I guess one can also express personal views on a very disturbing event under judicial process. 

This ongoing case is to do with Desuung programme directed  by Dessung Directorate and implemented by RBA at its Tencholing Military Training Centre. The victims in the dock are Officers and NCOs who slogged everyday from 4am to well neigh midnight to make the programne a huge success.

The Desuung trainees started with college graduates and gradually expanded to senior government officers and Members of Parliament. Even the Chairman of National Council undertook the gruelling course. In ages, from physically fit young to weary seniors and in maturity, from fresh graduates to policy makers and legislators were invited to attend the Desuung Course at Tencholing conducted by these professional soldiers.

Desuung programne is the brain child of His Majesty the King. When it was first introduced, I thought it was a kind of orientation course into military field for young minds before venturing into other profession. Then as it continued and even inservice people were invited to the Desuung course.  It appeared that there was an objective to build up a kind of reserved force to compliment the small National Security Force. Only when senior civilian officers and elected MPs were invited into undergoing the Desuung Course, the full vision of His Majesty the King could be visualized by an ordinary mind like mine.

The Desuung Course is not an orientation to military field and not an only goal for Reserved Security Force. It is a whole new concept that introduced and nutured unique national approach physically, intellectually and in spirit the " One People One Nation " concept. And the success of this incredibly ambitious royal vision was thrust upon these few RBA Officers and NCOs who have now been put in the dock by the very forces of the nation that actually owe a huge debt to the herculean efforts and dedication put in by these soldiers of Tsawa Sum.

Hear the stories from words of mouth or already you may have read stories shared in social media or better still you could be a Desuung.  The highly educated, intellectual czars of civil service, policy directors and legislators taught how to eat, dress, walk, trot, run, stand, listen, think and even when to sleep in the line of Tsawa Sum by almost illeterate NCOs and educated but far younger and otherwise in other fields inexperienced soldier officers.

Success and failure of the Desuung Programne could swing the pendelum of national thought process from more dedication to Tsawa Sum to distasteful authoritarian exercise of indoctrination. 

The danger of such  mis- construction, mis- contruing and mis-firing or back firing  is real and therefore, the absolute necessity of comfort and due respects  by ways of quality and high standard facilities in boarding ( lodging and fooding ) including entertainment programmes to relax exhausted bodies and at times frustrated and  hurt ego and  confused minds.

These same Officers and NCOs conducted the trainings through both physical and lectures and by turn of duties also managed the arrangements for comforts of lodging, fooding and entertainments for those groups of very important and valuable leaders of the nation. The people who move and shake the nation in motion.

Nobody volunteered for the assignments. Being Instructors was their profession. None of them lobbied for admistrative duties of financial management and boarding caterer to those otherwise alien to Army Institution the Civilian Trainee Groups. The Officers and NCOs were not trained to cater in such manner to civilian leaders. But like true soldiers, they nevertheless executed the extra- ordinary duties as commanded to the best of their abilities and understanding.

The Desuung Tranings still continues at Tencholing and it has been a success to an extent that even our visionary King may not have foreseen though certainly His Majesty must have prayed more than anyone else because only the King knew what is at stake.

The orders were cast in black and white letters  for the comfort level of the Desuung groups under Training. Most probably even Training manuel and types of physical exercises and lectures were detailed in fine prints.  There was to be no compromise in meeting requisites and each group cannot be treated less than the previous group in terms of fooding and lodging and other facilities.

The Officers under prosecution are now informing the High Court that there was no Standard of Operation ( SOP ) manuel  in regards to Desuung Traning. They are absolutely right. Desuung is a new concept and objective is not marshal as in Army or Security Force build up. It is a social and political exercise to strengthen united service for Tsawa Sum. It is beyond any regular SOP to manage or handle or achieve the end goal. 

There was no Managenent Guideline or SOP as in Army language  that set the baseline or ceiling. There was just one order and that was to successfully conduct each and every kind of Desuung Group Training. And success these Officers and NCOs achieved under the orders ( in civilian language it is termed directives) of their superiors.

Mind you,  nothing and I mean nothing is carried out especially in the Army be it British Army or Indian Army without orders from the Top. And Royal Bhutan Army learned from the Army manuel that are leftovers from British Raj Army to the Indian Army. Therefore, when you read in Kuensel  that the Prosecuting Officer representing the Army Command  informed the High Court that  , " the administrative officer has all the authority ", you have to deduce  that the unfortunate Prosecuting Officer is speaking under duress with his scrotum lightened of its usual content. For in the Army no one but the top has all the authority. 

The Desuung were well looked after in terms of amenities and facilities. It was simply lack of time being engaged right from 5 am follow-in- line up to late night hours of never ending lectures that had limbs go from numb to wooden state. There were drinks and snacks but no time  for consumption. Meals were full course but again time was luxury that just disappeared in moments. You were respected but severally disciplined. You are reminded of your superior experiences and knowledge but still those Officers with few pips on their shoulders had you standing for hours late night repeating their own thoughts and principles as if they were sharing secrets of longevity or potency with their elderly audience.

And yet not one among so many groups of         
Trainess walked away. No one decided to call it a quit. No one decided  " enough of this gruelling physical and mental  bullshitting exercises". Instead as days passed by, they the Desuungs learned to appreciate the professional dedication of their Trainers and Instructors. For the Desuungs, it was from 2 weeks to at most 5 weeks but for the professional soldiers, it was a day after day lifetime routines. These Officers and NCOs  are back to instructing and training regular soldier and officer courses after each Desuung course. There was no respite for them. For Tencholing Army Training Centre the conducting of Desuung Training is a very important responsibility but nevertheless an additional task to its regular duty of conducting armed forces training courses for officers, soldiers and recruits. The Officers and NCOs are under tremendous mental and physical strain. 

And now this issue of alleged embazzlement of funds as ACC and Army Prosecutors insist upon. The Officers claim that there was no embazzlement. Just adjustments. We civilians would be laughing aloud or politely smiling at this word " adjustment ".  And foreign agencies in Bhutan especially IMTRAT and India House must be avid Kuensel readers for Desuung fund like most RBA fund ultimately could be sourced from India.

So let us take a moment  to examine without prejudice what these Offficers mean by the term " adjustment ".

At all times the Desuungs were to be provided with high quality meals. And so what do the management do to make it feel special during supposed to be very crucial.special occassions?  Like Welcome Night; Farewell Night and in-between super occassions when VIPs guests visit to interact with Desuungs or witness the Passing Out Parade. Yes like any other well intending organisers, the management ( administrative team of one Officer and one NCO) arranged dances and dramas for entertainment ( sometimes even an archey game ) and yes sufficient quality alcohol drinks and Bhutanese delicacies in the buffet menu.

Those were the only occassions and opportunities to demonstrate to the highly educated and respected Desuungs, the high regards that the Officers and NCO instructors had deep down in their hearts though during training such genuine respects had to be camouflaged by necessity of imparting proper training.  These few occassions may have melted even the hardest heart of grievance collected during the field treatments meted out to them. And expenses incurred are so insignificant to the goal achieved through Desuung project. Like morning frosts to mountain snow peaks.

The standard army way for catering even meal for National Day is have approved Vendors supply all estimated requirement of vegetables and groceries and billed accordingly. Any unused material could  also be returned to the vendors and deduct from bills later. And that would have been the routine in Desuung case also except the Vendors do not supply quality alcohol drinks and Bhutanese delicacies which have to be acquired from separate sources. But such sources though are availble are not licensed.Thus the problem of proper accounting as per laid down accounting procedures. Necessity becomes mother of invention. And a process was adopted whereby though some items are sourced from elsewhere the bills would be raised by authorised Vendors. And since those Vendors has no licence to supply such " restricted " items, they billed the amount but in volume of vegetables or groceries that they were licensed to supply. Thus it may appear that each Desuung may have eaten like an ox at times.

Neither the Officers nor the NCOs or the Vendors  profited from this arrangement. The items were served in the Party menus and cost met fron Desuung Training Budget as it should be. Embazzlement is to derive financial benefit for the individual. Here the adjustment was made to fit a billing process for genuine expenditures made for the overall success of project Desuung.

To terminate from service without any past service benefits and worse to
imprison these Officers and NCOs would be a heinous national crime. Among these
Officers and NCOs are those who fought along the side of His Majesty the 4th King in 2003 Military Operation in South Bhutan 
flushing out Indian Militant Groups of ULFA, BODO and KLO. In preparation for that what seemed a short campaign, so many soldiers and Officers marched  continuously on foot through mosquitoe,  leech and snake infested tropical jungles of wild animals for weeks and months running into years to make possible to study enemy locations and plan strategies. They are part and participants who rushed to national disaster sites to provide relief and rescue works and who jumped into the inferno of Wangdue Dzong fire to retrieve relics. It seems highly unlikely that these Officers and NCOs have betrayed their institution and the nation. Maybe we are betraying them.

Why has the success of Desuung programme become heart aches for some national or foreign agencies? How come the Royal Bhutan Command at Operation level could not stand by their Officers and NCOs? How did the charade of this cocktail of court hearing ( neither Army nor civilian judicial process ) happen at Lungtenphu ? The Officers and NCOs were not allowed to wear uniforms thus humilated, threatened and presumed guilty before trial, restricted from seeking legal advice and finally arbitarily and summarily declared guilty as charged.

I was shocked when a group of officers visited my home and requested for assistance. They were not seeking my help to bail them out from such a situation. They are aware that I have no such authority. They wanted an un-prejudiced opinion of what hit them.  And if possible would I represent them in the  appeal case at the High Court?

I cannot represent them in any Court because the laws have been changed to favour only students of Law and not those who can cut through the haze of political and administrative manuvres and expose facts. I also cannot represent them because I do not see the need for legal representation in a politically and institutionally driven case. There is no defence mechanism when the ACC and Prosecuting Agency is deemed right and defendents guilty as hell and persecuted even before the trial began.

My advice to the Officer group was and still is. Dear Dashos, I am dismayed by the process adopted to humilate and prosecute you all. All I know is that you have not failed in the task of conducting the Desuung Trainings. There has been a great number of applicants for Desuung Courses and so many Desuungs are so enthusiastic in wearing the orange uniform and serve the nation in any and various manners. You contributed towards realising the royal vision.

I do not know you personally but you all are able Officers and even though your own military court and military authority at operation level have ditched you, be a soldier at heart and in the Court. You still have the Supreme Commander who knows the value of your contributions and a Judiciary System that upholds good deeds and men dedicated to Tsawa Sum. And there is no such thing as handing out arbitrary judgements at ACC insistance. It may happen in authoritarian Courts but in Civil Court, there is no discarding the principle of criminal  justice that requires prosecutors to present evidence beyond reasonable doubts. I pray that the High Court will overturn the arbitrary conviction passed by the  Lungtenphu Court.

These are our soldiers in the field of Training or at the Border. At Doklam our such type of officers and soldiers wore gho to differeciate themselves from Indian and Chinese uniformed forces. And carried no guns. Our soldiers simply stood guard protecting our land unarmed but fearless. They followed orders. Theirs is not to question why or how?  But to do the best as ordered. Do we now as a nation crucify such fellow guardians of sovereign land for some dubious drumped up allegations and serve whose interests?  

My Prayer always is that May Palden Drukpa stand firm and true to national goal and aspiration and not be swayed by evil forces within or without the nation.           




Friday, January 12, 2018

ACC and RICB Corruption.

The ACC letter to RICB Board ( courtesy Kuensel today the 12th January, 2018 ) says a lot about the RICB Board of Directors and supervisory failings of RMA.

Whilst RMA can self examine under the shadow or glow of Druk Thuksey Medal, the Board of Directors of RICB should immediately hold a Meeting to dissolve itself. The Secretary of Company Acts of Bhutan under MOE must convene an Extra- Ordinary General Meeting of the Shareholders to elect a fresh Board of Directors and Managenent.

This scale of fraud ( not mis- management ) cannot have taken place so blatantly without the personal knowledge of RMA officials and at least few Board Directors even though they may not have been officially briefed.  The CEO and Executive Director team could not have committed such glaring frauds without Board Directors and RMA closing their eyes at best and at worse with their tacit approval or encouragement.

Respectfully ACC.  Please,  the rot is at the top in most institutions and stop taking your vengeance upon the  subordinates whose professional fate and family livelihoods are in the hands of their superiors.

In case of RICB, I feel ACC has a duty to hold RMA and the Board of Directors responsible for pretending to be blind to such broad day light robberies of shareholders and national economy.    

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Corruption A Galore in Bhutan. Sad and Sadder nation.

1. Last week  front page national news was that the Labour Minister has been sent on leave and Anti Corruption Commission  investigating Ministry of Labour. I still cannot believe how the Labour Minister could find room for corruption in the process of sending youths for training or for jobs overseas.

2. This week front page national news are a red scarf officer is  alleged to have swindled insurance claims in collusion with the Insurance Management. So very sad but it looks like  normal happenings ( refer Nubri heist ) between Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan  and influential people.   

3. And a proprietor of 60 beds twin hotel buildings called Riverside Hotels ( Kuensel Photo today ) in Thimphu  had imported hotel furnishings worth over 12 million ngultrums exempted from tax and custom duties. But when post clearance audit was carried out, half the imported furnishings were not physically available in the hotels. This means the missing goods could have been sold in the open market to make huge profit.

Now will the ACC decide to investigate? According to Kuensel, ACC is just considering whether to act or not to act. Sounds Great for big Corruptions.

Here is a scenario:

A hotel enjoys exemption of custom duties and sales tax on furnishings and equipments imported for its utilisation. Now a hotel owner say imports 20 millon ngultrums worth of goods that are totally exempted of custom duties  and sales taxes. Then half the goods are sold in the open market fetching a huge windfall profit that could amount to 20 million or more ngultrums. Thus a hotel is furnished without incurring any cost by the hotel owner.  Just good high level connection and clever manipulation of loop holes. 

And what is so sweet is that tourist class hotels are granted income tax free grace periods of 5 -10 years. And even later in filing income tax, such a hotel owner would be showing the furnishings that were done actually free of cost as expenditures and recouping the same in the books of accounts thus reducing the amount of payable income tax by falsifying expenditure. So such a  hotel owner could double or  triple the profit and no income tax paid.  As the saying goes " laughing all the way to the bank " at the expense of the nation.