A week after that, Dasho Neten Zangmo, the Anticorruption Commission Chairperson, was quoted as saying:
We will look into the case and if there is any element of corruption, abuse of power and conflict of interest and if land has been taken unjustly from private people then we will further investigate the case.
It’s been almost half a year since ACC’s assurances. So I was happy to hear that they have visited Gyelpozhing and that they “… are in the process of reviewing allotment procedure, eligibility criteria, details of all beneficiaries and even the rationale of acquisition.”
But I’m worried that the investigation is taking too long. And Dasho Neten seems to echo my concern by saying that, “It’s going to take a lot of time going one by one”.
I’m worried. And I’m worried for many reasons. But mostly I’m worried because some of those who are allegedly involved are “powerful and influential people”. They include the prime minister, cabinet ministers and the speaker. And in their case, I’m sure that, as politicians, they would want the investigation to be complete well before the 2013 parliamentary elections. It is in their interests that the investigations are over by then. It is also in the Election Commission’s interest. But mostly, it is in the interest of the electorate, our people.
Even so, Dasho Neten has warned that the investigations will “take a lot of time” and ruled that:
We just can’t investigate only a few powerful and influential people. We have to see and study the background of all the beneficiaries like whether there is a ‘nexus’ between the allotter and beneficiaries.
I agree. We need a thorough and complete investigation. An investigation that is not targeted to “a few powerful and influential people”, but one that examines all the people who were involved, one that is comprehensive in its scope.
That said, all the so-called “beneficiaries” cannot be lumped together; they cannot be treated the same.
I can see at least three types of “beneficiaries”. The first type is the beneficiary who developed a “nexus” with the allotter. That would be outright corruption, and both the allotter and beneficiary should be taken to task.
The second type is the beneficiary who applied for land, and was allotted land even though that beneficiary did not qualify to receive land. If that beneficiary did not seek to influence the allotter’s decision in any way, then the beneficiary cannot be held responsible. It was the allotter’s responsibility to check and to confirm that all recipients of land fulfilled all the criteria. So in this case, the allotter should be taken to task.
The third type is the beneficiary who should never have applied for land given the existence of serious conflicts of interest. Beneficiaries of this type would include all public servants (and their immediate family members) who were directly involved in the acquisition and distribution of land. And naturally, they would also include all cabinet ministers (and their immediate family members), but especially ministers who’s job it was to supervise the dzongkhag administration, or to approve the proposed township, or the authorise the land acquisition, or to endorse the allotment criteria.
We cannot excuse the misuse of inside information, the abuse of government power, or the disregard of conflicts of interest. They are the most damaging forms of corruption. So in this case, the beneficiary should be taken to task immediately.
Photo credit: Business Bhutan who also reported that Gyelpozhing residents protested the plot allotments, and that people who lost land were struggling