Real accountability

Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, the works and human settlement minster, was reportedly “shocked and alarmed” at news that his ministry was underutilizing its budget allocations. The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement has apparently used barely15% of this financial year’s budget although more than half the year has already elapsed.

Is Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba really shocked and alarmed? I hope not. After all, we expect our ministers to have a good idea of how their respective ministries are performing or underperforming, as the case may be. So if he is really shocked, if he is really alarmed, we should be concerned. In fact, we should be horrified. We should be appalled that he does not know what’s going on in his own ministry.

The minister has assured us that he will look into the matter personally, and that he will hold “respective individuals accountable.” That’s good. We desperately need accountability. But accountability, real accountability, begins with the head of the organization, in this case with the minister himself.

So if his ministry is underperforming, and underperforming badly, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba must accept full responsibility.

But if, because of him, other organisations are also suffering, he must take even bigger responsibility. And that, unfortunately, is what seems to be happening with the Thimphu and Phuentsholing city corporations. The city corporations are not under the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement. They are autonomous. Yet their budgets seem to be controlled by the ministry. If that is so, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba must take full responsibility for encroaching on the powers of local government and for undermining their performance.

Shock and alarm will not improve the performance of the ministry or the two city corporations. For that, there’s only one remedy: accountability.