English | Dzongkha Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Hospitality and Entertainment Expense’s ceiling set at Nu 1.5 M

Dec 11, 2020

The ceiling for the Hospitality and Entertainment Expenses for ministers or minister equivalent post holders has been set to Nu 1.5 M. Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering informed this during the Joint Sitting of the Parliament session today. With no ceiling for Hospitality and Entertainment expenses, ministers and minister equivalent post holders spent over Nu 5.5 M each as Hospitality and Entertainment expenses last year.

As per the Annual Audit Report, the purpose of hospitality and entertainment expenses range to a wide extent because of which there is difficulty in ascertaining the admissibility of certain expenditures. There is a risk of indiscriminate use and misappropriation of government funds. In between 2016 and 2018, around Nu 14.5 M remained as unjustified expenses from the hospitality and entertainment budget of ministries and the cabinet secretariat.

“Earlier we used to spend around Nu 4.5 M to Nu 5.5 M as the hospitality and entertainment expenses. But we have brought down the expenses to Nu 1.5 M now. This will not be considered a conflict of interest. And the guidelines on such expenses have to be made by the pay commission but we have held the 4th pay commission and expenses were not included there. And if we have to wait for the next pay commission then we will have many more deliberations,” Lyonchhen said.

Deliberating on the four recommendations put forward by the Public Accounts Committee on the Annual Audit Report 2019, the members of parliament during the joint sitting today deliberated on the need to develop a guideline on Hospitality and Entertainment expenses.

“The recommendation on the need for guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses is not a new recommendation. This has been recommended since the 21st session of the parliament. But when the same recommendation pops up time and again in the different parliament sessions, we have to think about it properly. The recommendations have not been considered and worked upon,” said Dorji Khandu, Gasa’s Member of Parliament (MP) in the National Council.

“My only worry is when we use the money from the government’s consolidated fund, we have to follow certain rules and regulations. Whether there is a guideline made by the Cabinet Secretariat or not, when the budget limit is set by themselves, I feel there will be a certain conflict of interest. The Royal Audit Authority has also recommended making rules and regulations with regard to it,” said Ugyen Wangdi, the Dramedtse-Ngatshang’s MP.

“The committee too recommended preparing guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses and I am sure there will be someone responsible to make the guidelines whether it is the finance ministry or the Lhengye Zhungtshog. To make the guideline better, I suggest mentioning who will be eligible to make the guidelines. It will be beneficial if they could also present it during the next session,” said Tashi Samdrup, Trongsa’s MP in the National Council.

The Finance minister, however, informed the house that in view of the previous recommendations, guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses were recently formulated and shared with all relevant agencies.

“Since July this year, we have started to implement the guidelines on hospitality and entertainment expenses. We have also discussed the expenses during the 67th meeting of the Lhengye Zhungtshog and office order related to the expense have also been shared with all relevant agencies. The current guidelines on the hospitality and entertainment expenses will have a limit set and guidelines on whom you should spend the money,” said  Namgay Tshering, the Finance Minister.

The Public Accounts Committee also recommended reviewing the practice of granting advance to contractors, rectifying differences in accounts of budgetary agencies and enforcing a contractual provision of insurance for medium and large scale works.

Passang Dorji

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