CDG in retrospect
Recently the Speaker, Jigme Tshultim, in an interview said that CDG is a double edged sword. In the light of the draft RAA report finding numerous lapses and irregularities in the use of CDG, the double edged sword comment now rings more true than ever.
This report may also shed some light on why the government decided to abruptly withdraw the CDG.
On one hand, the report through a limited survey shows that CDG is largely popular among the rural citizenry. This will win votes and bring MPs closer to their electorate. On the other hand the numerous lapses could also backfire, especially with a demanding electorate that had been squabbling over the limited CDG pie.
CDG came into birth in 2008 and since its inception was prone to attracting controversy. The amount was found hidden in the budget by National Council who promptly made it a constitutional issue referring it to His Majesty the King in the absence of a Supreme Court.
Acting on a complaint filed by the Opposition leader, the Election Commission stepped in writing to the government that CDG was not legal and would give sitting MPs undue advantage.
The government on its part saw all of this as an infringement on their financial powers and called the CDG as part of the budget. The government felt that all the opposition was an attempt to keep their MPs away from the electorate which they felt could hamper democracy.
The Opposition saw it as an attempt by the government to buy votes for the next elections and interfere in the local government.
This paper neither supports CDG nor is against it. This paper however, is for the proper use of public resources.
The RAA report which like all RAA reports does not spare even a chetrum could now create a nightmarish scenario for National Assembly MPs running around to answer and try and clear audit queries.
Every Ngultrum of irregularity or any project gone wrong could spawn questions over the effectiveness and credibility of the MP by their own voters.
The Prime Minister has also announced that eligibility for future party tickets would also depend on how well or how badly CDG was used by individual MPs.
The impact of Nu 152.1 mn that has been utilized till date spread over the last three years in 47 constituencies at best can be called negligible compared to the billions that the government is already spending.
Therefore in the end, the question that this government must now ask itself is was all the controversy and trouble worth it.
This is given the fact that the final outcome is to scrap the CDG for now which also does not put the government in a flattering position. It in fact it gives the perception that CDG may not have been as perfect as made out to be in the beginning.
However, the audit report on CDG proves once again that the government has to take laws and the ethics of governance more seriously.
If the CDG rules were to be violated then why then make rules that would anyhow be violated.
There is also pattern of sorts emerging here. The prime minister’s statement that pool vehicle misuse can be understandable at times, the political conspiracy theories over Gyelpozhing , the strident defense of Chang Ugyen and now this CDG audit report all indicate that this government considers individuals more important than systems.
At the end of the day the individual is not important but it is the system that we create and leave behind that is important. The CDG audit report is one more flaw that the system has to bear.
Given the recent precedent set by the government in defending Chang Ugyen, what will most probably happen is another strident defense of the MPs by the Prime Minister, a conspiracy theory and then a deafening silence.