These private firms help their community through grants as a Goodwill
Usha Dukpa, Thimphu
At the time when not many firms in the country take corporate social responsibility (CSR)seriously, Lhaki Group of Companies contributes Nu 2 million every year to Phuentshopelri gewog in Samtse as CSR grant for local development.
While Lhaki Cement makes an annual contribution Nu 0.5 million to this grant, Jigme Mining Corporation Limited (JMCL) at Pagli, a company under the ambit of Lhaki Group, contributes Nu 1.5 million.
“Irrespective of being an individual or a business enterprise, we believe that it is our responsibility to do something for the betterment of the society in which we live,” said one Lhaki Group official, adding that Nu 2 million is exclusive of other usual contributions that they make every now and then.
“Other than doing business and minting money in the form of profit, we felt that we have a social obligation towards the community. The local people are closed knit with us and we cannot deny the contributions and sacrifices that they make for us,” said the joint managing director of JMCL, Ugyen Kesang.
He mentioned that it was during their Board Meeting in 2010 that they decided to disburse CSR grant to the gewog administration. “When the company is doing well in terms of business, we thought we should help develop the local community in which we live,” he said.
He mentioned that they do this with clear mind to help the people in the gewog.
“We give this grant without expecting any favour in return. In fact, we have no interest to look at whether it has been used judiciously or not. We release the money as and when they put requisition along with the plan,” said Uygen Kesang.
It has been made systematic right from the beginning. The company releases the fund only after they get directives from the Dzongkhag administration. Gewog officials have to prioritize the works and submit it the Dzongkhag for approval.
“We do not release the whole money at once, but in a year, we ensure that Nu 2 million is deposited in their account,” said Ugyen Kesang.
According to the joint managing director of Lhaki Cement, Gyem Tshering, apart from this grant, they also make various contributions, both in cash and kind. “When the local people come to us for donations and sponsorships, we never deny,” he said.
With CSR and gewog development grants summed up, Phuentshopelri gewog receives the highest fund in the country with Nu 4 million annually. The gup, Robet Lepcha, said he and his people are thankful to Lhaki Group and other companies around in the locality for their generous contributions. “With this CSR grant, we could carry out many development works,” he said.
Apart from constructing three unit class-rooms at Gashinggaon community primary school, river protection wall at Pagli-A, approach road to gewog office from Gomtu hospital junction and a farm road from Gumbadar to Lahatar, the money had been used for purchasing a power- tiller, CGI sheets, search lights and five jersey cows.
“We have constructed a lhakhang at Gumbadara, a farm road to Botaykharka,and a protection wall near check-post at Pagli-A. “We could also complete landslide protection works at Gumbadara and river protection wall at Pagli-C,” said the gup.
Robet Lepcha mentioned that his gewog is yet to receive CSR grant from other companies like Penden Cement, Bhutan Polymers and Kempa Private Limited which are also located in the locality. “These companies do contribute to the community in smaller ways but so far, we haven’t received any money in the form of grant. We will soon discuss with the concerned officials of these companies and see what they can do,” said the gup.
But the use of this fundhas sparked a controversy and suspicion among the residents. “Recently, around Nu 0.5 million from this grant had been used for repairing some class-rooms in Gomtu middle secondary school (GMSS). Now, we believe that this was a wrong move because there is the government to fund this work.
There are other important development works like maintaining roads, supply of drinking water and constructing river protection walls,” said Diwash Gurung.
He also mentioned that the gewog officials are not being transparent about the use of this grant. “During last gewog tshogdu (GT), we asked them to reveal the accounts but the officials gave us vague report,” he said.
Another villager said that they were unaware of this grant for two years after the agreement. “It was during one of the GTs in 2013 that they informed us about this CSR grant from Lhaki Group. It will be interesting to know how the fund was use for the first two years,” he said. Regarding the fund used for repairs of class rooms, the gup said it was his responsibility to ensure the safety of students in his gewog.
“Gomtu MSS falls under our gewog and most of the students are children of our people. Thus, it is my job to keep them safe. The classrooms were in worst shape and I thought delay in repairing those rooms would result in some worst accidents,” said Robet Lepcha.
He also mentioned that they had always been transparent about use of this grant.