Silencing the whistleblower is more dangerous than the corruption itself. However, the recent headline of “whistleblowing comes at a big cost in a small society” seems to indicate this is a reality in the country. Even in a war, one can’t rule out that one’s army has no spies or enemies and betray the troop. This does not mean that one should not protect your foot soldiers assuming that the entire regiment may be betrayers. Annual Anticorruption Report (ACCR) 2019 mentioned that 396 complaints were received, an increase of 63 complaints from the previous year of which more than 34% are from known sources. The complaints on “embezzlement continued to be the second-highest.”  The report revealed that “a total of Nu 255.47 million was recovered. Annual Audit Authority Report 2020 found that the embezzlement amounted to Nu 7.837 million. 

National Integrity Assessment 2019 revealed that while overall external integrity of 8.08 was very good, the “transparency index score of 7.89 is interpreted as a Satisfactory Level which is attributed to low scores in administrative procedures.” However, the complaint reporting form on the ACC website states that only the identity of the whistleblower is protected but accompanied by a strong threatening notice prosecution and imprisonment if found false. Such forms may discourage people from reporting in fear of imprisonment and instead breed more corruption. 

It is described that “whistleblowers are one of the best tools for detecting crime, but these individuals are often subjected to retaliation for their actions.” A comprehensive study by the University of Chicago Booth School of Economics between 1996 and 2004 revealed that “Strong monetary incentives motivate people and without the negative side effects often attributed to them.” Further, studies revealed that “there is no evidence that having stronger monetary incentives to blow the whistle leads to more frivolous suits.” As a result, increasingly governments around the world are establishing whistleblower reward programs. These programs include the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation in any form, psychological and economic protections. Studies have revealed that reward laws for whistleblowers significantly contribute to the reduction and prevention of corruption across the globe yet only a few countries have adopted such measures. For example, the United States has a strong reward system for whistleblowers through numerous laws prominently the False Claims Act (FCA), 1986. It showed that the U.S. Treasury recovered $46.5 billion to the U.S. Treasury of which $7.8 billion was disbursed to the whistleblower. 

As we have noticed that embezzlement and now bribery are increasing, whistleblowers can bring enormous recovery and reward some amount from such huge recovery will only benefit the nation. In the U.S. the whistleblowers are often rewarded with 15%-25% of the total value recovered. Other countries that include now instituting whistleblower rewards are South Korea, Ghana, Slovakia, and Canada making it to around 59 countries. An OCED report states, “strong monetary incentive to blow the whistle does motivate people with information to come forward” and studies showed “stronger monetary incentives did not contribute to more frivolous suits.” Therefore, it is not enough to say that identity of the whistleblower is enough to fight against corruption. A strong whistleblower reward program is needed in Bhutan through the amendment of the ACC Act and other relevant laws. Incentives for reporting on drug trafficking and forestry produces are a good example in Bhutan.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.