The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has notified 22 public officials, who failed to declare their assets for the declaration year 2017, to pay a penalty equivalent to one year’s minimum wage.

In a notification issued in the media on November 24, the ACC states that the penalty must be paid within January 31 at the rate of Nu 125 a day. A year’s minimum wage amounts to Nu 45,625.

The ACC stated that while majority have complied with the notification, the 22 non-declarants have neither responded nor complied with the requirement.

The notification states “failure to comply with this notification shall be construed as obstruction of justice and shall be dealt with in accordance with Section 113 of Anti-Corruption Act 2011.”

The provision states that a person will be guilty of an offence, if that person refuses the ACC access to any premises, or fails to submit to a search by a person authorised to search him or her or fails to comply with any lawful demand, notice, order or requirement of the commission in the execution of its duty.

The non-declarants include 14 civil servants, seven of whom are in the Ministry of Information and Communications, an RBG major, three T Bank officials and two local government officials from Chukha.

For the declaration year 2016, penalties amounting to Nu 736,266 were collected for non-declaration of assets.

Asset Declaration (AD) is an important corruption prevention tool aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability of public employees. The last date for annual asset declaration is May 31.

According to the ACC annual report 2017, the asset declaration compliance rates for both Schedules I and II have been improving over the years. The ACC attributes the increased compliance rates to the rigorous advocacy conducted over the years and enhanced awareness as well as strict enforcement.

Of the total 464 covered persons under Schedule I, 96.3 percent declared on time for the year. Under Schedule II, 97 percent of the total 21,247 covered persons declared on time as per the report submitted by the agencies.

Schedule I comprise ministers, MPs, heads of political parties, heads of civil society organisations, members and commissioners of constitutional offices, among others.  The remaining public servants fall under schedule II.

According to the Asset Declaration Rules, a person, who fails to furnish valid information, will be considered to be in possession of unexplained wealth and he or she can be investigated by the ACC.

MB Subba