Dechen Dolkar

According to the Anti-Corruption Annual Report 2022-2023, delays in resolving corruption cases by the Office of Attorney General (OAG) and judiciary undermines the rule of law and integrity of the criminal justice system.

There are 32 cases under review at OAG and 32 cases are under trial in various courts.

While presenting the ACC annual report 2022-2023 to the National Council members yesterday, the chairperson of the Good Governance Committee (GGC), Phuntsho Rapten, said that the corruption caseload for investigation shows increasing trend over the years.

It was reported that during FY 2022-23, ACC had 77 caseloads, 59 in 2021-2022, and 56 in 2020-2021.

Of the 77 caseloads, 41 cases were referred to OAG for prosecution, five to relevant agencies for administrative actions, nine were dropped due to lack of evidences, and one was under review, accounting for 72.7 percent of clearance rate.

ACC had a total of 110 corruption reports pending investigation since 2016 until June 2023.

Phuntsho Rapten said that increasing attrition rate, which has reached 15 percent, further hinders ACC in meeting its mandate. In the past two and half years, 58 staff members have left their positions, with 25 departures occurring in 2022-2023, primarily from the professional and management positions.

Furthermore, he pointed out the concerning decline in ACC’s annual national budget over the years. The budget allocation has dwindled from 0.18 percent in 2018-2019 to a meager 0.06 percent in 2022-2023 and a further reduction to 0.05 percent in 2023-2024. This alarming trend threatens ACC’s capacity to effectively fulfill its crucial mandate in combating corruption.

He also sounded the alarm about recent clustering initiatives for common services such as finance, ICT, legal, and engineering, implemented as part of civil service reform. He warned that these initiatives could compromise ACC’s operational independence, the integrity of its investigations, and expose it to potential political influence.

During the year 2022-23, ACC received a total of 342 corruption reports, a decrease from the 435 reports received in 2021-22. Out of these, 203 reports warranted further action, while 139 had to be dropped. Among the 203 corruption reports, 53 qualified for investigation, 76 were referred for action, 43 were shared for sensitisation efforts, and 31 were earmarked for information enrichment.

The report also revealed that the most common alleged corruption reports pertained to public revenue, with 47 cases, followed by resources with 28 cases, and contracts with 20 cases, indicating the most vulnerable areas susceptible to corruption.

The Good Governance Committee has recommended a series of critical measures, including expanding public education efforts, conducting a comprehensive review of the impact of clustering initiatives on ACC, exploring alternative budget allocation mechanisms, and addressing delays in case resolution through parliamentary scrutiny.