Such complaints deviate the ACC’s  focus from ‘real corruption’ cases 

The process of agencies examining administrative complaints that are forwarded by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is affecting the morale of civil servants.

Some members of the National Assembly shared this concern while deliberating the ACC’s annual report yesterday. About 126 complaints perceived to be administrative in nature and not corruption, are forwarded to agencies to examine the allegations and submit an action taken report to the ACC within a month’s time.

During the course of examination, if the agencies find any element of corruption, it is required to return the complaint with further information to the ACC.

However, the ACC did not receive action taken report from the agencies on 57 complaints.

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said that when agencies are mandated to conduct investigations, it goes to the extent of discrediting civil servants and bringing the issue into the public domain.

He said there are also instances when the accused comes out clean but his/her image in the society is tarnished. As a result it demotivates civil servants from being innovative.

He suggested that a system be introduced where a preliminary investigation is conducted in secrecy and if charges are severe, things be brought to the public domain. “But this is not to say that we are least bothered,” lyonpo said. “We should support ACC by all means to fight corruption.”

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk also said that complaints relating to administrative issues are mostly biased. He said it is important to ascertain whether the complaints are perceived or actual in nature. “It is not quite right for the agencies to examine the complaints based on doubts,” he said.

Sharing his experience on complaints pertaining to schools, lyonpo said the vigorous examination involving students disturbs the environment while the individual in question suffers from stress. “It is our responsibility to fight corruption but it is also our responsibility to protect the people who are clean,” he said.

Tsirang Toe member, Novin Darlami also shared his experience when he gained the attention of media charging him for corruption based on un-established facts. He said he had difficult time managing the perception and responding to questions raised by his constituents.

However, Bartsham Shongphu MP, Wangdi Norbu said the government need not worry because the ACC already has a system where it screens complaints and based on its preliminary findings, some qualify for further investigations. He said there is also cynicism among the public when complainants are not satisfied. “The ACC should gain the trust of the people,” he said.

The deliberations however also lost track when the ruling and opposition members started pointing fingers at each other. Opposition member from Nubi-Tangsibji Nidup Zanpo said that the government’s stand on supporting the fight against corruption contradicts with their concerns over the moral of civil servants. In response, health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that complaints of administrative nature existed since the last government’s tenure and opposition members should not assume that no cases of corruption were reported during that time.

The finance minister suggested the house to emphasise on the good governance committee’s recommendations to ACC rather that deliberating the whole report, he did not gain support from the members to do so.

The house will continue discussing the ACC report today.

Meanwhile the ACC in its report recommended that an office of ombudsman be instituted to redress the grievances relating to maladministration. ACC also stated that from past experiences, there is no uniformity in handling such complaints and actions taken. Further the ACC said it is burdened with such cases and that it deviates the Commission’s focus from real corruption issues.

Tshering Dorji