Parliamentarians, while discussing the Public Accounts Committee’s audit report yesterday, voiced what has been bothering the people for a while. They pointed out that despite several recommendations, corruption cases or irregularities in managing or using public funds is always on the rise.
This, unfortunately, is not new. And this indicates that there is something wrong in the system or in our approach to fight this social ill. Corruption has been an issue. Without specific anti-corruption agencies in the past, the Royal Audit Authority since the early 2000 has been publishing reports. The authority has been bemoaning the fact that, apart from publicising problems in the government, it was toothless.
Then came the Anti-Corruption Commission, a constitutional body which with full machinery investigated and produced more reports. People including government and elected officials were taken to task, but going by the committee reports, there is much to be done. Every now and then, the Transparency Initiative comes out with its report too. This year, the national Corruption Barometer survey found that corruption is a growing concern in the country.
The areas have not changed. It still highlights bribery, embezzlement, conflict of interest and abuse of function, an area that many Bhutanese had been complaining with or without reports or surveys.
The PAC bemoans the lack of strict compliance to audit observations or and Parliament’s recommendations. They pointed out that heads of agencies or ministries must take the responsibility of implementing the recommendations or taking seriously audit observations.
The problem is doing nothing after finding the faults. Like Parliamentarians pointed out, there are more corruption cases even with more anti-corruption rules and regulations today. There is desperation in the suggestions to include “anti-corruption syllabus” in schools.
Above all this is happening when the directions are clear. It is said that great leaders foresee the future. We call it leaders being visionary, being able to see what could ail a society. His Majesty The King had this vision.
Six years ago, addressing the nation from Kanglung, Trashigang during the National Day in 2014, His Majesty The King warned the people that the highest probable risk to development is corruption.
Complacency could encourage corruption to take roots. If all agencies and officials are responsible, if accountability and loopholes are fixed, we can see improvements. Audit observations can also be improved, as many challenge the findings on the grounds of inconsistencies or allegedly false reporting.
There are several recommendations made from plugging loopholes in the system to fixing accountability. The buzzword today is about transparency, efficiency, values, integrity, and accountability. Practising them will not only be a start. It will be more than half the battle.