Anti-Corruption initiatives must come top-down

Bhutan Transparency Initiative’s National Corruption Barometer Survey has found that favouritism and nepotism in recruitment, promotion and transfer, misuse of public funds and facilities, and the deliberate delaying of decisions with twisted motives are the most prevalent forms of corruption in the country.

All these are happening because of factors like lengthy procedures, weak and ineffective media and strong protective social net of the accused. Among other things, weak leadership, lack of information and transparency, and poor accountability mechanisms were found to be playing significant role in increasing corruption in the country.

We welcome the report for the directions it shows us to work towards addressing some of the ailments we have been inviting consciously or otherwise. Corruption is a disease that will eat into the system and destroy the goodness of it all if we do not make earnest efforts to cut root and branch of it while we can.  The sooner we do this, the better.

What we also know from the report is that corruption is concentrated at the top decision-making level, so much so that people think it is normal to be corrupt and let corruption grow. What this indicates is that corruption is pervasive in our society and is accepted as something that is part of our national life. Cases prove the point for indeed. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has discovered modus operandi of fraudulent land grabbing involving local leaders who have colluded with surveyors and land record officials that led to the freezing of more than 20 acres of land. This is just one example.

It has also been found that people, especially the poor and powerless are afraid of combating corruption. This doesn’t paint a healthy picture of our society.

There is now the urgent need to change this widespread public perception that corruption is accepted and let to be because this will have serious implications in the future. When the need for ACC was felt in 2005 as the country was preparing for the advent of democracy, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck had this to say: “With the rapid pace of economic development in our country, there have been changes in the thinking of the people with the influence of self-interest leading to corrupt practices taking place in both the government and the private sector.

“If appropriate steps are not taken now to stop this trend, it will lead very serious problems in the future, for both the government and the people, in our country with a very small population. In this regard, it is the responsibility of every Bhutanese to act against corruption in our country.”

The Royal decree empowers every citizen of this country to act against corruption. This means if the initiative doesn’t come from the top, corruption will only grow. What is important is that there must be uniform application of laws and rules. At the same time, it is vitally important that media be given the space to exercise their mandate without fear of possible repercussions.

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