A leap of three places from 2014

CPI: Bhutan jumped three places up the ladder to 27th place on this year’s corruption perception index (CPI), once again emerging as the cleanest nation in the region and 6th in Asia.

Scoring 65 points out of 100, the country is recognized as 27th cleanest nation of the 168 countries. Since 2006, when the country was included in the CPI ranking, Bhutan’s score has improved over the years from the 49th position in 2009 to 30th in 2014.

However, two-thirds of the 168 countries on the index scored below 50, on a scale from zero, which is perceived to be highly corrupt to 100, perceived to be very clean.

The Transparency International in its CPI report has stated that 68 percent of countries worldwide have a serious corruption problem. Half of the G20 countries are among them. “Not one single country, anywhere in the world, is corruption-free, “ the report stated.

Denmark took the top spot for the second year running scoring 91 points, with North Korea and Somalia the worst performers, scoring just eight points each.

Eight of the top 10 performers are European countries. Finland and Sweden came second and third place, respectively.

In the South Asia region, India is placed at 76 followed by Sri Lank at 83, Pakistan at 117, Nepal at 130 and Afghanistan at 166.

In most of the high performer countries, there has been a high level of press freedom with easy access to budget information so the public knows where money comes from and how it is spent.  There is also a high level of integrity among people in power and equal access to judiciaries that are independent from other parts of government.

Conflict and war, poor governance, weak public institutions like police and the judiciary and  lack of independence in the media characterise the lowest ranked countries.

The report also stated that “grand corruption” is the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many, and causes serious and widespread harm to individuals and society. “It often goes unpunished.”

20th by 2020

Bhutan’s drive to secure the 20th spot by 2020 is still on.

With Asian Development Bank’s assistance, a study was also undertaken in 2014 to pursue this target.

The study highlight that independence of the judiciary in the country is well established. Delving into some 13 parameters to assess CPI, the report stated that several tools, such as asset declaration, are stringently put in practice and system of recruitment and movement in civil service is transparent.

But specific areas that need to be emphasized in the coming years, for improved performance in 2020 are mainstreaming ethics and value-based system, strengthening service delivery mechanisms, further simplifying the regulatory regime, tackling challenges in procurement processes and strengthening the institutional capacity of Anti-Corruption Commission.

“Much progress on instituting a durable ethics and value system in the public sector and across society will be required in order for Bhutan to get to the higher level of the CPI ranking,” ADB’s study stated.

Challenges in the procurement process also impact the effectiveness of the regulatory system, as public procurement forms 40 to 45 percent of the national budget. “It will remain the primary area of vulnerability if the relevant capacities in the government are not enhanced.”

The issue on procurement might diminish with the government recently beginning to develop e-procurement system. This system also becomes fully functional by 2020.

The Corruption Perceptions Index is based on expert opinions of public sector corruption. Countries’ scores can be helped by open government where the public can hold leaders to account. Poor score is a sign of prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don’t respond to citizens’ needs.

Tshering Dorji