Bhutan climbed a spot up to the 26th position among 180 countries in the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2017 that Transparency International (TI) released on February 21.
Bhutan had occupied the 27th spot consecutively in the previous two years.
The CPI measures the perception of corruption in a country’s public sector on a scale ranging from zero to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. Bhutan scored 67 points.
According to TI, countries that score below 50 are perceived as highly corrupt.
Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Kinley Yangzom, said that the improvement in the ranking was a result of concerted efforts of all stakeholders including the top leadership, the government, general public, media and Bhutanese people in fighting corruption.
“ACC remains grateful and is further encouraged and motivated by Bhutan’s improved rank and score,” she said.
In the SAARC region, Bhutan occupies the top spot, followed by India at a distant 81st spot. India is followed by Sri Lanka (91), the Maldives (112), Pakistan (117), Nepal (122), Bangladesh (143) and Afghanistan (177).
Overall, the progress in the fight against corruption in the world has been negligible with almost 69 percent of the countries scoring below 50.
The average global score is 43 out of 100.
A press release from the ACC states that this is the 12th successive year that Bhutan has made considerable progress in the CPI.
“Bhutan’s consistent progress in the CPI over the years, in particular for 2017, can be attributed to unstinted and unwavering political will in the fight against corruption,” states the press release.
The ACC states that the TI’s analysis of various data sources used for Bhutan revealed that the government and relevant stakeholders had undertaken significant initiatives on good governance towards promoting transparency and accountability.
They included ensuring quality of budgetary and financial management through the introduction of Government Performance Management System (GPMS).
The GPMS, the ACC states, increased civil society participation, and most importantly improved accountability mechanisms initiated across the agencies, among others.
In Asia and the Pacific region, Bhutan has been consecutively ranked sixth.
However, the ACC cautioned that Bhutan is not immune to corruption risks and that the rank and the score is not a solace as advanced countries are also equally vulnerable to new forms of corruption risk.
“Thus, it is important to sustain the current momentum of fighting corruption and remain united against the social menace – corruption towards realizing the goals of Gross National Happiness,” the ACC stated.
This year, New Zealand and Denmark ranked the highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia ranked the lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively.
According to the ACC, civil society organisations (CSOs) and media are essential in applying pressure and keeping governments honest and accountable. CSOs play a key role in denouncing violations of rights or speaking out against breaches of law, it added.
The ACC stated that a free and independent media, similarly, serves an important function in investigating and reporting incidences of corruption. “The voices of both civil society and journalists put a spotlight on bad actors and can help trigger action by law enforcement and the court system.”
Among other measures, the TI has recommended that governments do more to encourage free speech, independent media, political dissent and an open and engaged civil society to curb corruption.
The TI also states that governments should minimise regulations on media, including traditional and new media, and ensure that journalists can work without fear of repression or violence. In addition, it states that international donors should consider press freedom relevant to development aid or access to international organisations.
“CSOs and governments should promote laws that focus on access to information. This access helps enhance transparency and accountability while reducing opportunities for corruption. It is important, however, for governments to not only invest in an appropriate legal framework for such laws, but also commit to their implementation,” the TI states in the report.
Governments and businesses, the TI states, should pro actively disclose relevant public interest information in open data formats. Proactive disclosure of relevant data, including government budgets, company ownership, public procurement and political party finances allows journalists, civil society and affected communities to identify patterns of corrupt conduct more efficiently.