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Choki Wangmo  

With 68 points, Bhutan has moved to the 24th place in the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2020.

This is one step up from the previous year.

Although the country’s score did not change in the last three years, Bhutan improved by five positions since 2012.

Anti-Corruption Commission was ranked the second best out of the six such agencies included in the study. However, “the anti-corruption agency fares poorly in accountability and oversight, compared to others in the region”, the report found.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts, businesspeople, and the level of corruption in the public sector.

Last year, the former Chairperson of Anti-Corruption Commission, Kinley Yangzom, said that although Bhutan was cleanest among 180 countries, the prevalence of corruption in the country had substantially increased over the years.

The National Corruption Barometer Report 2020 also revealed that the forms of corruption prevalent in the country and their causes have not changed in the last four years.

The report found that the ministries topped the list in all of the five most prevalent forms of corruption—trading in influence, failure to declare  conflict of interest, abuse of function, bribery, and embezzlement.

Similarly, the CPI report stated that like previous years, more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43. “The data shows that despite some progress, most countries still fail to tackle corruption effectively.”

This year, the top countries on the CPI are Denmark and New Zealand with scores of 88. The bottom countries are South Sudan and Somalia with scores of 12 each.

During crisis such as the Covid-19, TI asserts that corruption cases are on the rise. “Our research shows corruption not only undermines the global health response to Covid-19, but also contributes to a continuing crisis of democracy.”

“This year’s CPI shows corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises.”

With a score of 26, in the Asia Pacific region, Bangladesh is one of the worst performers.

Chair of TI,  Delia Ferreira Rubio, said: “Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It’s a corruption crisis. And one that we’re currently failing to manage.”

The highest scoring region is Western Europe and the European Union with an average score of 66. The lowest scoring regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (36).

Recommendations 

To fight Covid-19 and curb corruption, the report recommended strengthening oversight institutions. It states that the current pandemic response had exposed vulnerabilities of weak oversight and inadequate transparency. “To ensure resources reach those most in need and are not subject to theft by the corrupt, anti-corruption authorities and oversight institutions must have sufficient funds, resources, and independence to perform their duties.”

Open and transparent contracting processes are also one of the recommendations to combat wrongdoing, identify conflicts of interest, and ensure fair pricing.

Other recommendations include defending democracy, promoting civil space, publishing relevant data, and guaranteeing access.

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