Corruption: The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has asked civil servants to declare conflict of interest to prevent themselves from getting involved in corrupt practices.

Concerned about effect on civil servants’ morale and public faith and trust in bureaucracy, the commission on August 13 issued a notification reminding civil servants to abide by the Civil Service Code of Conduct and Ethics.

RCSC’s chairman, Karma Tshiteem, said declaration of conflict of interest is to ensure that official decisions and discharge of responsibilities are not compromised.

The notification says that although Civil Service Code of Conduct and Ethics of Bhutan Civil Service Rules 2012 (BCSR) mandates all civil servants to declare and avoid conflict of interest, Anti-Corruption Commission has found that civil servants are not abiding by the code of conduct and ethics.

“Declaration of conflict of interest is an important code of conduct and, therefore, must be strictly observed,” Karma Tshiteem said. “Penalties for failing to do so will depend on the severity of the violation and can range from reprimand to termination.”

The notification also reminds civil servants in managerial and supervisory positions that they will be held liable for such lapses, even if they are not directly involved.

Civil Service Act of Bhutan 2010 defines conflict of interest as a conflict between the official duties and the private interest of a civil servant, including not only his vested interest but also those of his family.

As per BCSR 2012’s clause 3.2.11, a civil servant shall declare and avoid conflict of interest in the process of official decision-making and while discharging all other official responsibilities

A civil servant, for instance, should refrain from participation in the tender committee if there is a conflict of interest by way of participation of his spouse/dependant(s) or he/she has a direct interest in any of the parties competing in the bid.

The same applies in the case of teacher teaching his child and marking examination papers, said Karma Tshiteem. But if they do not feel that their professional judgment will be impaired as a result, they could continue to teach and mark papers as long as they make the declaration.

The commission will check compliance through the human resource (HR) audits to find out if civil servants have declared their conflict of interest as mandated by the BCSR 2012, added Karma Tshiteem. “We know if it is being practiced. In the RCSC, before the commission meeting, we make a written declaration of conflict of interest for the records.”

The notification also says that civil servants need to declare business and trade of his or her spouse/dependents to the agency where the civil servant is employed.  The agencies will then maintain a list of spouses and dependents of their employees engaged in formal or non-formal business.

Nirmala Pokhrel