Financial institutions continue to be under the radar of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Since the establishment of ACC in 2005, many corruption cases were detected. Those found involved in corrupt cases are still serving their term.

In the recent memory, ACC’s most notable findings involve illegal transaction of government land in places like Thimphu. As we speak, some of the cases are in the courts. It has been found that corruption related to embezzlement of public money, which has been happening even as we try to tighten the loopholes that allow such practices to prevail, is one of the greatest challenges facing the country today.

Of the prominent cases of corruption that involved financial institutions, the one in early 2000s where  some employees of Bhutan National Bank embezzled millions of ngultrums through forged documents, and the one in 2007 where a number of Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan staff were found guilty of embezzling millions and millions of public money stand out as a reminder that financial institutions should tighten their systems in a way that does not allow corruption to happen. In fact, that was what ACC recommended the country’s financial institutions after their investigations. Bhutan Development Bank too had cases of its staff syphoning off millions of ngultrums. Some of the cases are currently being investigated by ACC.

The fact that such cases continue to happen in the financial institutions still indicates that ACC’s recommendations were not taken seriously. For a small and developing society like ours, corruption is the biggest threat.  Cutting the root and branch of it from early on is critically important.

Corruption continues to be discussed at the highest law-making institution in the country today. The National Assembly asked the Office of Attorney General (OAG) to complete the pending cases concerning restitution, which runs in millions, as soon as possible. We recognise that there is acceptance that there is corruption in the society. This is good because acceptance is the first step in addressing corruption.

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 to 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.”

That corruption is most prevalent in financial institutions indicate that restructuring and bolstering safety systems ought to be given priority.