Deliberation on the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) annual report 2017 in the National Council (NC) yesterday saw the good governance committee proposing the house to pay special attention to the commission’s budgetary constrains.

This means that the house of review would provide necessary support and recommendations during deliberations on annual budget.  

To ensure that ACC carries out its mandate independently, the commission in the annual report has highlighted the need for assured annual budgetary allocation that is not dependent on the discretion of the government of the day.

The ACC was allocated Nu 140.78 million (M) for the financial year 2016-17 and Nu 124.28M in 2017-18. 

“The ACC has grown in terms of human resources and reach over the years, but the annual budgetary allocation for the ACC has not increased,” states the ACC annual report. 

The report states that the tentative capital budget outlay of Nu 75M for the 12th Plan is a serious concern. The indicative budget, according to the commission, is less than the 11th Plan outlay, and below the commission’s utilisation capacity. 

The ACC adds that the commission had sensitised the Gross National Happiness Commission secretariat on the issue. 

“The political will of the country to fight corruption must be demonstrated by, among others, allocating adequate resources and safeguarding the impartiality and independence of the ACC,” the ACC report states. “This calls for measures including legislation to be in place to secure adequate resources for the ACC thus ensuring ethical accountability.”

The committee reported that although the commission has received sufficient resources so far, the budget has been largely dependent on the support of the development partners. The Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) wound up its support to ACC in June 2017. 

The government has stepped up its budgetary support to fill the resource gaps in the last three financial years. However, ACC has raised concerns over whether or not it can rely on the government for adequate resources. 

The committee also reported that the allocation of overall annual budget for the ACC over the last five years has seen a decreasing trend. The ACC has received not less than 0.2 percent of the total annual national budget. 

Gasa’s representative Dorji Khandu said that ACC and GNHC should hold consultation for allocation of resources. 

Bumthang’s representative and member of the good governance committee, Nima, said ACC’s financial security should be strengthened. “Lack of adequate budget will affect the ACC’s ability carry out its functions,” he said.

Complaints received against local governments have consistently been the highest over the past years. The report shows that 81 out of 305 complaints received in 2017 were against local governments. 

The member from Trashigang and deputy chairperson of the committee, Lhatu cited lack of adequate human resource and increasing workload of gups as some of the reasons behind the high rate of allegations against local governments. “Gups remain busy in works such as receiving government officials. We need to reduce the number of government officials visiting gewogs,” he said.

Chhukha’s representative Sangay Dorji said that the complaints were indicative of awareness among people and that it was a good sign. 

“Corruption cannot be eradicated immediately. But with awareness, the incidences of corruption will decrease gradually,” he said.   

The member from Mongar, Sonam Pelzom, said that awareness among people should be created. 

The committee reported that given the increasing financial authority devolved to the local governments, the committee stated that transparency and accountability system in the local government functionaries must be strengthened.  

Abuse of functions by public servants top the list of types the basis of allegations. A majority of complaints were reported in Thimphu and Chhukha dzongkhags. 

The committee proposed that the ACC carry out targeted interventions to address corruption allegations against local governments, abuse of functions, and the two dzongkhags, which have the highest complaints.

MB Subba