50 flagged names yet to clarify though March 29 deadline has passed

ACC: Of the 1,000 public servants, who were asked to furnish written clarifications for declaring assets disproportionate to their income in 2013, the Anti-Corruption Commission is yet to receive clarifications from about 50 asset declarants, even though the deadline elapsed on March 28.

The commission’s asset declaration system during the asset verification exercise for the year, had flagged disproportionate assets against numerous names under various agencies.  Accordingly, the commission had written to each individual to justify the possession of their assets.

The commission had notified that any delay in submission would be dealt with seriously, stating that the Asset Declaration Rules 2012 would be enforced strictly and no explanations entertained thereafter.

The Asset Declaration Rules 2012 prescribe that a person, who fails to furnish valid information, will be considered to be in possession of “unexplained wealth” under the anti-corruption act, and can thus be investigated by the ACC.

The notification also states that most cases arose due to inconsistent and incorrect information, which may be attributed to personal secretaries filing asset declarations for the declarants. “This immensely drains the commission’s limited resources and seriously impedes its core task,” the notification states.

According to the Anti-Corruption Act, a public servant and those serving in a civil society organisations or using public resources, are required to declare their assets.  If a person’s wealth does not commensurate with lawful sources of income, the person will be guilty of an offence.

However, possession of disproportionate wealth is not only about having excess wealth. There are also people, who want to hide their assets, according to asset declaration officials. In 2013,  more than 20,000 declarants had filed their asset declaration report to the commission as of April last year, according to the ACC annual report 2013.  Asset declarants are divided under two categories – schedule I and II.

Out of the 428 persons covered under schedule I, which include heads of political parties, civil society organisations and constitutional post holders, 366 had filed their declarations.  The members of the National Assembly, the National Council, all constitutional post holders and members of constitutional offices, ambassadors and consul generals, heads of armed forces, dzongkhag tshogdu chairpersons, dzongdags, heads of financial institutions and the chairpersons of thromde tshogdes fall in the schedule I category.

The remaining public servants fall under schedule II.

Since the implementation of the Asset Declaration Rules in 2006, compliance rate among the schedule I covered persons had been increasing until 2009.  The decline in the compliance rate in 2010 prompted the commission to review, amend and adopt the Asset Declaration Rules 2012 and ensure its strict enforcement.

Twelve agencies of the 166 failed to submit the asset declaration report to the ACC in 2013.  The ACC report stated that some covered persons consider filing the asset declaration a nuisance. “Lack of serious implementation of the rules by the agencies is yet another challenge,” it stated.

Meanwhile, today is the last date to declare assets for 2014.

By MB Subba