A small country like Bhutan is finding it difficult to address corruption. For international visitors, this is something that they cannot comprehend. Why, they ask.

We do not have adequate answers.

In Bhutan, corruption cases are on the rise and are difficult to treat. This is from Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) annual report 2021-2022.

The report states that fighting corruption has become even more challenging with the increasing complexity of corruption cases due to the advancements in technology.

The key word is technology.

While ACC calls for collective efforts to prevent and combat corruption through a culture of integrity, fostering ethical business in the private sector and engaging civil society organisations (CSOs) and media, the most urgent and important need for effective and strong deterrence, ACC states, is through detection and investigation, probability of conviction, and severity of punishment.

The Commission also says that there is a need for rigorous advocacy, promoting ethical leadership, expanding integrity in schools and training institutes, etc. This method has not and will not work.

So, what’s the solution?

It is simple. Give ACC the teeth to fight corruption. Give it the independence it direly needs. ACC is not able to fight cases because corruption begins with those powerful and influential. Often it is alleged of catching only small fish. 

And, what about ACC itself? It is sad that an organisation such as ACC has to deal with staff shortages. The Commission is in a severe shortage of human resources. Over the past three and half years, 39 officials left ACC. In just the first half of 2022, 12 officials left the commission. In the past three and a half years, all in all, 39 officials left ACC. The Commission’s attrition rate has increased from 7.48 percent in 2021 to 7.89 percent in June 2022.

The question is: why are professionals leaving one of the most prestigious Commissions in the country?

One of the main causes that have led staff to leave ACC, according to the report, is the work pressure and nature of work with the inherent risks of reprisal and social backlash in a small society. There is a serious need to professionalise the Commission.

As an independent office, ACC should be given the teeth to fight. If officials are leaving because they feel suffocated and easily cornered, we will never be able to fight corruption cases in the country.

ACC’s independence must mean more than what is reflected in the papers. The danger is when the Commission loses people’s trust.