At a time when the fight against corruption is being strengthened, the National Assembly yesterday adopted 19 recommendations, one of which called on the government to take immediate action towards implementation of judgments and restitution of public resources.

Presenting the annual Ant-Corruption Commission (ACC) report, the good governance committee proposed that the Office of Attorney General (OAG) include a detailed analytical report in its annual reports on the efforts made and results achieved with respect to restitution, which the house adopted.

The committee’s deputy chairman, Kuenga, said that restitution was a crucial determinant of the seriousness of the government in tackling corruption. He said that the total pending restitution, including those in appeal stages, was Nu 111.7 million (M) as of December last year.

The state, he said, had to restitute more than Nu 91M from the Samtse mining case alone, more than six years after the judgement was passed.

The Supreme Court in 2011 sentenced Sangay Gyeltsen, the former managing director of the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited and former Samtse mining coordinator, Nagey, to about seven years each in prison for fraudulently leasing and operating a mine in Samtse.

Kuenga reported that 21.8 percent of the financial restitution orders were complied with. According to the ACC report, 81.65 acres of the land were reinstated as government land, and Nu 41.535M financial restitution realised as of December last year.

In total, court judgments from 2006 to 2017 ordered a restitution of Nu 190.5M and 81.92 acres of state land.

“It is a matter of great concern that not much headway has been made in the restitution of public resources considering that more than 79 percent of the resources have not been restituted,” Kuenga said.

The deputy chairman said that the problem of non-restitution could lead to erosion of public confidence in the fight against corruption.

The committee stated that the establishment of the property and judgment enforcement section within the OAG was a step towards restitution.

Convicts serving long-term sentences, destitute situation of the convicts and the OAG being unable to trace some of them were the reasons for restitution failure. However, the committee was of the view that long-term sentences should not necessarily be a reasonable ground for delays.

The committee recommended that the progress made in restitution should be shown swiftly by the government. The OAG, the committee, added should include in its annual the various steps taken and progress made towards restitution.

The recommendations included the need to review the ACC’s criteria for examining complaints from time to time and that the commission should abide by the past resolutions of the National Assembly.

The house also adopted the proposal from Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi for a need to present annual reports in a joint sitting. 

Kuenga said, “Although not all the resolutions were acted upon diligently, the committee was satisfied that it was able to bring important aspects of curbing corruption to the attention of the National Assembly and the public.”

He said that while it was too late for the present government to bring improvements, it was the good governance committee’s most hope that the next government will take upon itself that task of fighting corruption very seriously as aspired to by the Kings.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that corruption had not decreased in Bhutan. There is no clear strategy although activities such as awareness programmes are being organised. “To curb corruption, the prime minister, ministers and senior officials must show the example,” he said.

Some of the MPs, including opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD), said that that the Anti-Corruption Act should be reviewed.  They argued that the ambiguity in definition of corruption made the implementation of the Act difficult.

Human Settlement Minister Dorji Choden said that more than one measure should be adopted to fight corruption and that citizens should pay their part. 

In 2017, ACC received a total of 305 complaints, which is an average of 25 complaints a month. 

MB Subba