Judicial interpretation of independence sought

As per the National Council’s good governance committee’s report on the commission

ACC: The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) was inclined to seek the judiciary’s interpretation on the constitutional provision regarding its independence, the good governance committee of the National Council (NC) reported yesterday.

The committee’s report on the ACC annual report 2014 states that the ACC has repeatedly raised the issue of its status of independence.  The report states that the committee acknowledges that, to date, it didn’t have issues with regard to securing adequate financial resources and political will in carrying out its functions effectively.

“However, the ACC raises its concerns over limitations set by the current arrangement of functioning in the absence of total control over its financial and human resources,” the GGC report states.  One of the challenges highlighted was the difficulty in retaining its staff that has implication on the long-term human resource development planning for the commission.

It also states that future risks, such as rendering the ACC ineffective due to politicisation and deteriorating effort towards investigation are being repeatedly raised. “Drawing lessons from its own experience from the past and from the experience of countries elsewhere, the ACC feels strongly about the need to establish its full independence.”

However, Gasa’s representative Sangay Khandu said it would be wise for the council to look for alternatives to give adequate independence for the ACC before the commission approaches the Druk Gyalpo for judicial interpretation of the constitutional provision by the Supreme Court.

“We don’t know what would be the Supreme Court’s interpretation,” he said.

After receiving additional recommendations from the members, chairperson Dasho Sonam Kinga directed the committee to refine the recommendations and submit a final report at a later date for adaptation.

Bumthang’s representative, Nima, said the fact that an increasing number of people were resigning from the ACC was a matter of concern.  He said it was important to create a conducive environment for the ACC to work independently.

Samdrupjongkhar’s representative, Jigme Wangchuk, said the ACC’s job by nature was risky and said that it was important for the commission to enjoy independence. “It’s important that the ACC enjoys independence in terms of finance and human resources,” he said.

Meanwhile, the council also deliberated on public procurement management that was also highlighted in the ACC report.

The committee submitted that Bhutan might be spending around 17.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on procurement annually.  According to the committee’s report, if the four on-going mega projects with a total cost of Nu 222.5 billion (B), which alone was double the country’s GDP in 2013, was included along with other projects, the procurement component could go up to more than 20 percent of the GDP.

Given the major chunk of budget allocated for procurement, the committee reported that the risk of corruption, waste, and lack of due diligence was correspondingly high.

The committee stated that pitfalls in the public procurement management system have direct impact on the poor quality of work, wastage of public resources, and delayed progress with development works. “In view of such importance, the Parliament needs to strengthen its oversight role on the public procurement management,” the report stated.

The committee recommended that the government periodically submit to Parliament the progress reports of the mega projects, and the budget allocated for these projects be reflected in the annual budget report.

NC member from Dagana, Sonam Dorji, suggested that Parliament should enact a contract Act to address corruption in the construction sector.  He said some development projects are being suspended due to corruption.

By MB Subba

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