Tashi Dema

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) received 396 complaints last year, according to a report the National Council’s good governance committee submitted yesterday.

“25 complaints qualified for investigation, 48 were assigned for information enrichment and 113 were shared for administrative action,” the report stated. “77 complaints were shared for sensitization and 133 were dropped.”

Of the 25 complaints qualified for investigation, 13 were from known sources and 12 were from anonymous sources.

The commission also received 104 complaints against local government officials in the past years, making it the highest complaints against agencies.

The report stated that of the 104 complaints against local governments, 66 complaints pertained to abuse of functions, three on embezzlement and one on bribery. “39 complaints were related to resources, followed by 12 related to contract and seven related to natural resources.”

It stated that abuse of function was alleged to be the major corruption offence constituting of 174 complaints followed by allegation on embezzlement with 16 complaints. “With 134 complaints reported in Thimphu dzongkhag, it is the highest number of complaints by the place of occurrence followed by Chukha dzongkhag with 42 complaints.

The committee reported there was inconsistency between the national integrety assessment 2019 (NIA) and total number of complaints ACC received against LG.

While successive annual ACC reports have shown that the highest number of complaints received were against the local governments, the NIA 2019 ACC conducted showed gewogs to have the highest integrity score.

The committee reported that although complaints against LG could be attributed to the increasing delegation of responsibilities and resources to the local governments without commensurate capacity, transparency and accountability, it painted the picture of the local governments as being the most corrupted.

“The ACC admitted that the methodology used for the NIA is a mix of perception and experiences while the complaints received goes beyond such aspects. However, in order to present a true picture of the situation on the ground, it is recommended that the ACC reconciles any information contradictory with each other,” the report stated.

The committee also recommended ACC to set a clear criteria for selecting which gewogs to be covered for advocacy sessions based on their immediate need and also conduct periodic impact assessment of the advocacy programmes on the behavioral changes of the target group.

It also recommended ACC to establish an effective follow-up system on action-taken reports (ATRs) of complaints that do not have corruption element but requires administrative recourse.

ACC shares complaints without corruption element to relevant agencies and asks the agencies to examine the allegations and submit an ATR to ACC within a month.

“However, in most cases, the ATRs are not submitted within the stipulated time,” the report stated. “On an average, the time taken for submission of the ATRs is 180 days. As of 2019, there were 97 impending ATRs (18 ATRs for the year 2017, 32 ATRs for the year 2018 and 47 ATRs for the year 2019) yet to be submitted by the agencies.”

The committee reported that ACC has not been able to take any punitive actions against those agencies who do not submit their ATRs on time. “Despite the complaints void of hard core corruption element, it is equally important that commensurate administrative actions are taken to root out similar malpractices in the future.”

Zhemgang’s NC member Pema Dakpa said the report indicates issues between ACC and Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

Chukha’s NC member Sangay Dorji, who is the chairperson of the committee, said ACC officials assured that they would have a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies to resolve such issues.

Punakha’s NC Lhaki Dolma said that ACC should conduct more awareness two to three months before any elections. Haa’s NC member Ugyen Namgay emphasised the need for ACC to conduct investigations instead of waiting for complaints.

Meanwhile, NC would adopt the annual ACC report 2019 today.