… as another step to fight corruption

Council: In a move to reinforce the existing asset declaration system, the National Council (NC) recommended developing an integrated information technology based system to facilitate automatic information sharing on properties, liabilities and tax contributions by individuals.

This would include public servants, corporate employees and those from the private sector.

For instance, while the banks can provide information of their clients’ financial records, the National Land Commission (NLC) can facilitate the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to keep track of land transactions and landholdings of individuals.

The house of review also recommended ACC identify potential areas of policy corruption and to suggest measures to prevent possibilities of such unwarranted practices. “The house recommended ACC that the report be included in its next annual report,” Good Governance Committee chairperson Tashi Wangmo said.

The need to strengthen the existing asset declaration system was felt after the NC members raised concerns during an earlier deliberation of increasing risk of policy corruption as the country moves deeper into democracy.

Deputy NC chairperson Tshering Dorji pointed out that policy corruption urgently requires adequate preventive measures since it was also deliberated in earlier sessions following ACC’s report on risks of policy corruption in future. “Though ours is a fairly new democracy, if adequate preventive measures are not taken from the beginning it could pose a serious threat to the democratic institution especially if policy corruption flares uncontrollably,” Tshering Dorji said.

He therefore reiterated the ACC should study the vulnerable areas of policy corruption and come up with preventive measures. “If ACC could produce a report on the preventive methods and ways to reduce policy corruption for both the government and NC in the next session,” Tshering Dorji said.

Trongsa NC member Tharchin said that the civil service is one vulnerable area for policy corruption in democracy. “Though the nominations are made by the Royal Civil Service Commission there is a great risk of government nominating and appointing only those public servants in support of it,” Tharchin said. “If such practice happens there is grave danger of people losing trust and faith in the civil service itself,” he added.

Eminent member, Phuntsho Rapten also expressed concern over policy corruption. “Policy corruption poses great risks to the country because of its difficultly to detect it,” Phuntsho Rapten said, adding examples of how it has led to a few powerful enjoying unlimited privileges could be witnessed in many other countries.

He, therefore, said that policy corruption in the country could not be taken for granted. “It is important to recommend ACC take into consideration fighting policy corruption as its priority,” Phuntsho Rapten said.

Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu said that fighting corruption should not occur only when complaints are lodged but must begin systematically. “ACC’s access to information on transaction of assets indiscriminate of private and public servants is a must to fight and curtail corruption,” Sangay Khandu said.

He added that the relevant agencies like financial institutions must be made to share with ACC the record of properties, liabilities and financial records. Sharing information on properties, liabilities and financial records would not require new offices either, he said.

“If someone buys land, its records are already with the NLC. Even if someone takes a loan, the record is readily available with the banks, which can be shared through an effective information system,” Sangay Khandu said.

The missing link here, according to the member, is lack of proper coordination among the relevant agencies. The members felt if such an information sharing system is introduced no one should be able to get away with fake asset declarations.

“If these relevant agencies are linked no one can escape their corrupt actions,” Sangay Khandu said.

Lack of coordination among the relevant agencies was pointed out as the biggest hurdle. “If ACC is given the right to information on the assets and property of individuals, that would be the most effective and powerful weapon in fighting corruption,” he said.

Against the backdrop of ACC dropping 25 percent of the total 283 complaints for lack of adequate information, the house recommended ACC to educate the public on mandatory information required for complaints with other necessary documents to substantiate the allegations. “Since dropping complaints neither addresses the complainant’s issue nor helps curtailing corruption, it is important to recommend the commission to standardise and streamline on mandatory information and supporting documents to file complaints,” Tharchen said.

The house of review also called upon the government to urgently implement all the pending court judgments pertaining to corruption cases since discharge of the court’s judgment is still a challenge despite establishing the Judgment Implementation Cell under the Office of the Attorney General. “There are judgments that have been long pronounced but the proceeds of the crime are either yet to be restituted or recovered,” the recommendation stated.

It was also recommended that the commission strengthen property seizure procedures for better transparency and accountability, amidst absence of maintaining records of specifications, quantity and counter signings.

The NC also resolved to initiate an in-depth study on financial security and strategies for the ACC.

Tempa Wangdi