Male Iron Rat Year

Tashi Dema

Except for the reports on corruption perceptions and appointment of its commissioners, the Rat could not dig much hole in the last one year.

This, however, did not mean that corruption has reduced or there was no corruption in the year. The pandemic had disrupted investigations and Anti Corruption Commission’s activities.

The anti graft commission received about 40 complaints but could not decide anything, as they could not avail additional information or conduct investigations and interrogations on the pending cases.

Amidst the pandemic, people questioned the lack of uniformity in treating public officials accused or convicted of corruption, as Zhemgang’s Goshing gup has been suspended for more than two years following an embezzlement case whereas the Home Minister, who was accused of false insurance claims and Thimphu dzongkhag court convicted him, is still serving office.

In another case, the Royal Civil Service Commission did not take any action against labour ministry’s Director General although ACC wrote to the commission to suspend him. RCSC claimed its decision was based on Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations and in line with the Court Order of the Supreme Court issued on 17th July 2013 after the Gyalpoizhing land case.

It led to people perceive that officials holding high positions are treated above the law and that law applied only for the common people.

Meanwhile, the  National Integrity Assessment (NIA) 2019 report published in June last year revealed a high perception of corruption in the form of favouritism based on friendship and family relationship prevalent in public service delivery.

It found out that 50 percent of the service users believe that family and friendship were beneficial in having services processed faster; more than 40 percent of service providers responded that instruction from supervisors and friendship were the most influential factors in providing service faster.

According to the assessment, one in eight employees received unreasonable work instructions, either from the heads of the agencies or from immediate supervisors.

The report also found that weak accountability culture in the form of public officials, ignoring official duties, abuse of functions, and ineffective grievance redressal mechanisms required improvement.

Shortcomings were also found in terms of public officials ignoring official duties to pursue a private interest, protection of whistle-blowers, and disciplinary action against wrongdoings.

Another report, the National Corruption Barometer Report (NCBR) 2020, launched in July stated the perception on the prevalence of corruption in the country has substantially increased over the years.

It also stated that ministries topped the list in all of the five most prevalent forms of corruption like trading in influence, failure to declare a conflict of interest, abuse of function, bribery, and embezzlement.

However, the country improved on the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2020. It moved a step from the previous year.

ACC was ranked the second best out of the six such agencies included in the study. However, “the anti-corruption agency fares poorly in accountability and oversight, compared to others in the region”, the report found.

Meanwhile, with the change in leadership in the commission, we can only hope that the commission succeeds in its fight against corrupt.