Speaker advices ACC and RCSC to suggest solutions

Parliament: The ongoing Parliament will not discuss the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)’s long-standing request for autonomy or complete independence over finance and personnel administration.

The ACC Chairperson, Dasho Neten Zangmo, recently wrote to the National Assembly Speaker requesting the Parliament to resolve the issue in line with the legislative intent of the Constitution. The commission already exercises functional independence, but it wants complete control over financial resources and personnel administration.

The ACC believes such power was required to shield itself against external influence. “The commission cannot be subjected to the vagaries of personalities, entities and political environment,” Dasho Neten Zangmo wrote.

However, Speaker Jigme Zangpo said the commission and the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) should identify the source of the problem and suggest solutions to the Parliament. He said the Parliament cannot give autonomy without amending relevant laws.

“The ACC has written to us as if the Parliament hasn’t discussed the issue,” Jigme Zangpo said, adding that enough power has already been given.

The Speaker said it was also important to examine if splitting a group of people from the civil service would be a wise decision in the national interest. “We have to see the national cohesiveness,” he said.

Dramedtse-Ngatshang and opposition MP Ugyen Wangdi said if autonomy is given, the RCSC Act should be amended as the civil service is governed by the RCSC. “But it is up to the government to think,” he said.

If the ACC gets autonomy, Ugyen Wangdi added that other such agencies also might have to be given the same. “The government should sit down with relevant authorities like judiciary and find out a solution,” he said.

The MP said only Supreme Court could interpret the meaning of “independence” of the commission as enshrined in the Constitution. Article 27 of the Constitution prescribes that the ACC should be an independent authority and take necessary steps to prevent and combat corruption in the country.

“If the government is not in favour of granting autonomy, the ACC could write to the Druk Gyalpo, who is the authority to ask the Supreme Court for interpretation,” he said. He said the ACC cannot directly approach the Supreme Court for the matter.

Ugyen Wangdi said there are also grey areas about the kind of autonomy the commission should be given while the laws state that government should provide finance to the ACC. Chapter two of the ACC Act states that the state should make adequate financial provisions for the independent administration of the commission as a part of annual national budget.

On independence and  human resources, the ACC Act states that the commission shall determine its organisational structure in consultation with the RCSC and administer it independently. Though the Act empowers the commission to regulate appointments, management and dismissal of its staff, it should follow the RCSC Act while doing so.

Meanwhile, the ACC believes that the Constitution gives complete independence and that the issue lies with interpretation. The ACC in its annual report 2014 has stated that although a memorandum of understanding between the RCSC and the ACC has been drafted, it can only serve as an interim measure.

The report states independence without control over resources, such as authority to determine, personnel and finances, functional independence has no meaning at all. “It is like giving a pair of goggles to a visually challenged person.”

The ACC also argues that complete autonomy was necessary combating corruption that is criminal in nature. With the current level of independence, it can only prevent corruption and not combat.

The report states that effective functioning of the ACC may be strangled by control of such resources from outside. “Under such a scenario, success of the ACC may become its own enemy.”

Besides independence, the Speaker said that there are also issues such as the loss of human resources at the ACC that needs to be looked into. “We should see why 52 people have left the commission so far,” he said.

The Assembly, through resolution in September 2013 directed its legislative committee to review the Constitution and other relevant laws and to report in relation to providing absolute independence over human resource administration to the ACC.

The committee recommended that the RCSC and the ACC to resolve the issue mutually.

MB Subba