Thinley Namgay

In an attempt to ensure effective service delivery, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in recent years has been shortening the time to close cases or turn-around time from 90 days to 70 days and then to 65 and a half days now.

Between 2022 and 2023, proactive investigations increased by 25 percent, a trend that ACC officials regarded as positive.

During the recent press conference, ACC’s Chairperson, Deki Pema, stated that ACC aspires to see 95 percent of its investigations being proactive and five percent being reactive in the future.

Deki Pema mentioned that in 2022-2023, many citizens lodged known corruption complaints, making ACC’s work easier and more effective. “This is a testament that people are coming forward to fight corruption.”

She said that unknown complaints require further investigation.

Of the 342 corruption reports in the country in the 2022-2023 report, known complaints were 108, accounting for 31.6 percent of the total complaints received.

Deki Pema stated that the total number of corruption cases investigated between 2022 and 2023 was 77, representing an increase of 23.4 percent compared to the previous period of 2021-2022.

On average, the ACC has been investigating 30 cases over the years.

Deki Pema said ACC is trying its best to combat corruption despite a high rate of staff attrition and less budget allocation. “Combating corruption needs collective effort.”

Citing data from the National Integrity Assessment 2022, she highlighted that one in 74 availed services by providing cash or kind. “This is alarming, and all citizens should uphold integrity.”

ACC officials mentioned that the commission regards the media as an important stakeholder in the fight against corruption.

Regarding the timely access of information to the media, officials confirmed to reporters that ACC would provide information to the media considering their model code of conduct, public interest, and through a proper channel.

Officials said that ACC cannot share information with the media while a case is under investigation.

According to Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2023, Bhutan scored 68 points and ranked as the 26th least corrupt country out of 180 countries and territories.

Bhutan has maintained a score of 68 points for six consecutive years. However, the ranking dropped in 2023 after maintaining the 25th position in 2021 and 2022.

ACC officials said that the commission is more concerned about the CPI points and the recommendations it provides.

CPI 2023 recommended Bhutan to strengthen social protection measures, enhance transparency and accountability measures in the financial sector, improve business regulatory environments, review tax structures and revenue collection methods, and streamline judicial processes.

There are many challenges for ACC besides budget and human resource constraints. There are 110 corruption reports pending investigation in the ACC.

ACC’s Annual Report for 2022-2023 stated that delays in resolving corruption cases by the Office of the Attorney General and judiciary undermine the rule of law and the integrity of the criminal justice system.