Report finds high prevalence of corruption in public service delivery

One in eight employees received unreasonable work instructions, either from the heads of the agencies or from immediate supervisors

Yangchen C Rinzin

The perception of corruption in the form of favouritism based on friendship and family relationship is prevalent in public service delivery, according to the National Integrity Assessment (NIA) 2019.

However, the experience of corruption in service delivery is very minimal.

The NIA found 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 are 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 assessment, conducted Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the National Statistics Bureau (NSB), was released yesterday.

The NIA is an assessment of whether, in an agency, a public official follows standard procedures in providing services fairly and transparently, not based on personal propensity towards a special condition or inducement.

The report stated that one in 147 offered entertainment such as food and drinks to get the services, one in 274 offered other forms of gratification while availing services, and one in 379 service users made payment in cask or kind to get the service. Other form of gratifications means providing accommodation, transportation, gifts, lending money (interest-free), and overseas trips.

The findings have indicated that favouritism was one of the most prevalent forms of corruption in the country. There is also nepotism in public service delivery based on regions and relationships.

For instance, the service delivery is faster if the service user is from the same region or is an acquaintance of the service provider, followed by favours for specific individuals.

The complaints received by the ACC on nepotism and favouritism were related to selection and recruitment process, nomination, evaluation and award of the tender, and procurement services bidding.

A total of 11 different categories of agencies comprising of 272 services from 96 agencies were covered for the NIA with a total of 13,869 respondents.

The respondents comprised of 9,861 service users (external clients) and 4,008 service providers (internal clients), including 335 complaints received by ACC in the financial year 2018-2019.

“The majority of the respondents feel that corruption is quite serious in Bhutan and has increased over the last five years,” report stated. “It also responded that ACC’s efforts in combating corruption has declined over the years.”

The report also stated that the administrative procedures for services, which indicates that the procedures, were complex and less user-friendly.

However, the NIA revealed that efforts and initiatives undertaken by the public agencies to improve integrity are on track to achieve intended results, but the report recommended there is a room for improvement.

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 require 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.

“This shows that some of the officials are abusing power in service delivery. The public officials are not putting in the required efforts to accomplish duties or complacency, non-responsiveness to clients needs, and unnecessary delay by officials were also found,” the report stated.

The report stated that if the service users make payment in cash or kind and entertainment, it could influence HR decision. The respondents also indicated that they had no idea related to decisions concerning HR matters, indicating that transparency in information related to HR matters is weak.

Public officials revealed the repercussion when they do not comply with unreasonable work instructions from head/supervisors and indicated unfair assignment of works among the staff.

“Although employees agreed that the leaders create a conducive working environment for employees to work independently, it also indicated that leaders pursue his/her own interest at the expense of others,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the report has recommended the need to develop and implement service delivery standards, educate service users and employees on service delivery standards, strengthen e-service, manage feedback and grievances and to strengthen ethical leadership, among others.

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