Revised asset declaration rule incorporates conflict of interest

To address challenges in the rules, contents, online system of asset declaration, and to widen the scope of asset declaration, the asset declaration had to be revised.

Assistant integrity promotion officer with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Ugyen Dema while presenting the revised asset declaration rule 2017, said that its custodians – the public officials, declare assets for public accountability to ensure transparency in managing resources.

Asset declaration is applicable to all public servants, including their spouse and dependents.

The revised asset declaration rule states that asset declaration should be filled within three months of assumption of office, within a month before vacation of office for planned vacation and within a month after vacation for unforeseen exit.

Annual asset declaration should be done from February 1 to March 31.

Ugyen Dema said that with the revised rule, cash in hand also needs to be declared along with movable and immovable properties, shares and stocks, convertible assets, rental income from properties, and spouse’s benefits from commercial activities. “Liabilities in the form of loans whether to financial institution or even to individuals, and expenditure should also be declared.”

She said that private workers as of now do not have to declare their assets but that the commission has a provision in their Act, which mandates private workers to declare assets, if the commission requires.

The assistant integrity promotion officer said that public officials are the custodians of public resources and are entrusted with the responsibilities to make sure that it is not misused for private gain. “As public officials we have to ensure that whatever assets we have all commensurate with our lawful income.”

Ugyen Dema said the rule was revised in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan and also because the commission was facing implementation problem with the 2012 rule.

She said the previous rule had penalty on non-declarant, but did not define who would fall under that non-declarant. The revised rule considers those who have filed their asset declaration from May 1 to May 31 as late-declarant and those who have filed from June 1 onwards as non-declarant.

The rule 2012 was also found to lack clear reporting procedures, as there was no administrative guideline to facilitate the agency’s administrator to efficiently manage asset declaration. “While we had roles and responsibilities for both the agency’s head and administrator, it was not specific and clearly defined in the rule 2012.”

The previous rule also had issues with the content of asset declaration and the online asset declaration system.

With the revised rule, utility such as miscellaneous expenditure, and the current market value, which has no uniformity do not have to be declared. “In the online system, individuals were not aware when the administrator had returned the verified declaration where some information was not declared because of which some individuals were levied fine.”

The rule was also revised to widen the scope of asset declaration by incorporating conflict of interest provision.

Ugyen Dema said that initially, the objective of asset declaration was only to detect illicit enrichment of public officials. “Now with increasing public and private interface, we are incorporating conflict of interest provision in asset declaration to manage the facilitation of conflict of interest.”

The revised rule states that late declarant would be levied a fine equivalent to a day’s national minimum wage for every day until such failure subsists. “Non-Declarant shall be levied a fine equivalent to one year’s national minimum wage. Incomplete declaration shall be levied a fine equivalent to a month’s national minimum wage.”

Karma Cheki

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