In the past two years, courts have convicted about 60 people for bribery and fraud in connection with the issuance of driving licences.
Corruption in the issuance of driving licence was much talked about in society. Most Bhutanese know that it is much easier to avail a driving licence if you have a relative working with Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) or with the traffic police. Those who do not have any connections and links resort to other means, including offering bribes directly or indirectly.
The court convictions proved the rumours were true and that there would not be smoke without fire.
The involvement of RSTA officials and traffic police personnel show how corruption is more embedded in the system.
It’s hard to believe that even professional driving licences were issued based on fake certificates. Drivers using fake licences are not only a menace in the society but a real threat. They are talking about risks to lives. They put every road user’s life in danger. They are also a reason for road mishaps and unnecessary death on the road.
The sentencing, however, is minimal. Those found guilty were allowed to pay thrimthue in lieu of prison term. If we are serious about rooting out corruption, the judiciary has to understand the gravity of the issue.
While hoping that the court convictions send a message to those in the system and people looking forward to avail driving licences without passing the driving test that such things will not be tolerated anymore, authorities should also ensure that the system is cleaned and improved.
We still hear that corruption surrounding availing driving licenses is not rooted out. It has become endemic, systematic and entrenched. There are still people availing driving licences through fraud and bribery. Some say the issue has become more complex with the involvement of driving schools.
RSTA should put in mechanisms to ensure fake driving licences cannot be issued.
If the authority is serious about cleaning the system, it should not only penalise those involved in such corrupt practices but their supervisors for oversight negligence. If accountability is not fixed at the top level, cleaning the system will be difficult.
There has to be a verification portal and fool-proof system so that no one could manipulate driving licence issuance. It also has to ensure that every licence holder sits for a driving test and gets through.
Our traffic police should investigate licences of those flouting the traffic rules repeatedly. They have to play a major role in identifying fake licences.