Report 2014: Changing people’s perception and tolerance for corruption remains a great challenge the anti-graft agency is facing since its inception in 2006.

As an offshoot of such a mindset, according to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) annual report 2014, which will be discussed in Parliament, misplaced compassion for corrupt people deters authorities from taking appropriate actions against them.

For instance, a civil servant or an employee has committed a wrong, but he or she has a large family to support, is the rationale for lenient or non-action from authorities.  The ACC report highlighted that the money embezzled has been restituted and “no action is necessary” is another rationale used quite often for non-action.

With this attitude, a strong message and action against corruption is diluted, with a lingering sense of, ‘maybe corruption is not so bad’ after all. “It encourages other people to take the chance to enrich themselves, and creates opportunity for corrupt acts through inequity in action, vis-à-vis compassion for their relatives and associates and harsh penalties for others,” the report stated.

The commission observed that some public servants, who have failed to perform professionally, allowed corruption to perpetrate in their agencies, while others, who are even involved in corruption, are promoted sometimes to greater and more important positions, enjoy plum postings and transfers.

While individual perpetrators of corruption are punished, the report stated that fixing organisational accountability is an exception, and some agencies even defy court orders.  Some corrupt acts legitimised by committees, knowingly or unknowingly, are considered legally binding, and some public servants, who are convicted of corruption, lack integrity and ethics, enjoy better perks in the private sector or are nominated as candidates in politics – local and national.

Business people, whose licenses are cancelled for corruption and fraud, readily obtain another license in another entity’s name and run business as usual, sometimes even working in bigger contracts; media houses are averse to professionalism, transparency and accountability, which they so aggressively demand from other public entities.

It also stated that some courts and agencies perceive audit recoveries from employees as administrative sanctions.  For instance, a civil servant embezzles over Nu 2 million, the amount is recovered and moved to another unit in the same agency; some accountants, who have a history of embezzling funds, are transferred to another agency still as accountants every time he or she embezzles.

Non-performing public servants are kept in office to recover outstanding or embezzled amount, while whistleblowers face reprisals.

The report also stated that some agencies spend much time in writing to each other regarding disciplinary action to be taken against erring civil servants, while others write to ACC seeking directives when rules are clear.

“Forging documents and faking travel claims is an accepted norm.”

The commission recommends an appropriate or similar action for similar offence.  Swift and decisive action on corrupt people is the only way forward to control corruption with deterrence, it states.

Bhutanese people generally take things for granted, even when it concerns the country’s independence, security and sovereignty, the commission pointed out as another challenge. “This callous attitude also manifests in the management of common asset like the environment and the pressing concern, such as corruption,” the report stated.

Not many people are ready to solve such matters.  Instead, they blame authorities for not doing enough. “Proactive and collective remedial measures aren’t forthcoming to change the ineffective system for common benefits.”

The commission also noted that huge public resources are being lost every day. “Yet, most will not report because either they are party to it, or are thinking of joining the fray, since being caught in the “business” is of very low risk and pays high dividends, or they feel that there is no point reporting because nothing will happen or they fear reprisals because the nexus of actors is powerful,” the report said.

“Strong proclamations that corruption must be rooted out lack strong actions, whether at the level of self or entity are reduced to mere lip service.”

By Rinzin Wangchuk