Q&A: Your thoughts as your term as the chairperson come to an end?
Happy. ACC has been the best institution and the best experience for me. I have grown and learnt the most. I have also transformed the most in ACC. Nine and half years has just been too colourful. I have enjoyed every hour of the day despite some frustrating moments. I have in fact felt the biggest flow of energy here.
What has been ACC’s biggest challenge in fighting corruption?
People’s attitude. Generally, the Bhutanese character is a very militating environment. The attitude must change or else it will be a serious problem. You are just worried about your own well being but when the country is not well, how can one be well? One may think that it is just a simple fronting or tax evasion but at the end of the day, it is also about country’s, economic and political well-being.
How has the ACC’s function changed, before and after the transition?
At the end of the day, it’s about governance. It’s about bureaucracy. Politicians come and go but the heart of government is the bureaucracy. So, the system’s improvement is in the bureaucracy. It would be also wrong to say that the difference is made by the ones who come to power. But I think the big issue is also about leadership because our conviction is that we can’t change everything overnight. If you expect a young institution, which is just about nine years old to change over night, that is also a bit utopian. We have always said since the beginning that it’s a collective responsibility, a shared goal and if you leave everything to ACC, it’s going to die a premature death.
The ACC’s independence has been much discussed. Do you believe that it would happen?
It should come through because there is not what Neten Zangmo or this commission is saying. It’s there in the Constitution. I sometimes find it laughable when authorities say that they cannot give independence because of many reasons. The crux of the matter is how do we understand the Constitutional provisions, what is the best format for Bhutan, how do we in simple practical terms, capacitate the ACC to fulfil its mandate effectively without fear, favour and any prejudice.
Has it affected its performance?
It has effected very much because when one talks about independence, it is all about how one determines one’s character. It’s the instrument one has that determines the character of the organisation. We say that ACC has no choice but to be the epitome of honour, trustworthiness and valour. The biggest component of that are the people who are working here, who must define the character of the organisation. Just because there is a platform of nationalism, people will not come since nationalism doesn’t feed your stomach. There are also special needs for the ACC. It’s not like a nine to five job because the work demands that there be certain discreet professionals who may not be even known as ACC’s employees. So will RCSC rules cover that? Having said that, it doesn’t mean that ACC must have the authority to do anything it wants.
ACC has instilled fear among the people who also demand the commission to go after the big fish…
Fear has never been our motive. In the beginning, that fear was there but what we want is that people must graduate from doing something out of fear to doing something out of natural sense of responsibility. For us nothing is small or big. Everybody who are perpetrators of crime are equally liable. Bhutanese must ask what they are doing when they ask this question to ACC. Are you paying taxes on time? If not, then you are also failing your Constitutional duty since you are supposed to uphold justice and report corruption. People should be happy that we are after the lawbreakers and they should come together.
What do you think will actually make this perception towards corruption change?
It is a combination of everything. Public advocacy needs to be there and there should be drama series to educate kids in schools and imparting the message to families. It’s not about what ACC can do or how can we change this attitude. I think there needs a combination of comprehensive interventions at all levels, family or spiritual institutions. Leadership should lead by task and lead with examples. If seniors know about corruption and turn a blind eye, then those people are not even fit to be in that position.
Has ACC ever come under pressure?
This is something we need to bear in mind. You should insulate yourselves and this is where independence comes. For example, if the budget is not secured then you have to be dependent on the government of the day. The institution has to be strong. It can’t buckle under pressure. There will always be repercussions and there is no guarantee that ACC will never be influenced.
ACC’s biggest accomplishment
Bringing corruption in the public domain and mainstreaming it in the national development agenda. In the past we didn’t even discuss corruption. The fact that people are fearful is also good but it is un-sustainable. This year is a wonderful occasion to do soul searching because we are celebrating His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th birth anniversary. So instead of external glorification, why can’t we spend sometime into looking at ourselves in changing and becoming a more responsible citizen. That will be the biggest commemoration.
What will happen to the on-going cases?
It will continue. The momentum can’t be slowed down because expectations are there and we have to do what we must do. Strategies might change but the effect must be the same.
But ACC’s work is not only investigation. Its also strengthening governance, bringing about behavioral change, private sector integrity, strengthening social accountability in terms of engaging citizens in the decision making processes.
What do you leave behind?
A beautiful building and some consciousness about the high values.