ACC: Lack of transparency in the selection process leading to the appointment of Chairperson and Commissioners of the Anti-Corruption (ACC) is a major shortfall in the institution, according to a Transparency International (TI) report.

TI in the report, “Anti-Corruption Agency Strengthening Initiative Assessment of ACC 2015” launched in Thimphu yesterday, pinpoints lack of public criteria behind the nomination and justification and rationale by the nominating committee. The appointment of the current Chairperson and Commissioners is an evidence of this shortfall, the report stated.

The report, published based on a comprehensive assessment of the capacity and performance of the ACC states, “The deliberation of the selection committee and the criteria for their selection were not disclosed.”

To improve transparency in the appointment process, the TI recommends the selection committee to draft criteria and rules of procedure and make them public. The report states that once the selection committee lists the names for nomination, it should produce a public statement of justification for a better understanding of the reasons behind their decision.

The Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of Bhutan, the Speaker, the Chairperson of the National Council and the Leader of the Opposition Party jointly recommend the names of Chairperson and Commissioners to the Druk Gyalpo for appointment.

The TI also called on the Parliament to develop specific criteria for the selection and nomination.

Executive Director of Bhutan Transparency Initiative (BTI), local partner of TI, Pema Lhamo said the report is a “frank assessment” of how the ACC tackles corruption, and how existing laws and policies work in practice.

The assessment was carried out between June and August this year with financial support from Swiss Development Cooperation.

The assessment results, she said, would be useful for dialogues and engagement   in strengthening the ACC. “We will develop an action plan on the way forward in consultation with relevant institutions,” she said.

The Commission was assessed based on various indicators, which were given “high, moderate, low and scoring not possible” grades depending on how the ACC fared on each indicator. The indicators included the commission’s legal powers, operational autonomy, budget sufficiency and staff attrition. It scored “high” in 70 percent of the total indicators including legal powers and operational autonomy.

However, ACC scored “low” in two indicators – responsiveness to corruption complaints and staff attrition. The attrition rate last year was 16 percent.

The report also reveals that the ACC has been able to investigate only one-fifth of the cases that qualify for investigation. This, the report states, has affected people’s perception in its “responsiveness to corruption complaints”.

“We found a low level of confidence in the fact that the ACC has the powers needed to effectively investigate all cases of corruption,” states the report. The report adds that it also seems for the fact that civil servants and citizens are not sufficiently aware about the difficulties faced by the ACC when recruiting senior managers and investigating large cases.

The TI recommends the Chairperson and Commissioners to decisively and definitely address the problems, which it states are as old as the commission itself. There is an ongoing problem of staff shortage and the backlog of investigations. “This might threaten the reputation and role of the ACC.”

Speaking at the launch, chief guest Supreme Court Chief Justice Tshering Wangchuk said the ACC has come a long way in fighting corruption in the country. He said the ACC has successfully prosecuted a number of cases, which he said was an achievement for the commission.

The Chief Justice said the ACC has to be more vigilant and focused than ever before to curb corruption. “So far, the ACC has executed its duty without failure,” he said.

MB Subba