Trading in Influence our biggest problem

The National Corruption Barometer Report (NCBR) 2020 reveals that executives, the primary implementers of public policies and programmes are perceived to be the most corrupt. Does this ring a bell? We have heard this over and over again. Can we do something about this in earnest, letter, spirit and action?

Bhutan has been ranked the 25th cleanest country among 180 countries/territories in the world for the last two consecutive years. But every now and then, we are reminded that we are not doing enough as corruption cases surface and study reports confirm the presence of bigger problems.

It would be unfair to generalise that all executives are corrupt. But it is an open secret that some officials misuse their official positions for personal gains only and yet could see successful career advancement over the years. Such people could be professionally very sound but very low on integrity, which potentially could have grave consequences.

Trading in influence is the misuse of his/her influence over decision-making process for a third party in return for loyalty, money or any other material or immaterial undue advantage. This perception is the number one form of corruption across all service providers in Bhutan, the report reveals. Do our people have little guilt over the wrongdoings? Are the bosses aware of such wrongdoings, or are they also busy doing their bit?

However, in some cases, the subordinates and staff also victimise honest and good bosses. The accuracy of perceptions would also largely depend on the quality and sample size.

For a small nation like ours, the confidence and trust of the public in the system governing or serving them in various forms is of utmost importance. People do talk about political parties in power grooming candidates for the next elections by appointing or promoting them to higher positions of influence by disrespecting norms and merit systems. Sometimes even before an interview of a vacancy is conducted, people talk about whose candidate would be selected or are “sure enough” to be selected. 

Such practices would not only demoralise others competing through fair means, but also erode the trust of the public and spread disharmony in the system.

One thing that Bhutanese cannot get away with is the push and pull behind the scene whenever opportunities arise. Family networks and ‘scratching each other’s back’ is strongly embedded in the system, which has the potential to discourage those who work hard and professionally.

The guidance and inspiration is crystal clear. His Majesty The King always emphasises on how corruption is a societal evil, no matter how big or small. Ignoring corruption or not holding the corrupt, His Majesty had said, is an even greater threat.

Like every year, we have the report. What, when and how do we make people accountable is the next thing a lot of people expect to hear.

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