By Sonam Choki
The Good Governance Committee of the National Assembly tabled the review report on Annual Anti-corruption Commission Report 2019 in the ongoing Parliament.
The report mainly consists of the salient aspects of ACC‟s annual report and the NA committee‟s recommendations.
The review reveals that in the 2019 the Anti-Corruption Commission saw greater impetus for concerted and collective effort against corruption in the country. In terms of international standing in the fight against corruption, Bhutan in 2019 maintained its rank and score of 25th and 68 respectively as in the year 2018.
Bhutan’s score is above the global average score of 43 and slightly improved average score of the Asia-Pacific region of 45. Moreover, Bhutan has also maintained its sixth position in the Asia-Pacific region for the last five years and stands as the cleanest country in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region.
And with the experiences and insights gained, the organizational structure was revised to further recognizing the Asset, Liability and Conflict of Interest Management services in the ACC as one of the important corruption prevention tools to enhance transparency and accountability of public servants, the Asset Declaration Unit was upgraded to Division.
Further, the Document Management Division (DMD) was renamed as Follow-up and Documentation Division (FDD) with enhanced mandate and staffing. The Complaints Management Division was also enhanced with the creation of an Information Enrichment Section under the division as per the recommendation of the 11th Session of the second Parliament.
In an effort to build the ACC as a strong, credible and effective institution and to ‘Lead by Example’ with the moral authority to advocate, the ACC formulated Organizational Integrity Plan with 16 activities to be implemented in the 12th FYP to manage corruption risks.
The ACC reviewed its Annual Performance Target for the year 2018-2019 in-house like in the previous years. The ACC scored 89.9 out of 100 for its financial year performance which falls under “very good” category of the Government Performance Management System (GPMS) which has improved by 2.9 compared to the ATP 2017-2018.
Based on the experiences from the previous strategies, the ACC has developed and finalized the NIACS 2019-2023, an operative framework to foster collective alliance in the fight against corruption which was launched by the Hon‟ble Lyonchen on 14th August 2019.
The NIACS 2019-2023 aims to promote DAMTSI: Developing Accountable, Moral and Transparent Systems and Individual with the objectives of strengthening transparent accountable and integrity systems, enhancing integrity consciousness and enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of the Law Enforcement and Regulatory Agencies.
The strategy was developed in consultation with more than 1,190 representatives from diverse sectors and to ensure effective implementation of the strategy and to facilitate agencies in mainstreaming and institutionalizing integrity and anti-corruption measures, a total of 239 officials were sensitized.
Asset Declaration is important corruption prevention and a public accountability tool aimed at promoting transparency and accountability of public officials who are the custodians of public resources.
With this, ACC has revised and updated Asset Declaration Rules 2012 to 2017 to provide greater clarity on the frequency of declarations, declaration contents, and penalties and the roles and responsibilities of the administrator and Head of the Agency.
The 2nd Session of the 3rd Parliament adopted and mandated the ACC to implement 6 resolutions.
It has been observed that all the resolutions are implemented. Therefore, the committee applauds the ACC for successfully implementation of those resolutions.
The ACC has a very challenging mandate, professionally due to the complexity of corruption dynamics and socially having to operate in a small and very close knit society.
The verbal and physical abuses and threats by the affected individuals to the ACC staff have increased over the years and in the reporting year the ACC encountered yet another major incidence where its investigators were abused in the line of duty by the clients related to a case.
The accused threatened the ACC officials in the premises of the Court. Prior to the incident, a relative of the accused had also threatened to kill the investigators (in the ACC office).
Increasing exposure to such risks and uncertainties increases apprehension and seriously impacts both the psychological and physical health of the ACC officials and the wellbeing of their family members are equally at a greater risk.
Therefore, to ensure the safety of the ACC Officials, the ACC is in need of support from the relevant Agencies like establishment of Security Unit The RBP and RCSC to establish a Security Unit in the ACC manned by security personnel from the RBP on deputation for a fixed term on rotation basis and provide other security related services including self-defense training.
Further strengthen the legal framework to deter potential physical threats or victimization of the ACC officials.
The existing provisions in the ACAB 2011 and 6 PCB on „obstruction of justice‟ and „obstruction of lawful authority‟ is inadequate to deter such criminal acts, so it needs to be revisited for appropriate amendment.
Counseling services Provide counseling services to the ACC officials related to stress, anxiety, etc., enhancing their self-esteem and confidence and enhancing performance in fulfilling the constitutional responsibility of preventing and fighting corruption in the country without fear or favor.
With increase in corruption cases over the period and to expedite the legal proceedings of the corruption cases before the Court, the Committee recommends to designate a separate Bench for Corruption cases.
It was found that as per Anti-Corruption Commissions Annual Report 2019, most corruption cases are noncompliance to Rules and Regulations and Rules and Regulations formulated are not in line with the mother Act.
“Therefore, the Committee supports the Commission‟s recommendation to endorse the Rules and Regulations by Parliament,” it states.
As per the report, there are many cases of Assets not being restituted the government in accordance with the Court judgment. Therefore, the Committee recommends the OAG to expedite the recovery of Assets.
Additionally, since most of the corruptions are committed at the policy level and in the electoral system, the Committee recommends Anti-Corruption Commission to conduct Corruption Risk Management for Policy and electoral system henceforth.
The Committee also stated that the current practice of freezing the properties pending the judgment has led to loss of property or income as neither the owners nor the state is allowed to utilize it. Therefore, the Committee recommends ACC and Judiciary to allow the frozen properties to be used during the interim period.
Lastly, the Good Governance Committee expects the proposed recommendations to enhance effective and efficient functioning of the Commission and to achieve NKRA (Corruption Reduced) in the 12th FYP for further achievement of its vision to build a happy, harmonious and corruption free society.
“Therefore, the Committee sincerely urge members to consider the recommendations seriously and support for its adoption,” the review states.