The majority of the respondents feel that corruption is quite serious in Bhutan and has increased over the last five years.
By Chimi Wangmo
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in its National Integrity Assessment (NIA) states that at the national level indicates that efforts and initiatives undertaken by the public agencies to improve integrity are on track to achieve intended results.
However, the commission stated that deeper analysis of each component for NIA provides room for improvement the Commission states.
The NIA in general, is an assessment of whether, in an agency, a public official follows standard procedures in providing services fairly and transparently and that the services are not processed based on personal propensity towards a special condition or inducement.
The NIA uses a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is highly corrupt and 10 is very clean. The NIA for Bhutan is 7.97 depicting a good level of integrity.
Further, the External Integrity score of 8.08 indicates a very good level of integrity as perceived and experienced by the service users. This is mainly due to improvement in the sharing of information and the use of the e-services platform.
However, ACC states that weak accountability culture in the form of public officials ignoring official duties, abuse of functions, and ineffective grievances redressal mechanisms require improvement.
The assessment points that although, the experience of corruption in service delivery is very minimal with the score at an Outstanding Level. Yet, the perception of corruption in the form of favouritism based on friendship and family relationship is prevalent in public service delivery.
“Fifty-three percent of service users believe that family and friendship are beneficial in having services processed faster. Similarly, 41.69% of service providers believe that instruction from supervisors and friendship are the most influential factors in providing service faster,” the NIA assessment states.
In addition, despite the outstanding score for experienced corruption, it is a point of concern as there are incidences of payments made in the form of cash or kind, entertainment and other forms of gratification by the service users.
For instance, ACC reported that one in 147 offered entertainment such as food and drinks to get the services while one in 274 offered other forms of gratification while availing services. Similarly it also reported that atleast one in 379 service users made payment in cash or kind to get the services.
Meanwhile, ACC’s assessment of the score on Internal Integrity of 7.98 indicates a good level of integrity. The commission states that this is mainly attributed to the high score for the Work Integrity.
However, it was found out that Integrity Culture and Corruption Control Systems in terms of public officials ignoring official duties to pursue a private interest, protection of whistleblowers, and disciplinary actions against wrongdoings are some of the shortcomings.
“It is encouraging to note that the score for experienced corruption in all the three components of Work Integrity (Personnel Management, Budget Execution, and Fairness in Assignment of Work) is at an Outstanding Level,” the commission noted.
However, it also revealed that in terms of Fairness in the Assignment of Work, one in 8 employees has received unreasonable work instructions either from the heads of the agencies or immediate supervisors.
It was also revealed that despite low scores in fairness and trust of the six components, Ethical Leadership with a score of 7.82 indicates just a satisfactory level of integrity.
In all the NIAs, the perception of corruption and ACC’s performance were assessed. The majority of the respondents feel that corruption is quite serious in Bhutan and has increased over the last five years.
In terms of ACC’s efforts in combating corruption, there is a decline in the percentage of respondents for doing very well over the years.
To reduce corruption and improve service delivery, ACC states that it is imperative to prevent opportunities for corruption in service delivery and foster integrity in the systems.
The ACC’s NIA recommends developing and implementing service delivery standards, educating service users and employees on service delivery standards, and also strengthening ethical leadership.
The commission also recommends to strengthen Community Information Centers (CIC) and enhance front desk or reception information services and also e-services provided in the country.
Among others the enhancement and implementation of the Organizational Integrity Plan (OIP) and to strengthen mechanisms to address administrative complaints were also recommended.
Finally, the ACC urged all public agencies to use the findings to reflect and institutionalize appropriate systems.
“As this report provides an assessment of integrity at the National Level and is not specific to any particular agency or service, the ACC is in the process of developing agency-specific reports to facilitate respective agencies to further work on enhancing the integrity of an agency,” the commission further stated.
Among the various recommendations given by ACC, they stated that there is a need to strengthen ethical leadership in agencies as evident from the score of 7.82 (Satisfactory Level).
This, according to the commission, is mainly attributed to a low score in fairness by leadership and trust in leadership.
Similarly, integrity culture in the agencies is weak. Therefore, it was recommended to strengthen ethical leadership to demonstrate an organization’s commitment to integrity.
It was also discovered that favouritism based on friendship and family relationship is perceived to influence public service delivery. For this to curb, it was recommended to strengthen e-services and Community Information Centers (CICs).
ACC also found out that corruption control systems in the agencies, protection of whistleblowers, appropriateness of disciplinary measures and punishment against corrupt acts, and adequate checks and balances to control corruption are weak with all the scores falling in the need improvement level.
ACC asks to strengthen mechanisms to address administrative complaints and effectively manage feedback and grievances.
It was revealed that the general perception of the existence of corruption in personnel management with a score of 6.32 (Need Improvement Level). Acc recomnded to improve transparency and strengthen evidence-based decision-making in HRM Process.
“Some agencies do not have service delivery standards, while some of the existing standards and procedures are not as practical as manifested in the score (7.73-Satisfactory Level),” ACC stated.
Similarly, most service users and some employees of the organizations are not aware of standards even if it is developed. So the commission urged them to develop and implement service delivery standards and also educate service users and employees on service delivery standards, and enhance front desk or reception information services.
Further, weak accountability culture with a score of 7.22 (Need Improvement Level) characterized by a lack of efforts to accomplish duties and ignoring official duties to pursue private interests by public officials.
The commission directed to strengthen monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
The National Integrity Score for NIA 2019 7.97 is at a good level however, ACC said, there is a need to enhance the NIA score to very good or outstanding level.
Additionally, the perception of corruption in the form of abuse of function (favouritism) is high in public service delivery. Further, there are also instances of experienced corruption where service users had to make payments in the form of cash or kind, entertainment, and other forms of gratification to avail services although the score is high.
For this to improve, ACC stated to enhance implementation of an Organizational Integrity Plan. And also enhance implementation of corruption prevention tools.