A complaint was filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission almost everyday. This is , however, 13 percent drop from the previous year.
The commission’s annual report 2017 does not state reasons for the decline and past reports show that this has been the trend. Some see the drop in the number of complaints as increased awareness and compliance to the rule of law. Others see it as a decline in public confidence in the commission’s work.
But concerns are raised on the practice of fronting resurfacing in Phuentsholing and how the previous investigations has not sustained to deter people from indulging in such offences. Given the high expectation from the people such perceptions are understandable and the number of cases investigated is only one aspect of the commission’s work.
Besides the number of complaints, what has dropped significantly for the commission is the amount of budget allocated for its operations. In the 10th and 11th Plan, the commission received 0.2 percent of the total budget but 64 percent of the budget it received from July 2008 – June 2018 is donor – funded. In the 12th Plan, the commission’s indicative budget is Nu 75M, which is 0.1 percent of the total outlay and less than the 11th Plan’s outlay.
The annual report states that the indicative budget allocation is not adequate and that it requires at least Nu 211M to implement its 12th Plan activities. It has cautioned that unless adequate financial resource is provided, the risk of the ACC being rendered dysfunctional is real.
The amount of budget allocated indicates the priority accorded to the sectors and institutions. Bhutan is not self-sufficient in food, a consequence of reduced budget allocation in the agriculture sector today. The Constitution mandates the government to provide adequate financial resources to the constitutional offices. The Parliament, which will deliberate the budget and the commission’s annual report, should consider the commission’s financial concerns and how when compounded by human resource shortage, it impedes its fight against corruption.
While anti-corruption efforts have made impacts in the society, Bhutan’s fight against corruption has only begun. Abuse of functions and embezzlement continue to top the list of corruption offences with a majority of allegations against local governments. With 12th Plan focusing on decentralising budget, decision-making and human resources to the local government, it becomes imperative for planners and policy makers to ensure that these powers are not abused. ACC attributes the rising number of corruption complaints against local government authorities is to increasing delegation of responsibilities and resources without commensurate check and balance and accountability mechanisms.
Apathy towards corruption among agencies is evident through the low rate of action taken reports (ATRs) submitted to the commission. The commission shared 105 complaints for action and received 31 ATRs of which only eight were submitted within the 30 days time. The rest weren’t with some taking 213 days.
The ACC has called for the political will to fight corruption to translate into actions. At the rate we are going, the fight has remained mere rhetoric.