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Top officials fail to declare assets

Non-declarants will be dealt according to asset declaration rules 2012

ACC: A total of 45 officials, including members of parliament (MPs), heads of organisations and non-government organisations, failed to declare their assets for 2014.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday issued a list of non declarants of schedule I, under which falls ministers, MPs, heads of political parties, civil society organisations and constitutional post holders.  The remaining public servants fall under schedule II.

Among the public officials, are National Assembly MPs, a retired Supreme Court justice, the dratshang lhentshog secretary, director with the Tourism Council of Bhutan, the chairman of Bhutan Telecom, and managing director of Mangdechu hydroelectric project authority.

Most of the non-declarants are heads of non-government organisations who, among others, include the executive professional directors of Bhutan Centre for Media & Democracy (BCMD), Ability Bhutan Society, Loden Foundation, Chithuen Phendey Association and Bhutan Centre for Nature Conservation.

Among the non-declarants from local governments are dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) chairmen of Pemagatshel, Punakha, Samdrupjongkhar and Wangduephodrang.

The deadline to declare the assets was March 31, which was later extended to April 30.

ACC commissioner and spokesperson, Kezang Jamtsho, said action would be taken against the non-declarants, as per the asset declaration rules.

According to the Asset Declaration Rules 2012, a person, who fails to furnish valid information, will be considered to be in possession of “unexplained wealth”, and he or she can be investigated by the ACC.

According to ACC, the total number of declarants in Schedule I increased from 427 in 2013 to 438 last year 2014.  The compliance rate is 88.4 percent, with 393 declaring their assets and liabilities, an increase of 2.7 percent over last year.

Some 309 (78.6 percent) declared online, while 84 (21.4 percent) chose the conventional method of declaring in hard copy.  All ambassadors and thrompons (mayors) declared online.

The commission stated that 331 declared within the actual period from February to March 31, while 62 declared during the grace period in April.

Members of National Council (NC), secretaries, ambassadors and consul generals, heads of armed forces, dzongdags, drangpons, and heads of financial institutions achieved 100 percent compliance, as of April 30, 2015.

Compared to last year’s declaration, rate of non-compliance marginally dropped by 4.2 percent.

The ACC Act states those public servants and those serving in civil society organisations or using public resources must declare their assets and liabilities to the ACC.   A person will be guilty of an offence, if his or her wealth does not commensurate with lawful sources of income.

The asset declaration rules came into effect in 2006 and, since then, compliance rate among the schedule I covered persons had been increasing until 2009.  The decline in the compliance rate in 2010 prompted the commission to review, amend and adopt the Asset Declaration Rules 2012 and ensure its strict enforcement.

By MB Subba

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