ACC to move forward proactively

The incident that happened on April 29, 2022 within the premises of the Supreme Court, where a director of the Anti corruption commission (ACC) was stabbed and a commissioner assaulted, has been taken by the ACC as testament that institutions like the ACC is required to do what it presently does. Moreover, it has emboldened the ACC to move forward undaunted in their objective to reduce and if possible cleanse corruption from the Bhutanese society. 
However, the particular incident is just part of several challenges that the ACC is confronted with. Even after 15 years of establishment, the institution continues to face challenges, which are clearly reflected in its 2021 Annual Report, which says that with maximum share of complaints being administrative in nature persistently, the writing on the wall is that the existing policies and systems are inadequate to handle complex corruption issues……..This in turn is aggravated with poor coordination among agencies coupled with weak enforcement from regulatory agencies. In such a scenario, the existing anti-corruption policies and systems are too far from withstanding emerging corruption issues with rapid economic growth and material prosperity like transnational corruption syndicate, illicit financial inflows, illegal match fixing, and cybercrime, among others.”
Nonetheless, the ACC, in the words of Chairperson Aum Deki Pema, continues to find a way forward and is equipped to handle different corruption cases that would emerge in the Industry 4 and VUCA World. One of the main challenges confronted are Human Resource (HR) issues. “We are hopeful that the HR issues and other amendments will be considered in the summer session of the National Assembly,” the Chairperson said, adding these amendments were put up by the first commission itself, which goes to show how important it is. The amendments, especially HR would give the commission a certain ability to respond.
The ACC has also made inroads in other areas. Coordination with the Office of Attorney General (OAG) has strengthened and though a MoU as planned has not been signed, there has been several meetings between the two, at different levels. “We should have consultation all the way; it will become steady and professionalism will be instilled; especially when cases are complex,” the Chairperson said. 
For the civil servants, the ACC together with the RCSC has introduced the Ethics and Integrity module. “Civil servants from P2 will need to take this examination and get through for promotions and other incentives.” This would soon be replicated in state owned agencies and Druk Holdings and Investments, Local Government and the parliament. 
To assist the private sector and others find out the backgrounds of prospective employees, the ACC has developed the Integrity vetting system (IVS). “It was there since 2016. Agencies can send us names of people and we will provide information required,” she said. 
A roadmap has also been prepared taking into consideration the future. Aspects of the roadmap are woven around themes like Bhutan first, status of developed nation; integrity; society discipline; being a step ahead and others. 
The Chairperson further said ACC will now take a proactive role. “Till now we have been reactive. We have to reverse that. We have to be better than wrong doers; the cat and mouse chase will not work,” she said.  
When asked what the main reasons for people indulging in corruption are, she said there are several factors, one of which being opportunities provided. And this is also in their report of 2021 which says, “despite repetitive corruption scandals in the same organizations/systems, it has had little or no effect in strengthening internal safeguards and creating deterrence.” “Instead, the culture of transparency and accountability is often sidelined in the pretext of administrative burden or ‘‘implemented as an obligation to external factors such as the ACC’”. The Chairperson said corruption should be made high risk, low benefit and penalties should be stricter.  
On Bhutan holding on to 68 points in the Transparency International Ranking, she said the moment this report came out, ACC worked to find out where the 32 had gone. “There are other elements, such as media and ease of doing business, where we score low,” she said.  
Adding that corruption is everyone’s responsibility and to instill values, ACC has started distributing books to Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) centers.  
“Honesty, fairness and responsibility, which are very important and fundamental will be instilled from an early age,” she said. 
Due to the aforementioned incident and nature of work, which is risky, the Chairperson said employees are worried. “We have to constantly keep motivating them,” she said, adding that she tells her staff that even if there are people posting articles against the ACC, she keeps reminding the staff that there are also people who support the ACC.