Bhutan: ACC is performing well according to latest assessment

The 2021 assessment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) reveals that the commission continues to perform well with 66 percent of the 50 measured indicators rated as high, 30 percent as moderate, and a mere four percent as low.

According to the assessment, which was conducted by Transparency International (TI), the overall rating has declined slightly since the first assessment in 2015 when 70 percent of the 50 indicators were rated as high, 26 percent as moderate and four as low.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) prescribes the existence of independent bodies established through national legal systems to enforce, implement and promote anti-corruption policies and principles.

A well-functioning oversight anti-corruption agency (ACA) is vital for good governance in any country. Thus, the 2012 Jakarta Principles developed in consultation with ACA heads, practitioners, and experts from around the world represented a widely accepted standard to which agencies can be held accountable.

However, in practice, assessment against these standards has been sporadic, owing partly to the lack of political will by governments to scrutinize their own oversight mechanisms. Another reason is the absence of a coherent and practicable way to measure performance. Therefore, TI developed an assessment aimed at strengthening ACAs in the Asia Pacific Region.

ACC’s Chairperson, Deki Pema said that His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, through Royal Decree, established the ACC on December 31, 2005. Article 27 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, adopted in 2008, mandates the ACC as an independent authority, charged with the sacred responsibility to take necessary steps to prevent and combat corruption in the Kingdom.

Today, there are more than 100 ACAs around the world and the growth in number demonstrates a clear commitment by governments to combat corruption. Deki Pema said the effectiveness of many ACAs remain inhibited and are yet to realize their full potential in service of their people and society, at large.

The Chairperson further said that Transparency International’s Anti-Corruption Agencies Strengthening Initiative is vital, adding that it is designed to be a catalyst that creates an informed discussion among ACAs, governments, anti-corruption stakeholders, and the public about the strengths, weaknesses, and ways to improve its performance.

The independent research, commissioned by TI in consultation with ACAs, helps in revealing problem areas and providing concrete recommendations for action going forward.

The Anti-Corruption Agencies Strengthening Initiative combines biennial assessments of ACAs with sustained engagement, dialogue, and advocacy at both national and regional levels.

The press release from the ACC states that the assessment is aimed at highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of ACAs. The tools have been developed and refined over a period of five years with the latest iteration of the tool based on the experience of conducting an initial pilot in Bhutan in 2015 and the first round of assessments in seven other countries in the Asia Pacific region in 2016 and 2017.

The first phase of assessment under the Initiative had been carried out from 2015-2017 during which ACC Bhutan pioneered the ACA Strengthening approach by piloting the TI ACA Assessment Tool in 2015.

Deki Pema said the assessment findings and resulting recommendations were incorporated in the National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Strategy 2018-2023, dovetailing with the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) of the country from which activities are currently being implemented by agencies in the form of Organizational Integrity Plan.

The current and second assessment was conducted in 2021 by TI to provide an independent indication of progress and challenges, and to identify priority areas for review and action. More so, in the 12th FYP, one of the Key Performance Indicators to measure ACC Performance Score is through the score of such an assessment.

“At ACC, we have adopted its Strategic Roadmap 2021-2030, looking ahead ten years, and we look forward to assimilating the findings and recommendations and using them in our way forward,” said the Chairperson.

The report further states that TI carried out the second assessment of the ACC between September and December 2021 to measure progress since the initial pilot assessment in 2015.

The assessment was aimed at furnishing the ACC with up-to-date information on its performance and opportunities for improvement, while also providing all stakeholders committed to tackling corruption in the country with a better understanding of the enabling and disabling factors that affect the commission’s effectiveness.

The recommendations as per the assessment include the ACC should strengthen and broaden the scope of its intelligence division and explore possibilities to better pool its expertise and research capacity.

It recommends ACC to also consider how it can collaborate more with external stakeholders on its outreach and education campaigns and urge parliament to pass proposed amendments to the Anti-Corruption Act.

It further states the ACC should consider incorporating exit interviews of current, former and outgoing employees and publicly present the results of its reports to citizens, civil society organizations and the media.

According to the 2021 assessment, the commission’s strongest dimensions are independence and status with 94 percent; prevention, education, and outreach with 94 percent; and financial and human resources with 83 percent.

By contrast, its weakest dimensions are detection, investigation, and prosecution with 67 percent; cooperation and external relations with 67 percent; and accountability and integrity with 78 percent.