Corruption is as old as human civilization. It is everywhere and Bhutan is not an exception. Although until recently, we denied corruption being here as we basked in the inconvenient comfort of corruption being sporadic and Bhutan being the cleanest in South Asia despite the deep concerns expressed at the highest level. Corruption is not about systems because systems only facilitate either perpetration or prevention of corruption. It is fundamentally about the rotting of societal character. Corruption is lethal; it plunders the environment; it brutalizes justice; it creates yawning disparities.
His Majesty even as a young Crown Prince, in 2006 (birth year of ACC) as He deliberated the Constitution with the people in various dzongkhags, corruption and basic human values of honesty and integrity were some of the constant issues that He accentuated. These issues continued to be the staple content of His Addresses as the King.
Anywhere, a critical capital in combating corruption is political will of the head of institutions of governance, of the citizens and not the least of all of the very institution(s) tasked with the sacred responsibility of combating corruption.
The ACC has been the best part of my life (pre Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative) because we had the space to perform without being suffocated. We determined the parameters (of course within the legal boundary). Corruption became the mainstream discourse and found its place in the development agenda. The fountain of our conviction, courage, commitment and resolve was His Majesty’s inspiring statements. “I’ll not be corrupt and I’ll not tolerate corruption in others” (Tsirang 2006) became the strongest anti-corruption pill and the pedestal to launch our programs.
As a young institution that was consciously and conscientiously trying to find a firm foothold in a fearful and a sensitive environment and when it was being peremptorily reprimanded and condescendingly pardoned for being an “infant”, bestowing of Druk Thuksey and the red scarf to the institution through its chairperson, became the institution’s guardian deity. The Royal reassurance lent greater meaning and greater sense of purpose in fulfilling our sacred responsibility.
The ACC flourished in Bhutan and beyond because of the blessings of the triple gem and His Majesty the King, good wishes of the larger populace and the tireless and selfless service of the anti-corruption cadre.
By Dasho Neten Zangmo
The writer is the former Chairperson of the ACC and now heads the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative