Understanding Bhutan’s rank as the 27th cleanest country

The Transparency –Corruption Perception Index  2016 ranked Bhutan as 27th cleanest country with a score of 65 (from a scale of 0-100 where 0 equals the highest level of perceived corruption and 100 equals the lowest level of perceived corruption).

In comparison to TI-CPI 2015, Bhutan’s position and score has remained the same. Since the inception of the ACC in 2006, Bhutan featured in the TI CPI for eleventh successive years. Over the years, Bhutan saw remarkable improvements in the rank and score.

Besides perceptions of business people and country experts, 2016 survey used five data sources to come up with an aggregated data for the CPI 2016, namely: 1) World Bank Country Policy & Institutional Assessment (CPIA); 2) World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey (EOS); 3) Global Insight Country Risk Ratings; 4) Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index; and 5) Democracy Projects.

In Asia and the Pacific region, Bhutan has been consecutively ranked in the 6th position for the last five years. The region has countries that are in the top twenties of CPI like New Zealand, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong.

These countries/territories are far advanced with robust governance systems that ensure socio-economic and political stability through enhanced press freedom, access to information, integrity standards and legal framework on the independence of democratic institutions.

Also, in comparison to CPI scores of various regional countries/territories (Americas, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia Pacific), Bhutan’s score of 65 and 27th position is considered relatively satisfactory given that Bhutan’s Gross National Income (GNI) of USD 2,380.00 is far below the average GNI of those countries/territories ranked above Bhutan in CPI.

This can be attributed to strong political will demonstrated in bringing radical anti-corruption reforms in the country. Bhutan’s standing in CPI shows that developing countries can also be equally efficient in controlling corruption if given the necessary political will and cooperation of stakeholders.

Albeit increase in the number of countries/territories participating in CPI 2016 as compared to CPI 2015, Bhutan’s score and rank remained the same. The above standing can be attributed to the following.

Over the years, drawing inspirations from Their Majesties’ constant reminder to build clean and safe societies, the ACC has relentlessly worked towards preventing and combating corruption. Introduction of preventive tools such as declaration and management of Assets, gifts and conflict of interest, which is also being recognized in the region and abroad gives an edge over the sustained CPI ranking as it is towards mainstreaming of anti-corruption initiatives for long term sustenance. Besides, 90% conviction rate by persons charge sheeted and 95% prosecution rate by cases registered with the court further adds to the perception on the effectiveness in control of corruption in Bhutan.

The Constitution clearly sets out separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary endorsing independent functioning of the democratic institutions in upholding rule of law in the country. The recent report titled Judicial Integrity Scan 2016 further echoes Judiciary’s openness to external assessment to strengthen the services and invest in advancing the skills and knowledge of judicial personnel towards enhancing access to justice. The initiatives are being spearheaded by the Supreme Court and Bhutan National Legal Institute with technical support from the ACC.

The commitment and perseverance of the Constitutional Bodies i.e. Royal Audit Authority (RAA), Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in promoting systems of integrity with greater professionalism can also be a contributing factor. Annual audit recoveries made by the RAA, mainstreaming of ethics and integrity management in the civil service system by the RCSC and the ACC, as well as the strong efforts of ACC to deter corrupt acts has immense impact on enhancing transparency, accountability, integrity and professionalism. In addition, Bhutan’s smooth transition into democratic constitutional monarchy with successful second national democratic election in 2013 further reinforced the policy of greater decentralization and sustainable development with empowered citizenry.

Ratification of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2016 is yet another achievement on the anti-corruption front. Further, with 11th Five Year Plan’s focus in diversifying private sector development in the country, Parliament amended the Companies Act 2016 to promote level playing field for the private sector with accountability mechanism like Business Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interests, etc.

Nevertheless, with Bhutan graduating from the Least Developed Country (LDC) to the Lower Middle Income Country and increasing budget outlay for successive five year plans, the risk of corruption will also increase. Further, with burgeoning accountability institutions like media and civil society organizations acting as a watch-dog, complementing the ACC, more corruption issues will be exposed. Therefore, ACC cannot be complacent with the current international standing on the level of corruption perception. This only reiterates the need for the ACC to be more strong, credible, effective, efficient and vigilant of such emerging issues. Thus, all national stakeholders will equally have to make concerted efforts in fighting against corruption and building systems of integrity.

Opinion By The Anti Corruption Commission 

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