ACC budgetary constraints impede works on complex corruption cases

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)’s Annual Reports 2022-2023 mentions that ACC’s overall share of annual national budget has been declining over the years. It has decreased from 0.18 percent in 2018-2019 to 0.06 percent in 2022-2023 and 0.05 percent in 2023-2024.

This not only hinders timely clearing of present, as well as backlog cases, but also undermines the public trust and confidence in the institution when the cases are delayed.

The report mentions that delay in resolving corruption cases by the OAG and Judiciary further undermines the rule of law and integrity of the criminal justice system. There are 32 cases under review at OAG, and 32 cases under trial in various courts.

From the year 2022 till date, ACC has received a total of 342 corruption reports. 203 reports were from the known sources. The most preferred mode of reporting continues to be webmail followed by walk-in and post.

From the 342 corruption reports, 203 warranted further action while 139 were dropped. Of the 203 corruption reports, 53 reports qualified for investigation, 76 reports shared for action, 43 shared for sensitization and 31 reports qualified for information enrichment (IE).

The most alleged corruption reports pertained to public revenue followed by resources and contract indicating most vulnerable areas of corruption.

By agency, ministries had the highest corruption reports at 39 followed by gewog administration at 26, and 20 reports at the dzongkhag administration level.

By offence, most alleged corruption reports pertained to 106 abuse of functions, followed by 26 bribery,  and 18 cases of embezzlement.

However, during the year, reports qualified for IE increased to 35 of which, 15 were closed, 6 upgraded for investigation and 6 shared for action. Likewise, reports qualified for investigation increased to 62.

This account for 18 percent of corruption reports qualified for investigation. Of this, 25 reports pertained to bribery, 17 abuse of functions and 12 embezzlements. By agency, ministries had the highest with 21 corruption reports qualified for investigation followed by 13 from Financial Institutions.

Out of 62 cases, 40 cases were assigned for investigation during the year.

Concerning the caseload, ACC opened 38 new investigations during the reporting year in addition to 39 spillover cases, bringing the total caseload to 77.

Of the 77 caseload, 41 cases were referred to OAG for prosecution, 5 to relevant agencies for administrative actions, 9 dropped due to lack of evidences and 1 is under review, accounting for 72.7 percent of clearance rate.

This is a significant achievement compared to only 51 percent in the previous year despite the high attrition rate of 15 percent during the reporting year as compared to only 4.8 percent in 2019. The average turn around time (TAT) to complete one case was reduced to 65.5 working days compared to 70.9 working days for the previous year.

The 41 cases refereed for prosecution is dramatically higher compared to only 8 and 6 cases for the year 2021-22 and 2020-21 respectively.

Out of 56 cases closed during the reporting year, a total of 270 individuals were implicated for prosecution or administrative actions.

Public servants accounted for 45.6 percent of the total individuals implicated followed by businesspersons and corporate employees. Total financial restitution attached with probable charges and disciplinary actions for all cases referred during the year amounts to Nu 105.15 million.

During the year, ACC conducted eight seizures compared to 17 in the previous year. It arrested and detained 17 individuals in the police custody compared to 24 in the previous year. Likewise, 17 cases are under trial with different courts.

Through its Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019-2023, ACC has been implementing integrity and anti-corruption measures in the form of Organizational Integrity Plan (OIP) in the public sector. Code of conduct, integrity vetting, asset declaration and corruption risk managements are some of the anti-corruption tools being implemented in the OIP framework.

Out of 101 agencies implementing the OIP, eight scored ‘excellent’ rating whereas 42 agencies placed in the ‘poor’ category based on the standard means of verification.

During the reporting year, ACC issued 8,847 integrity vetting results to 84 agencies mostly for the purposes of recruitment and promotion.

The increasing attrition rate of 15 percent compared to 4.84 percent in 2019 further hinders ACC in delivering its mandates.

Over the last two and half years, 58 staff got separated including 25 in 2022-2023. Majority from the professional and management position category. Besides, 35.5 percent of the entire workforce just possess less than two years of ACC experience.

Considering the potential risks of clustering initiatives on the ACC’s overall operational autonomy and compromising some of its core mandates, ACC, Royal Civil Service Commission and Lead Cluster agencies to earnestly review the likely impact of the clustering initiatives on ACC to address its concerns and difficulties.

Budgetary constraint has become an impediment in addressing complex and increasing corruption caseload every year. In view of this, the Ministry of Finance and ACC to explore best alternative budget allocation mechanism to sustain ACC’s efforts.

Delay in resolving corruption cases has important bearing on the criminal justice system. While ACC aims to reduce the backlog cases by 50 percent within this fiscal year, it is very much dependent on the effectiveness of another collaborative agencies in managing the cases. To enforce accountability across all relevant agencies, the Parliament, through its relevant Standing Committees, jointly scrutinize the delayed cases and also facilitate addressing institutional challenges.

Check Also

Growing forest fires impacting ecology and potential sustainable revenue generation

Reports from the Department of Forest and Park Services show that there is an increasing …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *