In a recent Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) survey, the people’s perception was that corruption in 2013 had gone down compared to 2007. Though the perception may fall in contrary to the growing number of ACC and RAA cases every year, the perception comes largely in the context that corruption is being tackled.
The ACC Chairperson said that such a perception comes due to the fear of the ACC, as an institution, would come after corruption cases, and secondly, some sections in the media have been vocal and critical of corruption in the last five years.
The people’s perception of corruption going down is also in the context of Bhutan’s transition to a democracy where people have more rights and are less afraid to speak up, where elected leaders are held accountable, the presence of stronger oversight institutions, and a more vocal media.
Bhutan’s transition to a healthy and strong democracy will only be possible when all types of corruption – be it nepotism, policy corruption, bribery, abuse of power, embezzlement, etc., are either greatly reduced or done away with completely.
Corruption affects each and every one of us – it creeps into our daily lives affecting everything, from livelihoods to service delivery.
For example, a poorly built farm road or irrigation channel where the contractor may have made a huge profit in collaboration with the procurement committee and site engineer will affect the farmer’s livelihood as he cannot use the farm road to transport the farm produce.
Similarly, as shown with the numerous RAA and ACC reports in the past, the procurement of poor quality medical equipment and drugs to favor a few bidders pose a direct risk to the health and safety of tens of thousands of ordinary Bhutanese.
Young graduates should be able to find jobs through fair means and based on merit. The future generations must not be tainted by nepotism where only a few find plump jobs because of their family background.
Therefore, fighting corruption is not only our national duty as mandated under Fundamental Duties in the Constitution, but it’s also in our personal and societal interest.
Fighting corruption is also in the interest of any government as it will only lead to Good Governance and will be a true service to the people they serve.
One of the major reasons that the PDP government came to power was its pledge to fight corruption and now that it is in power- it must fulfill its pledge.
Institutions like the ACC and RAA must be provided all necessary legal, manpower and resources support.
More importantly, the ministers must ensure that their respective ministries and agencies have all the right people and systems in place to ensure a corruption free government.
His Majesty the King, in a Royal address to the nation on several occasions, has highlighted corruption as Bhutan’s biggest challenge and highlighted the need to prevent various types of corruption.
In the larger national context, Bhutan should not be content with comparing ourselves to our larger neighbors. Given Bhutan’s small size and vulnerability, corruption will have far more destructive political, social, and economic consequences-that taken to an extreme can even compromise the country’s sovereignty and security.
As pointed out earlier, the new government has made a promising start with a draft Code of Conduct that promises to replace ministers involved in controversial activities like corruption.
This is good because accountability must start from right at the top and then only will it flow downwards.
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”