According to ACC officials, interventions by the Office of the Attorney General, the unfavorable High Court verdict and political opposition in the Gyelpozhing case has put tremendous stress on the Anti Corruption Commission which will weaken it in the near future and hamper its effectiveness.
“We can say that this sort of unnecessary interventions drains the organizations focus and resource and impacts on its efficiency,” said a senior ACC official on the condition of anonymity.
The unnecessary intervention being referred to is two cases against the ACC by the OAG one of which OAG won on undoing the suspension of the Home Minister and the Speaker and other which it lost on ACC’s eligibility to prosecute the Gyelpozhing case.
OAG had earlier also made an ACC investigation report public and declared that there was no case in Gyelpozhing. It was widely felt that the OAG had dismissed the Gyelpozhing report since its bosses in the cabinet were named and involved.
There have also been frequent public proclamations of their innocence by the involved ministers. The cabinet through a letter had directed the OAG to look into the legality of the suspension of the Speaker and the Home Minister.
“This (intervention) also highlights the serious risks of politicization of institutions in the future which plagues many countries. The overwhelming majority of the ACC agencies in the world are ineffective due to this very problem,” added the ACC official.
In many developing countries the ACC has been politically undermined to the extent of becoming a toothless organization. In Kenya in 2006 a government that won on the promise of fighting corruption saw its ACC head fleeing the country when senior members of the government gave death threats to him, while in Nigeria the ACC head was unceremoniously replaced on flimsy grounds.
There is growing apprehension in ACC that due to ACC handling the cases of big politicians there could be a similar fate reserved for the ACC in Bhutan.
Gyelpozhing is the first major case involving the powerful and influential that the ACC is handling, however, given the obstacles being put up ACC officials feel that in the future ACC may not take up such cases.
“We anticipate such unnecessary interventions growing in the future. Since ACC’s policy is to look at substantive cases it is just the beginning. And then in the future ACC will decide weather or not to take up cases or just pursue on softer issues of public education and prevention,” said the ACC official.
ACC officials are also highly apprehensive with the High Court verdict on the suspension of Home Minister and Speaker. A particular clause that ACC officials feel will hamper ACC’s investigation efforts in the future is the High Court ordering ACC to consult the head of agencies before suspending anyone as issues like conflicting legal clauses, public interest etc might be at stake.
The ACC official said, “This sort of thing is tantamount to getting the permission of the head of the agency even while detaining and suspending someone during the course of the investigation. With this, there is a potential risk of evidence being destroyed, removed, fabricated, collusion and even flight sometimes.”
ACC officials already plan to appeal against the High Court verdict in the Supreme Court.
The strong and unexpected opposition to the ACC from various quarters has also affected the morale of the ACC officers. ACC already had a high retrenchment rate with many people both at the senior and junior levels leaving the organization in the past.
“The morale of ACC officers will definitely be affected,” said an ACC official.
Within ACC there is now disillusionment with the government over’s its earlier stated policy of ‘zero tolerance against corruption,’ and it’s proclaimed support to the ACC to fight corruption.
“Zero tolerance policy makes no sense if there is no action and behavioral change,” said the ACC official.
The official also said, “When you talk of support it should be by way of strengthening one’s own organization, building an anti corruption culture and having a strong system of integrity.”
Most government agencies are yet to implement the ACC’s Corruption Risk Management system to reduce the risk of corruption in their agencies.