Trends of decline in number of complaints over the years: ACC report
Combating corruption is one of the core mandates of the Anti Corruption Commission ( ACC ) as empowered under section 24 (d) of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) 2011 and one of the principal functions of the ACC as provided under section 25.1 (f) of the ACAB 2011 is to receive and consider any complaints of the commission of an offence under the Act lodged with it by a person or authority and investigate such complaints as the Commission considers practicable.
This is according to the annual report of ACC 2014, the ACC has received on an average 450 complaints annually, highest being 791 in 2007 and lowest being 336 in 2014. While, the number of complaints over the years is having declining trend which shows that this is due to constant efforts of the ACC on public education on corruption thereby improving quality of complaints or because of the time that the ACC takes in responding to the complaints.
The report states that, the ACC receives complaints, both known and anonymous, through telephone, fax, post, website and walk in. While the predominant mode of complaints was through post, making up about 39 percent of all complaints received. While in the reporting year, 134 complaints were received through post, which is about 40 percent of the total 336 complaints.
The complaints through post also include referrals from Royal Audit Authority ( RAA) that are referred to the ACC when there are suspicions of corruption offences. During the period 2006 to 25th March 2015, the ACC received a total of 85 such referrals cases constituting of 2.10 percent of the total complaints. Out of this, 34 were qualified for investigation, 36 were shared with agencies and 15 which had no corruption elements were referred back to RAA. Out of the 34 that qualified for investigation, 18 were referred for prosecution, 13 were shared with agencies for administrative actions and 3 are pending investigation. Overall, out of the 85 referrals, 63 have been brought to their logical conclusions and closed, 15 have been dropped, 3 are pending investigation and the rest 4 are at various stages of prosecution. 30 individuals were convicted of corruption charges and administrative sanctions
were imposed upon 56 individuals, states the annual report 2014.
The report further state that from the total of 4050 complaints received over the last nine years, 51 percent were anonymous and 49 percent were from known sources. During the reporting period, known complaints were 68 percent of the total 336 complaints, an increase of 15 percent from the previous year. The growing trend of known complaints may indicate public trust in the ACC.
Biggest number of complaints which accounts to 27 percent of the total complaints was abuse of functions by public servants in positions of power followed by embezzlement accounts to 16 percent.
While the report states that Public servants are perceived to be performing or omitting to per form an act amounting to favoritism, nepotism or patronage in violation of laws, in discharg- ing their functions to obtain advantage for themselves or for another person or entity. In comparison, the complaints on bribery were very minimal accounts to only 7 percent, which either may indicate that outright bribery is not a common feature in the country or as the bribe giver bears greater criminal culpability than the receiver s/he does not dare complain.
Besides, public service culture is such that service recipients are compelled to pay subtle bribes such as gratification, hospitality, expensive birthday gifts, “lend money” and “buy mobile phones, tablets, etc. on reimbursement basis”, states the report.
Public servants may not solicit outright bribe but create conditions for subtle forms of bribery. The category ‘Others’ were those complaints that did not constitute corruption offences, per se but were means to corrupt acts such as deception, coercion, forgery and collusion. Almost half of the total complaints received over the past nine years were not corruption offence that indicates the need to make constant efforts in raising public awareness about corruption offences. This could be also be due to public’s expectation of the ACC as the only platform for redressal of their grievances in the absence of any grievance redress mechanisms in other public agencies. People expect the ACC to solve their problems, states the report.
During the reporting period, complaints on abuse of functions consti- tuted about 36 percent, embezzlement 18 percent and bribery 2 percent out of 336 complaints.
Meanwhile, complaints received by the ACC against each dzongkhag during the past 9 years was that Thimphu Dzongkhag has the highest number of complaints (total 1000, average 111 in a year) followed by Chukha (total 437, average 49 in a year) and Paro (total 253, average 28 in a year). Gasa and Lhuentse Dzongkhags had the least number of complaints (total 23, average 3 in a year and total 41, average 5 in a year, respectively).
Such a pattern of com- plaints, that is remote dzongkhags having lesser number of complaints, may be attributed to lesser economic activities in those dzongkhags, smaller population, complainants’ proximity to the ACC and level of public awareness on corruption and knowledge of where and how to report corrupt practices.
During the reporting period, the pattern remained the same with the highest complaints being related to Thimphu Dzongkhag with 77 complaints (23 percent) and the least being Gasa with just 2 complaints (0.6 percent) out of 336 complaints.