ACC says Model Code does not impair the constitutional right to Freedom of Speech

IVT – For Augmenting Accountability in the Public and Private Sectors

Towards the end of 2022, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) launched the Integrity Vetting Rules (IVR) 2022, which is meant to promote and mainstream integrity in the public and private sectors. It applies to the selection, recruitment, promotion, nomination, appointment, or selection of a person to public office or in the award of a public contract or entering a public contractual relationship. Business Bhutan’s Sangay Rabten, in an exclusive with the ACC’s Commissioner Jamtsho, gets further insights into the concept, significance and benefits of the Integrity Vetting System. 

1. What is the background behind adopting or mainstreaming Integrity Vetting System?

At present, one of the major problems in governance is associated with the accountability mechanism. There is no proper established system that documents historical aspects of a person who were held accountable administratively or convicted by the Royal Courts of Justices for corruption offenses.

Therefore, to ensure and inculcate strong accountability culture within our society, an Integrity Vetting System (IVS) has been introduced by ACC not only to promote and mainstream integrity in the public and private sectors but also to ensure that a person doesn’t get away with his/her past corrupt conducts.

2. How will it act as an information repository?

Any type of complaint received or intel information gathered by ACC on corruption or those referred by other agencies are recorded in our IT system, known as Complaint and Investigation Management System (CIMS).  CIMS captures the decision as well as out-come of these complaints. Besides CIMS, ACC has information on Asset Declaration by covered persons. We also maintain information associated with the out-come of the corruption cases prosecuted, either by the Office of Attorney General or by ACC. In short, ACC has a comprehensive information repository associated with the corruption offenses.

The Integrity Vetting System (IVS) uses this information to check and validate the integrity of an individual whose Integrity Vetting Report was sought by an agency for recruitment, promotion, nomination for award of contract work. 

3. How can the ACC validate the web-based IVS?

The web-based IVS is validated through the data (information) maintained in our Complaint and Investigation Management System (CIMS) and Asset Declaration System.

4. Similarly, how can ACC validate on a complaint filed with the Commission, disciplinary actions taken against a person, conviction or a person by the Court of law and failure to comply with the requirement of the Asset Declaration Rules?

ACC maintains the information associated with complaints including disciplinary referral (action taken against individual) or prosecution referral (conviction by the court of law) as well as failure to comply with the Asset Declaration Rules.  This information is used as the primary source of information for vetting as well as generating an Integrity Vetting Report.

5. How will ACC find such other information contained in other relevant systems that are deemed necessary for integrity vetting and ensuring efficiency and effectiveness of the integrity Vetting System?

At present, ACC is using our own internal data/information captured in the CIMS as well as Asset Declaration system as the sole data for generating IVR. However, in future, ACC plans to integrate our system with other enforcement agencies such as RBP as well as judiciary system. Such integration will enrich the repository of information and broaden the scope of the integrity vetting and its applications.

6. How far will IVS be fair in the selection, recruitment, promotion, nomination, appointment, or selection of a person to public office or in the award of a public contract or entering into a public contractual relationship?

ACC will provide four different types of IVR – no record, provisional record, record and adverse record, before a final decision is taken on the matter (recruitment, promotion, nomination, appointment or award of public contract). These reports will assist the agency in making an informed decision based on the facts and evidence and thereby bringing in more transparency as well as accountability in the system.

The IVR is solely aimed for the agency to make an informed decision. No individual can apply for the IVR. It should be applied by an agency through its designated focal officials registered with the ACC.

7. Will all four rules apply to everyone?

All four types of Report will not be applicable to anyone. A single IVR report, either record, provisional record, record or adverse record, will be issued against any individual for whom an IVR is sought by the agency.

8. For election to parliament and Local Governments, based on the requirement of the Election Commission of Bhutan, why only Integrity Vetting Report with No record and Integrity Vetting Report with Adverse Record will be issued? What if the provisional Record proves to be fact without guilt during their tenure? Is it not necessary for ACC to prevent such individuals from taking part in the election?

The classification of IVR, commonly known as Integrity Assessment Certificate (IAC) by Election Commission of Bhutan, into two categories as “No Adverse Record” and “Adverse Record” is done based on the requirement of ECB based on their Election Law. As mentioned above, since our IVR is to support agencies in making informed decision making, ACC in close consultation with ECB has come out with this categorization to align with the requirements enriched in the Election Law.

 In order to uphold the universal principle of “Innocent until proven guilty”, the election law does not bar anyone from participation in the election, unless there is a criminal conviction against an individual or an individual has been dismissed or discharged from his official duty or if a criminal case of felony is being charged against an individual. Due to this, the IVR for election has been categorized into two – No adverse record and Adverse Record. However, should there be any information recorded against a person in any of the other three category now subsumed under “No Adverse Record”, ACC would still reflect it in the IVR, although it may not disqualify this particular individual from participating in the election, it is up to the voters to make an informed choice. Post investigation, ACC’s prosecution referral rate is significant and so is the conviction rate.

Yes, even though prevention of corruption is one of the main mandates of ACC. However, unless a conviction is passed by the Royal Court of Justices, the agency concern should be responsible as well as accountable for any decision taken against individual involved in any corruption offenses spelled out in the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan.  ACC believes fighting corruption as a collective responsibility.

9. Any other views

Through this IVS, ACC aims to promote accountability in the public and private sector. We are currently working around the restorative justice principles that would be applied to a person against whom there is information on conduct of corrupt nature captured under the “Record” category.