In what is a heartening development for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), most of the members of the National Council supported the ACC’s Human Resource (HR) independence during the deliberation on the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2021 this week.
Meanwhile, it has been quite some years that the ACC has been proposing HR independence, which can be seen being reflected even in their annual reports.
There was even a time when the ACC and the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) were at loggerheads in terms of autonomy over the HR issue.
While the RCSC then even gave three special concessions to the ACC on the issue of HR in 2015, however, the RCSC ensured that it still had the upper hand on four key areas of recruitment, administrative action, meritorious promotion and rationalization of positions.
So in the area of recruitment, the RCSC ensured that the ACC will have to follow the RCSC system in terms of announcing a vacancy and getting a proper test done. Even while the ACC was allowed the flexibility to hire contract employees or even specialized ones from the private sector, it was ensured that such things were done after consulting the RCSC.
In the area of administrative action, the RCSC ensured that the ACC could take many actions, but not major ones like termination unilaterally, where consultation with the RCSC was necessary.
Even in terms of meritorious promotion, it cannot be given directly by the ACC, but it will also have to come to the RCSC with the evidence. The RCSC would then look into it.
Further, even in terms of doing its own rationalization, the ACC by itself cannot do it. Such a thing must be done with the RCSC.
The ACC is a constitutional independent body and given its important mandate to prevent and combat corruption, the independence of the ACC is a quintessential and non-negotiable prerequisite for their effective functioning. Therefore, even Article 26 of the Bhutanese Constitution guarantees the independent authority of a national anti-corruption commission.
Even as per the best international standards and good practice, one of the key components of independence for anti-corruption bodies, which are essential for the effectiveness of such agencies, includes having adequate financial and human resources and related procedures.
However, this is not the case with our ACC. With major aspects of the HR issues of the ACC still looked after and decided by the RCSC presently, it also evokes questions about its independence from ‘other’ or ‘undue’ influences.
How much independence will the ACC and their employees have to investigate wrongdoings of the RCSC, for example, if the autonomy on all aspects of important procedures like appointment, tenure and dismissal of the heads and senior personnel of the ACC is vested upon the RCSC?