What next for ACC’s HR issues

The latest development so far on the Human Resource (HR) issues of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is that the Good Governance Committee (GGC) of the National Assembly held a consultation meeting with the ACC on January 14 this year.

Following the decision of the Sixth Session of the Third Parliament, the GGC was entrusted to carry out a study on the issue of manpower and high attrition rate of employees in the ACC.

A report also mentioned that the GGC plans to consult the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) very soon.

The HR issue of the ACC, which has been repeatedly highlighted in the Commission’s Annual Reports, has also been reflected in the 2021 assessment of the ACC, which was launched this week.

According to the ACC’s report, manpower shortage due to many leaving the job is one of the major challenges the commission is facing in fulfilling its mandate of preventing and fighting corruption in the country. The commission reported an average attrition rate of 9% from 2016 to 2020.

Further, the report outlined psychological, emotional, and social toll of the work and limited training or career development as some of the reasons for their employees leaving the job. Forty-seven staff had reportedly left the job from 2016 to 2020.

The report accordingly has recommended delinking the HR management of ACC from the RCSC, which would grant ACC complete independence over regulating its staff management and appointments.

Meanwhile, it has been quite some years that the ACC has been proposing for the commission’s HR independence. There was even a time then when the ACC and the RCSC were at loggerheads in terms of autonomy over the HR issue.

As 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. However, with major aspects of the HR issues of the ACC still looked after and decided by the RCSC presently, there are also questions about its independence from ‘other’ or ‘undue’ influences.

One imminent question is how much independence the ACC and their employees will have if they have to investigate wrongdoings of the RCSC, for example, given that 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.

Even best international standards and good practice, for independence of anti-corruption bodies and agencies, recommend having adequate financial and human resources and related procedures for the effectiveness of such agencies. More than effectiveness of such agencies, autonomy in these areas is essential for such agencies. The decision, however, must be made based on valid reasons rather than seeing it as a mere contest between two important institutions.