Zero tolerance in corruption through NIACS

Reinvigorating the policy on ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ and in an effort to reinforce ‘DAMTSI’ as the core Bhutanese value the ‘National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Strategy (NIACS) 2019-2023’ was launched on August 14. Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering graced the launch at Terma Linca.

With the theme ‘DAMTSI: Developing Accountable, Moral and Transparent Systems and Individuals’, the NIACS mainly aims to make corruption prevention and enhancement of good governance as the inherent development imperative.

Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister said, “this is the only body where we share an issue of national importance. Given my personal understanding on this I really don’t take pride in addressing issues related to Anti-corruption. We are all supposed to function like mini anti-corruption commission.”

“During an informal meeting after the election with my cabinet members I told them that one thing that I will not tolerate is corruption,” PM said.  

The three key strategic objectives emphasizes on institutionalizing anti-corruption and integrity measures in all the agencies are transparent, accountable and integrity culture strengthened; Integrity consciousness enhanced; and Credibility and effectiveness of law enforcement and regulatory agencies enhanced.

The NIACS will be an antidote to prevent corruption from taking its toll. The NIACS is a national operative framework and closely aligns with the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) to guide effective realization of the 12th National Key Result Area ‘Corruption Reduced’.

The NIACS 2019-2023 is adopted since 2009 and has been built on the past two strategies. In developing the NIACS, the ACC consulted wide range of stakeholders to review the earlier drafts, conduct in-depth analysis of the country’s preparedness against corruption in the 12th FYP, and collectively develop suitable strategies and action plans.

The strategy is an outcome of progressive consultation at various stages with more than 1,190 representatives from diverse agencies such as the Parliament, Judiciary, Constitutional Bodies, ministries, autonomous agencies, Corporations, Media, Civil Societies and youth groups.

Also for the first time, a foresight on anti-corruption and integrity was also conducted as a preparatory work to validate the draft strategy.

It is unique from many anti-corruption strategies and the three key reasons why it is unique, among others according to an ACC official is due to fighting corruption in Bhutan is a ‘Whole of Society Approach’ and NIACS 2019-2023 is a comprehensive and inclusive strategy that encompasses all the three arms of the government (executive, judiciary and legislative), constitutional bodies, armed forces, spiritual institutions, corporations, civil society organizations, media and youth. The strategy, and unlike other countries where it is very difficult to bring these bodies together, the NIACS 2019-2023 has all these crucial bodies coming together in the fight against corruption depicting strong leadership and good political will. Further, the NIACS takes into account future potential corruption risks/red flags as the country progresses.

Secondly the Integrity and anti-corruption is embedded into the national planning and monitoring process for sustainability: In order to implement the NIACS effectively, the activities have been made mandatory for all budgetary agencies, irrespective of institutional mandate, to implement in the 12th Five Year Plan through existing Government Performance Management System in the form of Annual Performance Agreement and Target. This will be monitored annually. In addition, those non-budgetary agencies shall be mandated to implement the NIACS through Organizational Integrity Plan. This ensures that NIACS is well imbedded on the already existing planning process of the agencies so that the agencies take full ownership in implementing the NIACS thereby sustaining the momentum of mainstreaming integrity and anti-corruption measures as an integral part of the governance system in the country.

Finally the Integrity and anti-corruption in Bhutan is a common national interest: For the first time in the history of Bhutan’s fight against corruption, a national level committee called ‘National Integrity Committee’ has been established which will be chaired by the Prime Minister. The NIC comprises of members from the Judiciary, Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society Organization and Private Sector besides the government agencies. This is major breakthrough to bring on board the above institutions, which is not the case in many countries. The composition of NIC demonstrates that promoting integrity is an overriding factor than institutional statutory independence.

The Integrity Committee (IC) consisting representatives from the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat (GNHCS), Government Performance Management Division (GPMD) of the Cabinet Secretariat and ACC will support the NIC.During the reporting period 2018, the ACC received 333 complaints with an average of 28 complaints per month. Of the total complaints, only 19 qualified for investigation (5.8%), while the highest were shared with agencies for sensitization (11.2%) and action (42.4%).

Chencho Dema from Thimphu