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Anti-Corruption Agency Strengthening Initiative: Assessment of the Bhutan Anti-Corruption Commission 2021

Transparency International recognises anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) as natural partners in the fight against corruption. A well-functioning, independent agency to coordinate action against corruption is essential for good governance in any country. ACAs are required by the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), and their independence and effectiveness are as important as their existence. To support this, Transparency International engages in dialogue and advocacy at both national and regional levels with these agencies, the governments that fund them and other stakeholders, as part of its Anti-Corruption Agencies Strengthening Initiative.

Between September and December 2021, Transparency International carried out its second assessment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bhutan to measure progress since the pilot assessment in 2015. The new assessment was aimed at evaluating the Bhutan commission on its performance and opportunities for improvement, while also providing all stakeholders committed to tackling corruption in the country with a better understanding of the enabling and disabling factors that affect the commission's effectiveness.

The 2021 assessment of Bhutan's ACC finds that the institution continues to perform very well: 66 per cent of the 50 measured indicators were rated as high, 30 per cent as moderate and 4 per cent as low. Despite modest improvements in terms of financial and human resources, internal reporting and external oversight, there has been a slight deterioration in detection and investigation, with too few proactive investigations based on the commission’s own intelligence being carried out.

Transparency International recommends that the commission initiates more proactive investigations in future and focuses more on systemic problems that increase the risk of abuse of power and conflicts of interest. We also encourage the Commission to develop a strategy to engage all sectors of society and consider collaborating more with external stakeholders on education materials and campaigns, including civil society and the media.

To strengthen the enabling environment for the commission, Bhutan’s parliament should pass amendments to the Anti-Corruption Act granting the ACC powers to determine its organisational structure and regulate staff appointments, management and dismissal independently of the Royal Civil Service Commission. In addition, the National Council should prioritise passage of the Right to Information Bill to increase transparency across public sector agencies.