Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bhutan : Transparency, the key to tackle corruption

14 June, 2008 - The greatest thing about democracy is not only about having the power to elect politicians to govern, but the power and the rights of the people to hold the government accountable and to change it if it is not accountable, said the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley.

The prime minister was speaking to senior government officials, parliamentarians, private sector, media, NGOs, youth and the international community at the launch of a report, Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives, which examines human development dimensions of corruption in Asia Pacific region, on June 12 in Thimphu.

“Transforming leaders into being honest would help transform the lives of the people in the Asia Pacific region,” said the prime minister, adding that the release of the report and its findings would help find ways and means to transform lives of the people, particularly the poor, who are hit the hardest by corruption.

According to the report, politicians are the most corrupt people, followed by the police and judges.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley highlighted the commitment of the new elected government in ensuring effectiveness, transparency and accountability. Some of the immediate measures were strengthening of the media to ensure people have access to information, changing attitudes and conduct of the people in the private sector and strengthening its functioning in a democracy and enhancing the salary of the civil service.

The resident representative of UNDP, Mr Nicholas Rosellini, commended the government on its ‘zero tolerance’ policy taken on corruption and reiterated the continued support of UNDP, adding that, in many countries, an anti-corruption initiative is a non-starter due to lack of political will and weak leadership.

“Curbing corruption can boost political stability and economic growth, sustaining a vibrant democracy,” he said. “Tackling corruption is not a job for governments alone, but corruption can be exposed through empowering the media, enacting laws on the right to information, and using information technology and e-governance to increase transparency.”

As part of the event, a short panel discussion on “The role of Parliament in the Fight Against Corruption” was held that raised issues of wide representation, specially the role of youth in battling corruption.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley explained that parliamentarians would be guided by a clear code of conduct and morals and the ethics committee would be responsible to review and look into the background and credentials of parliamentarians. Should there be any discrepancies, measures will be taken to remove them from their positions, he added. The new government will also hold direct meetings with the media to discuss ways and means in terms of how the government can be more transparent.

The Chairperson of the anti corruption commission (ACC), Aum Neten Zangmo said that Bhutan’s performance was one of the best in the Asia Pacific region. “Bhutan can be declared an environmentally corruption-free country with all the structures in place for this,” she said, adding that it was the responsibility of every Bhutanese to ensure the achievement of this political will and make Bhutan a corruption-free society. Five percent of global gross domestic product is lost in corruption, which amounts to US $ 2.5 trillion.

The report published by united nations development programme (UNDP) passes the key message that government and citizens across the Asia Pacific region can tackle corruption together by focusing on areas which impact on our daily lives.

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