Monday, 11 August 2008

Bhutan : Drawing the curtain on corruption

9 August, 2008 - In what is clearly a “naming and shaming” strategy to take the fight on corruption a step ahead, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is publishing the names of persons and details of corruption in the media for the first time.

About 150 Bhutanese have been named in relation to 34 corruption cases investigated by the ACC since 2006 (see ACC newsletter inside). The cases range from forgery and bribery to misuse of authority and embezzlement of government funds.

People implicated include corporate employees, local leaders, former drangpons, engineers, former dzongdas, a government secretary, contractors, education officials and other civil servants.

“We’re publishing the case details purely for public information but it’s up to people to judge whether we’re using the ‘naming and shaming’ tactics,” said ACC chairperson, Neten Zangmo.

Of the 34 cases, 17 have been forwarded to the courts and 12 sent to the concerned agencies for administrative action.

Neten Zangmo said that the aim of such information in the media was to let people know of all cases that were investigated and not just the controversial ones, such as the Phobjikha land and RICBL cases.

“People should know which cases are lying with the court and with the agencies,” she said.

The court has so far passed its judgement on 12 cases.

Naming and shaming tactics has been effective in many countries, mainly in Singapore, say observers. Others, however, say that it can work both ways.

The works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said: “It can act as a deterrent but can also be demoralising for some people, who’ve not been proven guilty by the court.”

He said that if the cases were established, then people should know. But if they are pending in court and the person is yet to be proven guilty, then the strategy could be demoralizing.

Opposition leader Tshering Tobgay said that he supported every initiative taken by the ACC against corruption. However, he said that there were risks of shaming the wrong people.

At present, ACC is investigating 18 cases.

By Phuntsho Choden

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