Monday, November 23, 2009

Something should be done

Even as Bhutan fell by four points at 49 from last year in the corruption perception index (CPI), the third annual Anti-Corruption Commission’s report is due for review today at the National Council’s agenda today.

According to the report already in circulation, the complaint against the local government (LG) is reported to be the highest with of course Thimphu Dzongkhag leading the pack with 34.9 per cent and Chukha coming as second with 11.5 per cent. Paro and Wangdue are in the third position with 5.7 per cent each.

Gasa and Lhuentse received the lowest complaints against their local governments with just 0.5 per cent each.

After the LG, corporate governance is the second highest in the list of complaints with the abuse of authority and embezzlement following close after. Most of these usually occurred in areas such as award of contracts for construction, procurement and human resources, where nepotism, deception and bribery are most common place.

Though not open, yet corruption in terms of underhand dealings is obvious in construction and supply of materials. Some are even straight cases of pilferages from the construction sites, where materials supplied are not fully used for the work in hand.

Nepotism, one might say, is as old as humanity itself. It extends to the whole spectrum of the society. So why blame only the civil service? Anything from appointment and promotion to trainings and easy postings fall under the category of nepotism. Merit, most often, doesn’t work.

Some years ago, there was this unique case of a man, in one of the ministries, who sent his own wife on training. It so happened that there was a female staff member in the same ministry who had the same name as his wife’s. While his wife didn’t have the academic transcripts which would have qualified for the training, the other staff had the required educational qualifications.

So, he did the simplest thing. He switched the academic transcripts from their personal files and sent his wife on training. It was easy enough. But it didn’t last long. The discrepancy, if one might say, was discovered earlier than expected.

This is just one such example. There would be hundreds of such cases, if one only has the patience to dig. Award of contracts for procurement and supplies are areas where it is not even possible to dig through the layers of underhand payment and bribes that accrue to the man who has the authority to swing the contract to the favourite candidate. Every thing is legal – just a manipulation of certain clauses. (highlight this para)

Some one said that one should know how to use the law to his or her own advantage. Nothing wrong really with the law as such. They have been framed with all the good intention in mind and for the greater benefit of every one. But one has to have the ingenuity to find the loopholes in them.

Embezzlement, though it doesn’t head the list, is still rampant from lowly misuse of money at the level of cashier or accountant to wholesale siphoning of project funds. We don’t have to go too far. Just look at some of the bridges, roads or government buildings around the country or in the capital itself. How many times they had to re-built and crosschecked to find out whether they confirmed to the initial designs; and of course how many times new funds had to be injected to bring them to the standard that they were supposed to be in the first place.

And who suffers? The general public for whom those infrastructures have been constructed. Who is at the receiving end whenever such infrastructures fail? The government, of course. The government initiates such grandiose projects for the benefit of the people. The government gets the blame.

There certainly must be something that can be done to avoid this.

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