The thin line between gifts and bribes

The Anti Corruption Commission, Thimphu

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

Towards mainstreaming anti-corruption measures, gifts declaration and management is one of the activities being assigned for implementation by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has been requiring agencies to implement Organizational Integrity Plan (OIP) with mandatory activities, which is evaluated at the end of each financial year (FY). 

Based on the evidence submitted against the mandatory activities, OIP score is generated for each agency. Due to current pandemic, an official from the ACC said that desk evaluation was conducted. However, from this FY, the ACC will visit the agencies concerned to verify and validate the effectiveness of implementation.  

In order to monitor the implementation of gifts, during the evaluation, an official said that the agencies are required to submit testimonies such as report on the compliance audit of the gifts rule, gift registration system, establishment of gifts administration and management committees, among others.

As per Sections 39, 40 and 41 of the Gift Rules 2017, failure to perform duty including failure to maintain the gift log book, shall be levied a fine, at first instance, of one month’s gross salary for the head of agency and one month’s national minimum daily wage rate for the gift administrator; and disciplinary action in addition to fines if such failure is more than once.

When questioning how our culture of offering gift conflict with corruption, an official said that giving and accepting gifts is not an issue per se. “It becomes a problem when such an act committed with an intention to influence a public servant’s decision or to garner some favour in return,” he said.

Moreover, he said the sanctity of gift giving culture is often abused to further one’s own interest or to nurture relation that would offer an advantage in future dealings.

Meanwhile, “Gifts” include anything of economic value of not more than 10 days daily minimum wage rate for which no consideration is expected or given in return at any point of time which is as per Gift Rules 2017.

However, an official added “a public servant is strictly prohibited to receive or give any gifts, directly or indirectly, of any value from the following prohibited sources.”

The prohibited sources includes who seeks official action or business from the public servant’s agency; who does business or seeks to do business with the public servant’s agency; who conducts activities regulated by the public servant’s agency and who has interests that may be affected by performance or non-performance of the public servant’s official duties.

This also include members of those prohibited sources or any other source which the ACC may declare from to time to time.

However, there are certain things which can be excluded from the gift.

As per Gift Rules 2017, a public servant may however accept a gift under the certain  circumstances that includes a gift  provided by  an individual  solely  on the  basis  of  a personal  relationships.

Meanwhile, as per the Gift Rules 2017, the Head of the Agency shall designate a Gift Disclosure Administrator (GDA) of the agency, who shall maintain gift records.