Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2016 ranked Bhutan 27 out of 176 countries, meaning Bhutan is 27th least corrupt country of 176.

Howsoever clean a country, though, some form of corruption can and will exist. Bhutan as a young democracy cannot let any form of corruption eat into the society. In the words of His Majesty the King: “I will not be corrupt and I will not tolerate corruption in others.” This message sums up Bhutan’s efforts to remain free of corruption.

We have Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), a constitutional office with the mandate to eliminate corruption in the country by leading through example and mainstreaming anti-corruption measures in organizations. However, because ACC’s central role being to investigate and expose corruption to deter corrupt practices from taking root in the society, fighting corruption not solely the commission’s responsibility. As citizens, it is incumbent on every Bhutanese to resist the temptation to be corrupt and to rise together to cut root and branch of corruption in the country.

That’s why four individuals came together to start an organization called Bhutan Transparency Initiative (BTI) in April 2013, to help society fight corruption by increasing transparency, integrity and accountability. In 2014, BTI was registered as a civil society organization with Civil Society Authority.

BTI’s executive director, Pema Lhamo, said corruption exist everywhere and in many forms, even leaving a family member out of the decisions of a family is a form of corruption.

Although young, the CSO has achieved a lot in the past three years. The office as yet has four full-time employees. BTI strongly believes that fighting corruption is not only the government’s responsibility; it is everyone’s duty. It believes in partnership, collaboration and dialogue among organizations and individuals. BTI is helped by volunteers and volunteer groups to carry out their programmes.

BTI views complacency of people as the biggest challenge while fighting corruption. Recognizing the need to create social accountability among citizens, the organization trained more than 6,000 people how to apply social accountability mechanism at the local government. BTI also piloted feedback system in Zhemgang, Lhuentse, and Paro, which showed that people are ready and willing to engage in governance.

BTI is working closely with ACC at national level and with Transparency International at the global level. The organization acts as a complement to the only existing commission that fights corruption.

“To fight corruption,” Pema Lhamo said, “first we need to understand ourselves.”

To understand the status of corruption in the country so, the organization has carried out research such as Bhutan Corruption Barometer Report, Youth Perception on Governance and Corruption, A background paper on Governance in Public Autonomous Institutions in Bhutan  and Citizen’s Perceptions on Implementation of 11thPlan.

BTI initiated Youth Engagement and Support (YES) to involve youth in strengthening the country. Currently, there are more than 270 out-of-school youth volunteers and about 300 graduate volunteers. YES volunteers play a crucial role in creating awareness among the citizens.

Pema Lhamo said that corruption is the end result of accumulation of many things. BTI believes in making efforts toward positive outcomes rather than getting distracted by the challenges.

“Preventing corruption is more important than fighting corruption,” she said.

BTI as CSO look for the entry points to fight corruption and recommend to the government for implementation.

The transparency initiative plans to work towards creating a platform for accessible justice and to engage youth in decision-making process through the use of mobile apps.

BTI is a guide and a catalyst to fight corruption.

The executive director said: “Everyone has noticed and has concerns about corruption in the country, but what we lack is a catalyst and we want to be that catalyst.”

Vision

A small country of GNH with citizens and governments free from the fear of corruption.

Our mission

Together against Corruption, Strengthening Demand and Participation from Society and the Public to promote:

Transparency

Accountability

Good governance in the country to contribute to the fight against corruption and the promotion of integrity.

Objectives

To diagnose corruption issues and use findings as reference to stimulate more informed debates and to formulate more projects on anti-corruptions;

To build and support partnership and coalition of civil society organizations to fight corruption more effectively

To engage citizens and the youth in promoting integrity more actively

To build governance foundations and operational structures and process for the establishment of TI National Chapter in Bhutan.

With support from Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

Karma Cheki