The Anti Corruption Bill 2011 was passed today at the Joint Sitting (JS) of Parliament at it’s 7th session with overwhelming majority, 66:1 to be precise. The Good Governance Committee (National Council) and the Ethics & Credential Committee (National Assembly) together formed the Parliamentary Joint Committee (and I as the member in-charge) worked on the Bill to resolve differences and present a report at the Joint Sitting.
The Anti Corruption Bill 2011 originated in the National Council during deliberations in it’s 4th session and formally admitted legislative initiatives in it’s 5th session. The Good Governance Committee also worked closely with the Anti Corruption Commission and through dealings, met other implementing agencies and stakeholders. After it received support in the National Council(NC), it was then taken up during the 6th session in the National Assembly(NA). Although there were several differences between the Houses, a major area for concern was the penalty clauses. Where the NC had proposed for a minimum penalty of a felony of 4th degree, the NA counter proposed for a minimum penalty of a non-felony sentence of petty misdemeanor, in most instances there were differences. Also another point to note is that the maximum penalty based on value-based sentencing as per Penal Code of Bhutan, which stops at penalty of a felony of 3d degree.
During it’s presentation to the 7th session of Parliament at the JS, the report received, as per the new Parliamentary Legislative Rule of Procedure 2011, recommendations to considered by the JC were made and voted on (simple majority) and the JC went back to work on it’s final report to be presented at the JS to be voted on.
A summary of the final report and it means to corruption offenders:
The final report by the JC contained 2 key over-all changes:-
(i) minimum sentence at misdemeanor (1 – 3 years penalty) as against violation (1 – 3 months) in ACA 2006
(ii) maximum sentence at felony of 2nd degree (9-15 years penalty) as against felony of 3rd degree in ACA 2006
Other significant points:-
(iii) Bribery (active and passive) in both (a) bid(s) and (b) contract [including procurement] with a minimum penalty sentence of a felony of 4th degree and a maximum of felony of 2nd degree.
(iv) Money laundering with a minimum penalty sentence of a felony of 3rd degree and a maximum penalty of a felony of 2nd degree.
This clearly shows an increase in the baseline of the penalty for corruption offenses. Additionally Anti Corruption Bill 2011 tries to better define the different and various types of corrupt offences. Also, most notable corruption offences have been in the areas of procurement and therefore, it is expected that these more severe penalty options in the two sections related to bid(s) and contract(s) will act as better deterrence, and hopefully bring down the number of corruption in these areas causing huge loss to the national exchequer.
In conclusion the Anti Corruption Bill 2011 tries to balance penalizing corruption offenders while at the same time not create a situation where disproportionate penalties have to be handed out. By creating a better spread of penalty options (from misdemeanor to felony of 2nd degree) cases could be dealt according to the seriousness of an offence (economic value as well as social impact of a corrupt offence). It is understood that corruption is a great crime against the population but the committee also took under consideration the need to enact a law which not only penalizes but also can differentiate between the grade of a corruption offence and hence, the greater spread of penalty options.