Corruption is one of the main factors that has held back the progress and prosperity of Nepali society. It is basically a dishonest practice and abuse of power and public coffers by an individual or organisation. Corruption has various forms which occur in varying degree and proportion. It involves bribery, misappropriation, kickbacks, rent-seeking behaviour and flawed policies. It is a big social disease that infected all organs of the state. When the government employees and elected officials abuse their authority for illicit gains, it drains tax payers’ money meant for development and public welfare. This erodes good governance, breeds poverty and fuels instability.
In Nepal, corruption has become a cancer as it has hit big infrastructure projects and delivery of public good and services. Despite the political and constitutional efforts, corruption continues to spread its tentacles. Government employees are being caught red-handed for accepting bribe almost daily basis. However, corruption cases taking place at the top level are barely dealt with tough legal measures. The nefarious nexus between business, politics and bureaucracy is very dangerous because it eats away at the confidence of people and nation. How corruption is pestering the country is also evident in an annual report of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) submitted to President Bidya Devi Bhandari the other day.
According to a news report carried by this daily, the fiscal year 2018/19 saw the highest number of complaints of corruption. Around 24,000 complaints were reported at the CIAA of which 7,000 were from the previous year. The anti-corruption body has settled 64 per cent of complaints and the remaining were set aside for new fiscal year. It had registered 52 cases of corruption at Special Court against various public office-holders. As per the report, majority of complaints (26.87 per cent) were related to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development while State 2 has the largest number of complaints (21.50 per cent) followed by Bagmati State (21.16 per cent). What is more perplexing is that many complaints have been lodged against the elected officials at the local government. Under the new federal set-up, the local units have been granted sweeping rights and powers so that central power is duly and effectively decentralised and the grassroots democracy is consolidated. The report must serve as a wake-up call for the political parties that are running their government in the local bodies.
In order to control the entrenched corruption, the CIAA needs to be empowered with necessary human and fiscal resources, robust intelligence mechanism, digital technology and other logistic backing. President Bhandari has asked the CIAA to work with high confidence and expertise to root out corruption. However, to boost the morale of the CIAA, it should be allowed to look into policy level corruption too. It needs to be authorised to examine whether the decisions of Cabinet follow due process and are in line with the constitutional vision of building a corruption-free nation. In a similar manner, the improper acts of public office holders must be investigated since their dishonest activities smell of corruption and irregularities. The CIAA has called on the government to ink mutual legal assistance treaties with the foreign governments so as to get back illegally earned money of Nepalis from foreign lands. It is equally important to investigate into the economic transactions of private organisations such as I/NGOs and cooperatives for corrupt officials from government and private offices work in collusion to line their pockets.