Challenges Of Rooting Out Corruption

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In general term, corruption refers to an unlawful appropriation of money by taking help of law and institutions as tools. It, in our context, is related to monetary value in which someone abuses power and authority in gaining personal benefits but harming institutions and their impartial spirit.   

It seems that corruption in Asian societies is a grave ethical and moral question, impacting largely on governance.  It further questions the integrity of political system of the country. In terms of political struggle, Nepal has seen landmark political upheavals. We have abolished monarchy and have established the country a republican country. Furthermore, we have drafted constitution that has visionary ideals of development, equality, human rights, inclusion, progress, and transformation. However, it is sad to note that we are pacing to the gorges of corruption.  Our political will and legitimacy are at stake and we are having tough times in expediting development works. We are termed as corrupt societies despite our commitments to root out corruption in the country.   

Grounds 

Recent Transparency International report squarely indicates that several Asian and Latin American, and African societies are becoming restless and face a lack of governance. Though there are several factors responsible for lack of functional governance, the major one is corruption which is deeply disfiguring the smooth order of the society. 

Recently, I came across a report prepared by some developmental workers where it was stated that Nepal has earned a bad name among the global community these days. It also mentions that development budget in that country is meager and its implementations frustratingly slow. Even if it is spent, the pervasive corruption has negative impacts on several development projects. We know histories of several African and Latin American countries which have impacted on their stability because corruption and governance are directly interrelated.   

This demands that corruption be dealt with harsh legal matter. The commitment and implementation of even harsher legal measures cannot deal the pervasive networks of corruption from the storekeeper's office to the bidding of large projects. Furthermore, the political pressure is high and give and take of money comes to public. The other day I was watching an interview with the incumbent Minister of Civil Aviation who openly stated that he was offered bribe for the post of Director but he refused. It may sound shocking but we can imagine the scenario of corruption in the realm of government that does not come to public. 

   We always think of harsh legal actions to respond to the matters of corruption. However, they go beyond legal testimony because they are based on corrupt policy. These natures of corruptions are so systematic that the perpetrators utilize all tactics to evade the legal net. That is why diverse nature of corruptions cannot be fought by harsh legal deal alone.  Had it been the case, there would not have been any corruption case in many authoritarian countries where legal actions are very harsh.  

Social psychology 

Nepali social psychology is a bit sympathetic in matters of corruption. In some cases, corruption can be taken in scale. A small amount of corruption is tolerable in the society.  Some people simply sigh:  How can a person live with petty salary obtained from a job? Does not a person have to support his children, the cost of living, medical facilities and other expenses?  Such questions ease the path for corruption to happen easily. But we should be aware that the person came to the job because he thought it was a better option for him/her compared to other alternatives. And at the time of job application, he did not think of corruption. But once into the job, he/she learns about all-encompassing corruption.

In whatever way we talk about corruption, we talk about fragment: we are talking about sinner but not the sin, we are talking about money but not the policy, we are talking about assistant or the section officer but not the whole bureaucratic framework of the office. Most often, corruption tends to appear from the debilitating mentality, especially from the attitudinal slackness in a personal attitude or policy. We can take an example:  In common government offices, if an innocent person who comes for official matter is told to come another day without considering his matter seriously, is not it a form of corruption ? Simply delay and postponement of work is mental slackness. This can lead to a form of corruption. Hence, we should not take corruption as something with monetary value, rather an attitude to foil genuine service that is required but is not given.   

Until corruption is taken into a broad framework, dealing with all its features in comprehensive approach, charges and cases may increase, but we may not be able to prune the sprawling branches of corruption. Let's hope that day would come soon when our society becomes corruption free and civil servants would say in heightened moral upright: "We won't take a single penny from you since government gives us the money for the worth of our work."   

(The author is an assistant professor at the R.R Campus) 

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