Political Will Must To Curb Corruption

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Corruption is one of the major obstacles to socio-economic development of any nation or society. This type of irregularity happens when entrusted individuals or entities abuse power and authority for their personal gain. Bribery, double-dealing, embezzlement, extortion, networking, manipulation of poll outcomes, money laundering, and fraud by individuals, businesses and governments are some of the main forms of corruption. Considered a chronic disease, corruption has negative effects on everyone. This social anomaly hits the poor hard as it exacerbates poverty and inequalities. Besides, it weakens the bases of democracy and undermines the rule of law, creating a sense of hopelessness among citizens. In a society where corruption prevails, decisions made by public offices are not transparent and people hardly have trust in their political leaders and bureaucrats. Ultimately, this may lead to political and social instability. 

Corruption is widespread in Nepal. Public officials appear to be misusing their power even amidst interventions by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of the Nepal Police and the Department of Money Laundering Investigation. That a racket was successful in sending many youths abroad illegally on a travel visa through the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) can be taken as a case in point. Recently, the District Police Range in Kathmandu has registered a case with the Kathmandu District Court against as many as 22 individuals on charge of human trafficking. Nine among them are immigration officers. Twelve individuals, including eight civil servants, have been at large. Since investigations have shown that they have sent people to foreign nations illegally on a tourist visa, the case has been filed for the offences of forgery of government documents and organised crime. 

Abuse of authority

The police have come to know about this crime from some youths who had been unable to get through the TIA security. Investigations have revealed that immigration officers were working in collusion with middlemen and other swindlers, including travel agents. Such officers were found to have facilitated the movement of youths on a travel visa through the airport. For that, the immigration employees used to get a hefty amount of money from a travel agency arranging overseas tours. Hundreds of youths are suspected to have already left the country on travel visas. This is a fresh incident of abuse of authority. There is no doubt that the TIA has been a hub of irregularities, including gold smuggling despite efforts being made to prevent such activities.

Meanwhile, Nepal has continued to remain among the nations with rampant corruption worldwide. Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2023 shows that the country has been ranked in 108th position out of 180 countries and territories. In 2022, the country was ranked 110th position while its ranking was 117th in 2021. The publication has indicated that Nepal has failed to make any remarkable progress in controlling corruption in 2023 as compared to 2022. Transparency International (TI), a global anti-corruption watchdog based in Berlin, releases CPI as its annual flagship publication. To measure corruption, TI applies a scale of zero to 100. Any country having zero point is considered as the most corrupt while the nation that secures 100 points is the least corrupt. Any nation with a score below 50 is regarded to have a comparatively higher rate of corruption. In 2023, Nepal got 35 points while it obtained 34 points in 2022. 

According to the CPI 2023, in South Asia, Nepal has been ranked below Bhutan (26th), the Maldives (93rd) and India (93rd). However, Nepal is ahead of Sri Lanka (115th), Pakistan (133rd), Bangladesh (149th) and Afghanistan (162nd). This does not mean that Nepal has come a long way when it comes to maintaining good governance. With 90 points in CPI 2023, Denmark has topped the index for the sixth consecutive year while Finland and New Zealand secured scores of 87 and 85, respectively. With their good justice systems in operation, these developed nations are among the top scorers in the Rule of Law Index.

Successive governments in Nepal have claimed to have embraced a zero tolerance for corruption. The federal government has initiated a campaign against corruption. This move has generated much enthusiasm among the general public that the existing trend of misusing authority and resources will be checked sooner or later. Anti-corruption bodies have already cracked down on numerous notorious scams ranging from the fake Bhutanese refugees to the Lalita Niwas Land. But many other scams still remain to be investigated thoroughly. Despite some anti-corruption initiatives, the country records a series of corruption scams. Newer and bigger scams seem to be overshadowing others.     

Punitive measures

The government’s ongoing efforts are inadequate to contain corruption in the country. As a party even to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Nepal needs to strengthen its anti-corruption institutions in order to eliminate this scourge. It needs no mention that the state of impunity is responsible for an increase in corruption and other irregularities. Harsh punitive measures must be taken against the guilty. It is also necessary to boycott the corrupt people socially. When this practice gains ground, the tendency among those in power to misuse their authority will stop, to a great extent. 

As most corruption cases in Nepal are found linked to politicians, the political parties have a vital role to play in controlling this anomaly. They are also often blamed for giving protection to the corrupt. So, it is not easy for the nation to get rid of corruption without having a strong political commitment and will. In addition, the government needs to develop a transparent system where no one can abuse his/her power and authority. 

(The author is a former deputy executive editor of this daily.)

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