CIAA empowered beyond constitution
A number of provisions in bill appear to be unwarranted
Kathmandu, February 1
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority Act (Amendment) Bill that the government recently registered in the National Assembly proposes to give powers to the anti-graft body that go beyond the scope of the constitution.
As per Article 239 of the constitution, the CIAA can investigate a public officer only when it has reasons to believe that the erring officer has abused power through corruption, but Section 4 proposes to give powers to the anti-graft body to take action against a public officer for abusing power.
Nepali Congress lawmaker and senior advocate Radhe Shyam Adhikari said the provisions proposed in Section 4 of the bill were against the constitution as they gave the CIAA power to take action against public officers who had not abused power through corruption. “The spirit of the constitution is that the CIAA should investigate a case only when a public officer has abused power through corruption. Mere abuse of power should not be under the CIAA’s jurisdiction,” he added.
The bill proposes to give the CIAA power to take action against public officers who have not followed mandatory procedures, or passed the buck to other officers and agencies. The bill also proposes to authorise the CIAA to take action against any public officer for sealing a public procurement deal without following due process.
This provision is against Article 239 (4) of the constitution that authorises the CIAA only to draw the attention of other public officers if they make mistakes. Adhikari said as per the spirit of the constitution, the CIAA should not take action against a public officer for merely acting in an irregular manner.
Section 4 (1) (b) of the bill stipulates that the CIAA shall not take action against any public officer for taking ‘policy decision’, but the bill does not clearly define the term ‘policy decision.’ Adhikari says if any public officer intends to provide benefit to any individual through policy decision, that should be investigated. If policy decision is not clearly defined, then a public officer can award tenders to provide benefit to his/her favourite individuals.
Section 13 (a) of the bill authorises the CIAA to seek any file or certified copy of any document from any office which could adversely impact development projects. “We have seen in the past that whenever the CIAA sought files from any development project, it led to unnecessary delay in the completion of project work. If this provision is not amended, development projects might not be completed on time,” Adhikari argued. He said the CIAA could seek documents from any office if it believed it should investigate a case, but the bill should clearly stipulate the time frame in which the anti-graft body should complete investigation.
Section 19 (5) of the bill proposes to give powers to the CIAA to take action against any public officer accused of acting improperly.
Adhikari said the new constitution had removed ‘improper act’ from the CIAA’s jurisdiction, but the bill proposed to bring it back under the anti-graft body’s jurisdiction and this was wrong. Improper act should be monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office and that should be dealt with in a separate bill, he argued.