Despite stringent laws, corruption continues to plague the local governments and poses a serious challenge to fairness in service delivery to the citizens.

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority arrested an elected people's representative of Kathmandu Metropolitan City of Ward 14 for soliciting bribe from a service-seeker earlier this week.

CIAA spokesperson Narayan Prasad Risal said ward member Basanta Maharjan was taken into custody from Kalanki-based New Kantipur Tandoori Bhojanalaya with Rs 200,000 in bribe, which he had already received from the service-seeker.

The service-seeker had no option but to offer bribe money after he was denied service without monetary favour. The service-seeker had approached Maharjan to request for a recommendation letter to the Land Revenue and Land Management Office by transferring tenancy right of a land with certification of relationship from the ward office.

Last month, the anti-graft body arrested sub-engineer Binod Kumar Paydal of Budhanilkantha Municipality for receiving Rs 72,000 for making payment of a road construction contract upon completion of the work. He had sought bribe from the service-seeker even after completion of the construction work in line with the conditions set forth in the contract.

Five months ago, Bharat Kumar Pokharel, secretary at KMC Ward No 30 was held with bribe of Rs 400,000, which he had received from a service-seeker for clearance of bills after completion of a construction work.

According to the CIAA, corruption is rampant in the local levels where office-bearers and employees rarely provide services to citizens without bribe. The amount of bribe money to be offered or given to the concerned official depends on the nature of the service needed. Service-seekers are often asked for bribe for issuance of recommendation letter and registration of personal events. They indulge in corruption from formulation to implementation of plans and programmes.

The CIAA filed as many as 441 charge-sheets against 1,212 persons, mostly public office holders, at the Special Court, claiming around Rs 2.53 billion in question from them in the fiscal 2019-20. The anti-graft body said it was the biggest single-year filing of corruption charges in its 30- year history. Of the 1,212 defendants, three include ministers, nine special class officials, 355 officer-level employees, 440 assistant-level employees, 70 elected/nominated office-bearers and 335 accomplices/intermediaries.

On the basis of sector-wise distribution of complaints registered at the CIAA in the fiscal 2019-20, 30.7 per cent were related to federal affairs, including local levels. This shows that corruption is a serious problem in the local levels.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 12 2021, of The Himalayan Times.