CIAA’s tall claims fail to cut popular ice

KATHMANDU: There is no shortage of investigating officers and prosecutors in the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). But when we look at the constitutional anti-graft body’s track record in fighting corruption, the result has been far from satisfactory.

Government indifference is also notable. The posts of the CIAA commissioners have been lying vacant for the past two years, but no government has shown any interest in filling the vacancies. No doubt, the CIAA has launched some promotional and other activities and also made suggestions for the government authorities to take action against many officials. But there is little to show by way of curbing corruption and irregularities.

However, acting Chief Commissioner of the CIAA Lalit Bahadur Limbu does not agree. “We have not performed less cpmpared to the previous years. But people are biased and they tend to underestimate our performance,” he says. “Whatever I have done has been to check corruption, as is also testified by the Transparency International’s CPI index”. According to him, during the past several years, Nepal had scored 2.5 on the CPI, which meant rampant corruption. The nation scored 2.7 last year, indicating that some improvement had taken place on the front of good governance. “This year we were actively involved in the 3Ps (punitive, preventive and promotional activities) in order to curb corruption,” he adds.

The CIAA has recommended departmental action against around 90 officers-in-charge, including secretaries and section officers, and fined around 86 high-ranking officials, including secretaries and top police officers, for their failure to furnish their property details

to the CIAA.

The CIAA has also been able to recover around 50 ropanis of public land from the land mafias who had registered it in the names of individuals.

“This means we have got back property worth around Rs 2 billion from the land mafias,” says the acting Chief Commissioner.

“In addition to this, we have provided anti-corruption training to 2,000 individuals, and around 700 million rupees has been recovered as per our orders,” he added.

The CIAA keeps the Land Revenue Office, Land Reforms Office and Survey Offices under its surveillance in order to check irregularities, as well as the access of unauthorised persons to public property. But the constitutional body could not prosecute any high-ranking official during the fiscal year 2008-09. Neither was it able to investigate any scam that was big enough to draw public attention.

Agni Thapaliya, the registrar of the Special Court, which decides on corruption cases filed by the CIAA, says that during the current fiscal year the CIAA has not filed any major case. Those pending in the Special Court relate to cases like fake passport, which does not play a major role in controlling corruption.

Last year, the Commission had prosecuted the then governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, Bijaya Nath Bhattarai, and executive director Surendra Bhakta Pradhananga, on the charge of committing irregularities in a project. Since then, the CIAA has not investigated and

prosecuted any high-ranking official or intervened in corruption-prone areas.

“This year has not been any different than the past years in fighting corruption,” says Ashish Thapa, executive director of Transparency International, Nepal. “Though we did not carry out any specific survey in this regard, we could not feel that the CIAA has been doing well,” he added. He, however, blames the lack of political will for this state of affairs.

Thapa feels that the anti-graft body is trying to justify its existence through its regular work such as recommending departmental action, but this is far from enough. “There is no specific campaign against the corrupt,” Thapa argues.

“Since the political parties are not willing to appoint the new CIAA commissioners, how can we say that the anti-graft body is active?” he questions.