Corruption at high level: Political will lacking to control it

Corruption is still rife despite the election of governments at all the three levels. According to a survey recently conducted by the CIAA, local governments are among the most corrupt agencies in the country

The Constitution of Nepal, 2015, promulgated by the Constituent Assembly in September 2015, guarantees good governance by ensuring equal and easy access of the people to the services and facilities delivered by the State while making the public administration fair, competent, transparent, free from corruption, accountable and participatory.

In addition, the constitution has provisioned the adoption of effective measures for the control of corruption and irregularities in all sectors, including political, administrative, judicial and social sectors. As in the erstwhile constitution, this constitution also provides for a Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority with powers, in accordance with the law, to conduct, or cause to conduct, investigations of any abuse of authority committed through corruption by any person holding public office. Although committed to controlling corruption, this constitutional provision is but weaker than in the Interim Constitution in the sense that the term ‘improper conduct’ has been removed.

Article 239 of the constitution provides that the CIAA may, in accordance with the law, conduct, or cause to conduct, investigation of any abuse of authority committed through corruption by any person holding public office. Based on these provisions, the commission has been conferred with the responsibilities of tracing, tracking and controlling corruption in order to strengthen good governance. The constitution has given a clear-cut mandate to control corruption, but in practice, it is very difficult to control it. Corruption is showing its ugly face in each and every sector.  It has become urgent to wage a war against corruption. The present Prime Minister has been repeating his rhetoric time and again that zero tolerance of corruption is his mission. But the ground reality says a different story.

Besides the CIAA, there are many anti-corruption agencies responsible for promoting good governance and increasing the integrity of public officials in the country. But corruption is thriving. Among the South Asian countries, Nepal has been ranked the third most corrupt country after Bangladesh and Afghanistan, according to the recently published Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Nepal ranks 124th, with a score of 31, among 180 countries of the world. Political will and government commitment are needed to promote integrity, transparency and accountability in both public and private sectors to strengthen the campaign against corruption. Participation of the civil society and citizenry, promotion of ethics in public and incorporating the same in education, and a robust mechanism for implementation and monitoring are other prerequisites.

Corruption is a global phenomenon, and no nation, big or small, rich or poor, is spared by it. Corruption is a plague having a wide range of corrosive effects on society as illicit money moves across the world. Combatting corruption calls for unhindered cooperation and common standards for the international community.

Corruption offences include giving and taking gifts. It involves government servants accepting goods or services free of cost or at lower prices, setting illegal benefit or causing illegal loss with bad intention, preparing false documents, engaging in illegal business, damaging or using public property, disclosing the secrecy of question papers or altering results of various public examinations. Illegally acquiring property, attempting corruption or being an accomplice to corruption are other forms of the crime. Giving false particulars to get a public service job and appointing one’s own kith and kin or siblings or relatives to a post of profit are also ways of corruption.

Corruption could be one of the main causes of civil war. If the top leaders and officials of the country are corrupt, then the downfall of the country is certain. Such tainted people are also helping to increase impunity in the country, which must be ended. Political corruption can be termed as grand corruption, and it has been recognised as a crime and cause of human rights violations. Thus it is necessary to bring the corrupt elite to book.

Nabin Ghimire is now the chief of the anti-corruption body, and he is expected to tackle high-profile corruption cases that have been pending for years, such as the multi-billion-rupee Sikta Irrigation scam, in which 14 billion has already been spent. A multi-billion rupee aircraft purchase deal has also landed in controversy. The 33-kilo gold scandal is also fresh in the memory of the public. Hundreds of complaints about corruption have been filed against politicians, top bureaucrats and security officials on charges of accumulating unexplained wealth.

This is a matter of regret. The time has come to think and act on this burning issue. The country has not improved in the latest Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. While Nepal’s position was 139th with a score 27 points in 2012, Nepal was placed at 131st position with a score of 29 in 2016. Corruption is still rife despite the election of governments at all the three levels. According to a survey recently conducted by CIAA, local governments - municipalities and rural municipalities - are among the most corrupt agencies in the country.

Rakesh is former vice-president of Transparency International Nepal