EDITORIAL: A mere ritual

If assets of many holders of public office are examined thoroughly and impartially, most of them would face charges of corruption

The news that so many ministers or other holders of high office have submitted their property details and so many have not occupies newspaper space and broadcast time from time to time. Similarly, sometimes the submission of property details by so many employees and non-submission by so many also become occasional news items. This has become something of a chore, done half-heartedly, and not so much to lose for not doing so. This process has gone on for years, but there is not much improvement on the practice. The latest news relates to the numbers of people holding public office who have complied with this legal provision and those who have not done so – 336,731 such people out of 361,107 have furnished their property details by the end of the last fiscal year, 2014/15, according to the National Vigilance Centre, a corruption watchdog under the direct supervision and control of the Prime Minister. However, 22,860 employees of the civil service, the army, the police services, teachers, professors and employees of the local bodies have not submitted the details yet.

What purpose has this compliance served so far? Of course, the Prevention of Corruption Act-2002 requires any person who joins public service in whatever capacity to submit their property details within sixty days of joining duty, and thereafter every fiscal year, within sixty days of the end of the year in order to update their property details, including those of their family members, along with sources of income and proof of earnings. Some, including holders of high office, such as former Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat in the previous Cabinet, have not submitted their property details; and some others, such as former ministers Radha Kumari Gyawali and Neelam KC Mainali who were also in the outgoing Cabinet, made their submissions only after the deadline lapsed. Thirty-seven MPs have not submitted their property detail so far.

But these statistics do not mean much to the general public. Things have been going on as they were in the past, with the quality of the services provided by the government agencies not having improved visibly at best; the attitudes of the holders of the posts of government to work as well as to the seekers of government service appear to be more or less unchanged, despite the various political movements and other related campaigns which promised to make a difference in this regard, including the pro-democracy movement of 1990 and the second one a decade ago. There is also an additional legal provision of fining the defaulters and investigating their property. But the legal requirement for the submission of property details has always been a mere ritual, without serving the objectives of the legal provisions – which is to keep the conduct of the holders of public office transparent and above board, and, in cases of irregularities, to bring the guilty to book. If the assets of many holders of public office are examined thoroughly and impartially, most of them would face charges of corruption. With so much financial corruption going on visibly all around and with many holders of public office leading their lifestyles in ways which honest incomes from their posts would not support, the ritual goes on year in and year out.

Risky journeys

Passengers riding on the roof of public vehicles is a common sight. Although the police discourage this rule violation we still see the defaulters getting away with it. The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has directed its personnel to see to it that it does not happen for the next four days. Previously the traffic had looked the other away even when the traffic rules were breached, as there was scarcity of fuel. But with things returning to normal the traffic police will be asking the bus drivers to stop people from travelling on the roofs of buses.

Now the police say they will be taking strict action against all who permit passengers to travel on the roofs of the buses. This is for the safety of the passengers as a number of accidents have occurred in the recent past as overcrowded buses continued to ply on the roads. This is expected to avert risky journeys. Several traffic accidents have been attributed to travelling, thus, in a hazardous manner. It is expected that all those involved will take the necessary steps to prevent people travelling on the roofs of public vehicles breaking the traffic rules.