Corruption erodes the trust of the people in the govt, the parties and the service-providers, and, above all, it impedes development
You actually don’t need an anti-corruption body to tell the Nepalis that corruption is rife in Nepal. The 24,000 complaints of corruption that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) handled in 2018-19, including 17,000 new ones, speak volumes about its pervasive nature in all sectors, and threatens to become the second nature of our leaders and public office holders. Corruption takes place in many forms, and in many cases, it might not be as simple as an act of greasing the palms of officials. What if it is carried out in the garb of a policy-level decision? Or what if government officials and corrupt office-bearers of NGOs and cooperatives collude to embezzle funds? In its 328-page report submitted to the President on Monday, the CIAA has sought jurisdiction to investigate improper acts of public office holders as well as private organisations, which has been denied under the new constitution. According to the CIAA, corruption and improper acts cannot be treated as separate issues, as scrutiny about a complaint of one could unfold a case of another.
There are many reasons why corruption is growing in Nepal. One could be the poor salary of government officials. So paying the government employees adequate salary might help curb corruption to a degree. But what is a decent salary when everyone is in the mood to send their children to the West for an education or spend lavishly on their weddings? The CIAA, however, sees the expensive election system to be the bigger reason behind the growing corruption in the country. According to the study carried out by the Election Observation Committee, Nepal in 2018, a first-past-the-post candidate spent an average Rs 10.1 million to contest the parliamentary election in 2017 while it was Rs 8.1 million for the provincial assembly election. Some candidates even spent as much as Rs 150 -250 million to enter the House of Representatives (HoR), although the Election Commission had capped the campaign expenditure for the FPtP at Rs 2.5 million for the HoR elections and Rs 1.5 for the provincial assembly polls. Despite the colossal sums of money being spent on the elections, the political parties keep no account of their income and expenditure. Neither do the business houses that fund the election campaign keep any record.
Unless there is transparency in the amount of donations made available to the political parties, it will never allow the country to get out of the vicious cycle of corruption. So as sought by the CIAA, all transfers of donations should be made through the banking channel. Corruption erodes the trust of the people in the government, the parties and the service-providers, and, above all, it impedes development. But, who cares? In discouraging corruption and improper acts of public office holders, the CIAA has a big role to play, and this calls for strengthening the body with competent, able commissioners highly committed to the cause. While its demand for more powers to effectively curb corruption might seem plausible, it, however, risks becoming too strong to be in a position to start meddling in government affairs.
Protect Khulla Manch
The Khulla Manch, located at the heart of Kathmandu, has lost its essence as it has been used as a bus park, temporary settlement, a parking lot for private vehicles and a place for piling construction materials for the last couple of years. Earlier, it used to be an iconic place for political rallies and mass meetings. Recently locals of the Kathmandu city are mounting pressure on the concerned authorities to vacate it so that they can use it for recreation and gathering. Joining hands with the locals, ward chair of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC)-28 declared last Saturday that he would not allow it to be used for parking vehicles from January 15.
It is a good move. But the KMC authorities, including Mayor Bidhya Sunder Shakya, are opposed to the ward chair’s ‘arbitrary decision,’ prompting a row between the two. The ward chair is adamant to implement his decision with support from the city police. An open space is essential in a big city like Kathmandu, where people can gather there for various purposes. It can also be used for erecting temporary shelters in times of an emergency as during the 2015 quake. So, it is the duty of the KMC to protect the Khulla Manch from illegal encroachment.
A version of this article appears in print on January 15, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.