EDITORIAL: Fighting corruption

Necessary changes should be made in law and the enforcing agencies should also change their approach to tackling corruption

All government employees are required to submit their property details. As per the Prevention of Corruption Act-2002 that those who join pubic office are required to submit them within 60 days from joining work.

The law has it that within 60 days from the end of every fiscal they are required to submit the details in the form of updated statement of their property as well as the property of their family members. They should show their sources of income.

These measures should be taken and implemented without fail given the corruption prevailing in most government offices. Responding to the letter from the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development is all set to slap down a fine of Rs. 5,000 each to those who do not submit such details on time.

This move should be taken up positively but the amount of fine is too small to compel all employees to submit their property details, particularly those who have amassed a fortune by abusing their government authority.

In case the employees do not comply with the law, the agencies concerned would be launching an investigation into the property of the employees and also that of their family members.

Meanwhile, the deadline may be extended by up to 30 days provided the employees have valid reasons fro being unable to submit their property details. The enforcing agency may also send circulars for the collection of fines. So far, the names of 991 employees and office-bearers who have not disclosed their property details during the fiscal year 2015-16 have been published.

Those who have made a fortune illegally may find it better to play the paltry fine and get away. Such a weak provision has rendered the whole idea of disclosing one’s property details periodically ineffectual.

As a result, the requirement for disclosure of property details by government employees and other holders of public office has been in existence only for a decorative purpose. It has hardly achieved any of its stated objectives.

Those who have had a hand in making such provisions have their common vested interests and they make legal provisions so weak or full of loopholes that such laws or provisions fail to do what they say they will do. Periodic disclosures of property details must be made mandatory and no holder of government post can be excused from it.

Failure to disclose their property details should lead to their inability to continue functioning in their posts and an immediate investigation into their wealth. It is wrong to think that only a person who is caught red-handed is corrupt. Our anti-corruption watchdogs seem to be afflicted with this malaise.

An employee’s lifestyle can also give adequate grounds for initiating investigation into such an employee. After submission of the property details, all such submissions should be scrutinized to see if there has been a significant increment in property of any holder of government post.

If necessary changes cannot be made in the laws and if the enforcing agencies cannot change their approach to tackling corruption, we will only see the tip of the iceberg of corruption occasionally, as we have till now.

Water quality

Water quality in the Bagmati River has improved thanks to the rigorous clean-up campaign from all walks of life for several hundred weeks.

A study recently conducted by young scientists from April to May has revealed that the water quality of the river, which had become a dead one due to pollution and accumulating garbage, improved to a level that can be called satisfactory.

The study conducted in the entire length of the river showed potential of hydrogen ranging from 7.5 to 8.8, a range that is considered suitable for survival of aquatic life.

The report also suggested that pollution in the holy Bagmati River is gradually decreasing as a result of clean-up campaign which has reached 218 weeks since the campaign was launched.

There are several rivers in the Kathmandu Valley which are not suitable for survival of aquatic life.

They also need public intervention to make them clean. Emptying untreated sewerage and solid waste directly into the rivers are the major causes of pollution on the water bodies and environmental degradation.

The elected local levels must come up with policy interventions barring all households from connecting sewers directly into the rivers. Preventing the sources of pollution is the lasting solution.