CIAA should be transformed into a strong institution led by competent officials

Corruption has swallowed up every layer of the government’s agencies. Most government agencies dealing with land transaction, transport management have earned a bad name for seeking bribes from the service seekers. Both the bribe givers and bribe seekers are guilty and punishable by law. It is ultimately the common people who are at the receiving end due to the rampant practice of corruption in the government agencies, which are supposed to provide services to the people as per the laws. Corruption thrives due to the culture of impunity, light punishment if convicted, weak implementation of the laws and political patronage given to the corrupt people or officials. Every year Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index publishes its annual report, only to see Nepal slip compared to the previous year when it comes to tackling corruption.

The Constitution of Nepal has tasked the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) with controlling corruption in the government sectors. Barring a few institutions, it can launch an investigation and file cases of corruption and irregularities against all government officials and agencies at the Special Court. However, its success rate is not on a par with the public expectations due to its poor investigation methods and lack of adequate human resources. Hiring of inefficient people with a poor track record in the anti-graft body has also tarnished its very reputation. On the other hand, it also takes a very long time for the courts to settle the corruption cases. It, therefore, gives a wrong impression in society that the wrong-doers are allowed to go scot-free after some time.

The anti-graft body must enhance its efficiency and improve its modus operandi to deal with corruption cases. Instead, it is relying on the traditional sting operation, which is illegal from the legal perspective. While fielding questions from lawmakers at the parliamentary Sustainable Development and Good Governance Committee on Sunday, CIAA chief NabinGhimire said his officials intended to catch corrupt people by “posing as service seekers” or using sting operations as a strategy. Both the tactics used by the constitutional body are illegal. Legal experts, citing instances of other countries, have warned that such tactics could be grossly misused to take revenge against an honest government staffer. Those methods may not be effective in all types of corruption, such as financial dealings between an official and service seeker from outside the government office. The anti-graft body does not have any legal mandate to launch a sting operation. It should rather launch its investigation based on solid facts and evidence. There have been cases in which CIAA officials have worked hand in glove with government staffers to collect bribes.  The Chief Commissioner’s strategy to resort to sting operations and deploy officers in disguise to nab corrupt officials will in the long term only undermine the anti-corruption watchdog. CIAA is institutionally weak and those involved in corruption enjoy political protection; but this must change. People in high authority should maintain high morals by upholding the institutional dignity and personal integrity. In order to control corruption, the CIAA should be transformed into a strong institution led by competent officialsequippedwith adequate resources and expertise.

Popular homestays

Today a homestay is part and parcel of our tourism industry, popular among both domestic and foreign tourists. Homestays have sprung up all over the country, even in areas where tourism entrepreneurs would have thought twice about investing. And the first homestay near TekmeDanda, listed as the government’s 100 top tourist destinations, has just come into operation in Bhojpur in east Nepal. The owner of the homestay, a local Rai, has invested Rs 2.6 million in the venture.

The popularity of homestays is growing largely because they provide a local ambience where one can savour the ethnic culture of the area. Usually located far from the madding crowd, the whole area is for the visitor to relish at his own free time. Homestays provide gainful employment to the locals, often buying the organic foodstuffs grown in and around the home. And this has helped improve their living standard. Instead of concentrating tourism’s dividends in a few pocket areas and in the hands of a few entrepreneurs, homestays help to disperse this affluence over a wider area. Hence, it deserves to be promoted with all sincerity.