Nepal notched up 121st position in the list of 163 countries listed in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index 2006, which was made public on November 6 the world over, making no improvement in its 2005 score of 2.5 out of a possible 10 ( a score for corruption-free countries). Following the trend of last year, the poorest countries continued to languish at the bottom of the list this year as well, suggesting a strong link between corruption and poverty.

That the government took no concrete step to control corruption in the six-month period following the success of the Jana Andolan II should be a serious cause for concern. The Loktantrik government includes many harsh critics of the erstwhile royal administration which they said was institutionalising the culture of corruption. But they themselves have fallen woefully short in their bid to cleanse bureaucracy of corruption.

The TI Chair Huguette Labelle, while unveiling the 2006 report in Berlin, said: “Despite a decade of progress in anti-corruption laws... much remains to be done before we see improvements in the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.”

The TI Nepal chapter suggested that the government take seriously the peoples’ mandate to root out corruption expressed during the Jana Andolan II. It has emphasised the need to amend constitutional and legal provisions and make the dealings in the financial sector more transparent to reduce the level of corruption in the country.

With its dismal score, Nepal has been ranked in the group of countries with “rampant corruption” (indicated by score of 3 or below) in public sector. In South Asia, Bhutan, with a score of 6, is by far the least corrupt state in the region, while the TI has noted with satisfaction the anti-corruption efforts of India, which now ranks 70th in the Index with its score of 3.3.

Weak law enforcement agencies (the CIAA being the perfect case in point), failure of the successive governments to take a serious note of corruption in the public sector, general public’s apathy to the culture of graft — all contributed to the grim reality of Nepal being ranked alongside the countries like Iraq (1.9) and Sudan (2.0) , both on the verge of being deemed “failed states”.

Much hope was pinned on the post-Jana Andolan II government to deliver a clean and transparent administration. But its performance on this front in the last six months leaves much to be desired.

The historic agreement between the SPA and the Maoists has given Nepal’s anti-corruption efforts a fresh hope. The restructuring of the state on the basis of a proportional representation will undoubtedly result in the devolution of power to the local levels, which, in turn, will make local bodies more transparent and accountable to people.

As Ashish Thapa, the executive director of TI Nepal, indicated while presenting the 2006 TI Corruption Perception Index in Kathmandu, political commitment maybe the most important factor to help weed out corruption from the public sector in Nepal.