RSS COMMENTARY: Make watch dog a biting dog to curb corruption

(By Narayan Prasad Ghimire)

If we are asked about a news story that took us by surprise recently, we can not avoid the chilling fact that Inspector General of Armed Police Force, Koshraj Onta, produced the bail amount of Rs 100 million within one and half hour to free him on bail after the anti-graft body caught him on huge financial irregularities.

Even a lawmaker wondered in the meeting of the Legislature-Parliament how such hefty amount was produced within very short time, signaling a case of grand corruption.

Another story disappointing everyone must be the revelation of a survey report by the Transparency International Nepal (TIN). The study named ‘A Survey on Public Service Delivery’ conducted by the TIN found that the service seeker are bound to pay as much as Rs 25,000 as bribe to the public officials to have their jobs done on time.

These two stories finely reflect how the immune system of Nepal’s governance is made dysfunctional by the government officials.

The TIN study further explains that the offices that essentially take bribe are Land Revenue Office, Land Reform Office, Judiciary, District Administration Office, Land Survey Office, Transport Management Office, Revenue and Tax Office, and Water Supply Corporation. The employees at the Land Revenue Office are found to have taken the highest amount – Rs 25,000 while at the Water Supply Corporation up to Rs 1,000 as bribe. Interestingly, such kickbacks are not for special services to the people. These are for regular services the public offices must provide promptly and timely. Now, where is the public accountability of the government officials? What is the meaning of government’s slogan for anti-corruption and good governance? How does the government respond to such ill practices?

The public offices mentioned in the report are always thronged by the service seekers. Where there are a lot of service seekers, the transaction of money and services is high and frequent. The most astonishing is the fact that judiciary, despite being an institution to cater justice to victim, is further victimizing the people with bribe.

These are however termed petty corruptions, while that of the IG is a case of grand corruption. Needless to say, Nepal is plagued with grand corruption as well. Some unforgettable grand corruptions are Sudan scam and embezzlement of fund in the cantonment of Maoist combatants.

Political corruption is undoubtedly a grand corruption. Whether the family members or relatives, cadres, villagers and well wishers, having any person a big political figure grabbing any ministerial post is obviously a matter of pride. In a way or other, their pride and happiness over the political leader getting good post in the party or in the government are the main reasons to mount political corruption in Nepal.

In this regard, making an in-depth study on ‘Political Corruption in Nepal’, researcher Dipesh Kumar Ghimire finds the main sources of political corruption as high operational cost, non-transparent party fund, expensive election process, pressure from the cadres. Rather than an outcome of individual desire, the corruption, Mr Ghimire, insists on because of social structures, saying, “Social norms and values, family, political structure and nature of a state are the social structures that have major role in fostering political corruption.”

Nepal has various anti-graft bodies, including the key one- Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). The activism of the CIAA is the recent time is quite laudable, for it has tried to disrupt vicious political corruptions which involve many high level politicos and government officials. But it is quite worrying that our political parties’ double standard is creating fertile land for thriving corruption in every sector including the development projects. To bring a reference here, a political leader from the currently ruling party had recently made a verbal attack on CIAA, for he was written a letter on investigation of the properties he assembled while holding public office.

The CIAA is the most vibrant watch dog in terms of checking corruption in Nepal. But there is such a nexus between political parties and the bureaucracy that it always wants to limit the CIAA as ‘barking dog’, and barking dog, we know, seldom bites. So, time has come for all of us to make the watch dogs the biting dog, so that that better changes can be felt. However, changing barking dog to a biting dog is not easy. A special plan with all sides’ efforts should be made to keep to the governance clean with the augmentation of the CIAA’s jurisdiction. Once the CIAA’s jurisdiction is bolstered, the corruption in judiciary, security and even in policy level as in the decision of the Council of Ministers can be checked. Most important, the CIAA’s activities need to be transparent and credible in this regard.

Further activism from National Vigilance Centre, Department of Inland Revenue, Department of Money Laundering Investigation, Public Procurement Monitoring Office can help check financial irregularities. Effective coordination among such institution is essential.

As the country is undergoing long, multiple and complicated transitions, corruption is normal. But in the name of transitions, taking everything for granted is fatal. So, time has come for all of us- the anti-graft bodies, civil society, individuals to work in unison to build good governance ecosystem where the rights of all sides are protected with effective public service delivery.