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For a more accountable and transparent state

For a more accountable and transparent state
Bureaucracy in Nepal has been mired deep in inefficiencies and corruption for years. This problem has its root in the culturally backed practice of clientelism and patronage system, which act as a speed breaker in government efficiencies and impede national development. In the context of Nepal, the system of clientelism and patronage has its roots in history. For centuries, a few powerful families ruled the country by holding on to state powers. It is in the very nature of feudals to promote the culture of patronage and clientelism, in which individuals (citizens) must rely on personal connections and favors to access resources and secure a position of authority. After the abolition of the monarchy in 2008, the country entered an era of political transition and restructuring with hopes of a shared future. But clientelism and patronage continued to flourish in politics and bureaucracy even after this switch to a federal democratic republican system.

Today, clientelism continues to victimize the country, pervading all three levels of government—federal, provincial and local—with patronage networks built around high-profile individuals such as politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen. This matrix has been used to secure government services, contracts, and benefits. Due to this practice, the refrain Bhansun Nagari Kehi Hudina (no work gets done without connection) remains as popular today as in olden days.

This system has given rise to a culture of corruption in Nepal. Every individual feels that, to access basic services either they need to pay bribes, use ‘powerful connections’ or solicit political support. The citizenry feels that every citizen must become a part of this patronage system to eke out a living in the country. This psychology has a devastating impact on national development. Due to such malpractices, the notion of good governance, the rule of law, and politics has been negatively influenced. The Nepali state has never been seen as the protector of public interest. The society has turned down into a low-trust society consisting of low-level equilibrium. In addition to corruption, the government has been facing considerable obstacles in delivering services, enforcing laws, and defending public interest. Recent media reports point at a growing culture of rent-seeking—gaming the political system for personal gains—in Nepal. Such malpractices have dealt a huge blow to good governance and the rule of law, and given politics a bad name. So, what can be done to change things for the better? One potential solution is to create an accountable political system based on the principle of checks and balances. A system that is transparent and accountable to the public, a system that appoints the right person at the right place, especially in constitutional bodies. This means appointments based on meritocracy, not on the bases of powerful connections. Strengthening investigative agencies like the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority is equally necessary, if we are to bring about desired changes. Strong civil societies are necessary to strengthen such agencies. The desired changes will be possible only after fundamental shifts in the country’s political and bureaucratic culture, for which we should make political and bureaucratic systems transparent and accountable to the public.