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A crusade against corruption

A crusade against corruption

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority recently marked the International Day against Corruption with the slogan ‘UN-CAC at 20; Uniting the World Against Corruption’. 

Despite high-sounding slogans, corruption remains pervasive in Nepal and a legal provision in the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority Act-1991 even prevents CIAA from investigating certain government decisions, including ‘policy decisions’, apart from nexus between powerful elements of our society.   

Section 4 (B) of the CIAA Act states: “The Commission, pursuant to the Act-1991, shall not take any action in matters relating to any business or decisions taken at meetings of any house of Parliament or of any committee or anything said or done by any member at such meetings, or any policy decisions taken by the council of ministers or any committee thereof or judicial actions of a court of law.”

If such controversial provisions are not amended or done away with altogether, nobody can curb corruption in this country, given the tendency to misuse the provision on ‘policy decisions’ to make legally questionable decisions and avoid legal action, among others. Existing corruption laws, particularly the CIAA Act, and Prevention of Corruption Act should be immediately amended to control corruption, which poses a grave threat to democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. 

Ulla Termacs, Danish minister for development co-operation, rightly states: “Corruption in the form of bribery and misuse of public funds is a major obstacle to democracy in many of the world’s poor countries.’’ 

Back to the Big Day. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said on the occasion that his government was committed to ending corruption in coordination with public and private sectors, and civil society members. However, he did not touch upon the topic of legal amendments necessary to combat corruption. 

Apparently, this type of rhetoric is good for raising awareness to end corruption, but never sufficient to end the scourge itself. 

What’s more, corruption has become cancerous in Nepal, so one or two constitutional-legal provisions are unlikely to offer a complete cure, though the measure may be able to curb it a bit. Political will is what is needed to fight this scourge. 

It will be contextual to quote Bhimrao Ambedkar, father of the Indian Constitution, in this context: “However good the constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a constitution may be, if those implementations are  good, it will prove to be good.” 

PM Dahal correctly stated on the occasion that controlling corruption will be difficult without internalizing international anti-corruption conventions and without making suitable changes in our education policy to spread the message in society that corruption is unacceptable.

If corruption continues to thrive in our country, there will be no room for good governance, the rule of law, progress, prosperity and human rights. 

Our country has witnessed countless corruption scandals, including the infamous Lalita Niwas land grab, the Ncell scam, the 60-kg gold smuggling scandal and the Bhutanese refugee scam, thanks to the association of some powerful names. Much has been written about these shameful chapters. 

Nothing is transparent except corruption in this country and nothing more rampant than corruption, thriving as it is under some very powerful noses. Moreover, policy-level corruption has tarnished the image of the country nationally and internationally. Officials of relevant agencies seem helpless in fighting corruption because they have the obligation to serve their political masters, who appoint them on their respective parties’ quotas. 

Appointment of political parties’ near and dear ones in important positions is also a reason behind unabated corruption. If the parties and the government are serious about controlling corruption, they should discontinue this practice and appoint deserving candidates instead.  

All this takes the ball back to the Prime Minister’s court. 

The PM, who also happens to be the contact agency for the implementation of the UN General Convention against Corruption, should wake up to the threat that corruption poses to the country and do every bit to put an end to it. 

The author is a former vice-chair of Transparency International Nepal