This past week the Special Court sent two former officials of the Nepal Tourism Board to jail for their ‘proven involvement’ in corruption through the embezzlement of the NTB funds.
Former NTB chief executive officer Subash Niraula had been slapped with a seven-year jail term while former acting NTB director Anil Kumar Das was handed a six-year jail term. The court had asked Naraula to fork out a penalty of Rs. 8.51 million and Das Rs. 5.45 million. Niraula was also told to repay an additional penalty for the embezzled amount of Rs. 5.45 and Das Rs. 2.43 for the same.
In the meantime, the court asked an operator of a private travel agency, Mahendra Khanal, to repay Rs. 154,224. Khanal was found guilty of issuing fake airlines tickets to NTB. The court did not slap him with the jail term.
The two officials were found guilty of corruption for three charges, though the anti-graft body, CIAA, had lodged 10 different charges of corruption of a total of Rs 340 million against 23 officials in 2015. The court, however, acquitted 20 of them and charged only three for corruption.
The accused officials were found guilty of submitting fake bills while procuring alcohol, making payments through fake bills provided by Khanal’s travel agency and spending the NTB funds in personal works.
The court verdict against senior former officials suggests one horrible fact: corruption is deeply rooted in our nation’s government offices. Many of the Nepali government officials often come under anti-graft body’s radar as they are accused of cases of corruption.
The three counts of charges leveled against the NTB officials are the common accusations most of our government officials draw when they face corruption charges. Submitting inflated fake bills for procuring goods, paying restaurant, hotel and airline ticket bills are the charges most of our officials face when they are accused of corruption.
They are also accused of involving in other kinds or corruptions - they ask for money from contractors, suppliers and others who are awarded contract to undertake some government projects. These days officials are also accused of another kind of abuse of their authority - they seek bribes from the aspirant job seekers to hire them either on contract or permanent basis. Bribe taking from service seekers is nothing new in the government offices of Nepal.
The Nepali politicians too are said to be playing their roles in giving rise to the cases of corruption. The politicians often draw flak during the awarding of mega and big projects to certain groups and consortiums. The politicians are also accused of protecting several corrupt government officials who are accused of channeling the funds. Sometimes the corrupt officials act as a bridge between the politicians and contractors of bigger projects and owners of big corporate houses.
The rampant corruption in the government and other sectors is the reason that has placed Nepal in the 122nd place in the corruption index of the Transparency International, a world corruption watchdog. Nepal is third most corrupt nation in South Asia behind Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Bhutan and India are regarded cleaner than Nepal in terms of corruption as they are placed higher in the Transparency International index.
Unless our political class shows urgency in controlling the rising incidents of corruption in the government offices and public institutions, the incidents of corruption would not go down, because many government employees and public figures have shown their penchant to make quick bucks by taking advantage of several loopholes prevalent in our laws, acts and regulations as well as their nexus with politicians and other powerful figures.