Corruption Index: Improving But Below Mark
Both, who offer and receive bribes, are enemies of the nation.” This is one of the divine counsels of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, credited for unifying Nepal some two and a half centuries ago, for the leaders who run the state affairs. The King’s instructions show bribery was a problem even then as it is today and the founder of the nation was very strict against corruption.
Good governance has been a priority of the governments for the last nearly three decades ever since democracy was reinstated in the country in April, 1990. But the situation has not changed much despite some efforts to control corruption. Legal as well as institutional arrangements made to that end seem to have failed to achieve desired results. If the score Nepal has got for the last few years as per the corruption perception index of the Transparency International (TI), the global corruption watchdog, is any guide, Nepal has always been among the most corrupt countries. Suppose, a university student needs to score at least 40 out of 100 to pass an exam, Nepal has regularly failed in such exams. With 31 score, Nepal has been ranked 122nd among the 180 countries in the TI’s corruption rating in 2017. Those countries which score less than 50 are considered as highly corrupt countries as per the TI’s standard, and by scoring only 31 points, Nepal’s international image is that of an extremely corrupt country. This is a national stigma in the global picture.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been emphasing on eliminating corruption and ensuring good governance. During the election campaign, as the CPN-UML Chair, PM Oli had repeatedly made pledges that the left alliance government would end all forms of corruption. And he has been making similar commitments after assuming the post of the Head of the Government. Good governance is one of the main objectives of the government.
But, it seems that meeting this objective will certainly be a daunting task. Let’s see this. The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the anti-graft body, about two months back caught red-handed an officer at the Land Revenue office in Bhaktapur district. The CIAA had caught officers of the same office even in the past. But the latest arrest of the officer for bribe showed that the action of the CIAA had little impact on changing their tendency and practices of corruption. The question is, if the CIAA’s actions cannot make correction, what can?
In the public service sector, many prefer to be deployed at customs and land revenue offices. These are considered as plump offices. The answer to what makes them prefer these offices is obvious - there is high chance to have extra income or bribe. Otherwise, for the clean public servants, every office is equally important with regard to one’s duties. In many cases, transfer of public employees to such offices by the concerned government minister is attributed to making money for him/her.
The report of the Transparency International also makes it clear that political corruption is the worst in Nepal. Nepal got only 25 score from Varieties of Democracy Projects which observes political corruption and Bertelsmann Foundation which monitors whether actions are taken against those found guilty of misuse of public power. These two institutions along with the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, World Justice Project and Global Insight provide their respective rating to the TI to prepare the corruption perception index of a country.
It is really challenging to check political corruption particularly at this time because many political leaders who have come victorious have spent a lot of money for the recent election far beyond the ceiling amount set by the Election Commission. And there is high chance that they may try to cover their election expenses by abusing public offices. We already have the examples of the government ministers who have served their jail term for corruption.
Delay in completion of development projects is a common disease in Nepal. And this is one manifestation of corruption. But it is hardly considered so. No officials have been taken action against delays in such projects. Corruption is anti-thesis to development. Nepal has not been successful in materialising its development dreams because of rampant corruption. It is said good governance is prerequisite for development. Democracy flourishes when there is good governance. But we lack the both- development and good governance. Therefore, for the government to ensure development, it has no choice but eliminates corruption and takes effective measures to that end.
For sure, measures to control corruption have been taken for instance issuing electronic tender for construction bid. In the past, public construction sector was said to be gripped by corruption. But, now, with e-tender policy, only one window of corruption in the related sector seems to have been closed while there are several. Lately, users group have been another instruments for corruption. In many instances, the user groups are influenced by political parties and the kind of projects they get depends on which party is in power. Moreover, a setting among the user group, concerned government engineers and officials to approve the project completions. Because of such a setting, development works are suffering in terms of quality. Common people may never know about the allocated budget and amount of work being constructed by the user group even in their locality. And there is no monitoring and supervision from the concerned authority. It is a plain truth that instances of corruption is rampant even in small projects funded partly or fully by the government.
As the election manifesto of the Left Alliance states that its government will have zero tolerance on corruption and Prime Minister Oli has repeatedly stressed on ensuring good governance and eliminating corruption, it can be expected that Nepal will make praiseworthy improvement in the corruption index in the coming years.