Anti-corruption Crusade Match Word With Action
Although Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has time and again reiterated that corruption of any sort or at any level won’t be tolerated, increasing cases of bribery are emerging particularly in the last few years. While there were tons of such cases in the past, they had often gone unnoticed in the absence of a strong media and civil society. However, the scenario has completely changed now. The investigative journalism approach adopted by some mainstream media have unraveled the hidden stories that could have easily gone unreported in many situations. In addition, a vigilant civil society has also contributed in exerting pressure to the public agencies to uncover such maladies.
As a matter of fact, the public has gone berserk in virtual media. The social media are often flooded with Facebook status and trolls where people tend to vent ire against the growing corruption in the country. They are miffed at the government and the major political parties who make tall promises only during elections but step back from implementing the principles of good governance. A section of the intellectual mass have been writing opinion pieces, articles and blogs to influence public opinion on this issue. In the latest round of a visible reaction towards corruption, a prominent singer released a highly satirical song targeting the rising malpractices in our administration and politics which has created ripples across the political fraternity.
The corruption perception index 2018 puts Nepal at 124th position among 180 countries further depicting the gravity of the problem. What is striking is the fact that the cases of corruption at apex positions in various public agencies including constitutional commission have not been attended despite strong evidence. This is really unfortunate situation adding frustration to individuals of high professional integrity. On the one hand, the state coffers has been emptied and the ordinary public is deceived on various pretexts. On the other hand, the confidence of the ill-doers have got a boost in the absence of any strong case of punishing the corrupt officials.
In fact, several high profile misconduct have been spared. Ranging from the case of an ex-chief commissioner of CIAA to the former chief justice of the Supreme Court have walked free owing to the lack of a strong political will. While some top officials got clean chit after resignation, others are still thriving without having to face any actions. Against this backdrop, the commission led by the former chairman of special court had categorically asked the government to initiate actions against the tainted university officials and others but none of them have been brought under the legal ambit so far. Even Dr. Govinda KC during his latest rounds of hunger strike demanded a stringent action against key officials with fradulence but to no avail.
In this way, the government’s commitment to uproot corruption and the real situation of governance in the country is mismatched. The general complaint that only the vulnerable group of officials or those at the lower ranking positions face the punishment has become profound. While the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has been envisaged as a powerful constitutional commission with many duties, power and responsibilities, its impartiality has still remained a great question mark. And the recent incident of its key official involved in corruption has further tainted its image. With the political appointment provisioned in such important commissions, the matter of executing the mandate in a free and fair manner has remained a challenging task for CIAA.
The role of government in bringing the wrongdoers under legal jurisdiction is pivotal. Better late than never, the government can once again open the chapter of the former officials who were acquitted due to pure political reasons. In order to give a positive message to the public, the government can initiate actions against them and prove its word of zero tolerance against corruption by its actions. Technically, the government is in a very strong position to implement its wish. So, if it desires for the same, this will definitely be possible.
The government needs to formulate policies of deincentivising the bad officers and incentivising the better performers. In the public administration system, this could be implemented in making decisions related to transfer and promotion. Likewise, there is the provision of impeachment motion against the officials of the constitutional commission for their misdeeds. But none of them have been impeached for corruption so far.
The existing rules of ‘bail out’ needs rethinking in which officials detained in corruption cases are set free after paying a certain sum of money. Since they are in a better position to afford the bail amount based on their ethical malpractices throughout their work, depositing bail has become an easy means for them to escape the total punishment. Having said that, a false impression of such practice gets imprinted in the minds of ordinary public. Hence, a review of this policy is needed.