Graph keeps fallingNepal has slipped from corrupt to more corrupt in global rankings
Despite tall claims by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of fighting corruption, Nepal slipped two places to 124 on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International. Last year, Nepal was in the 122nd position. Nepal’s score for 2018 is 31. A score of less than 50 is considered indicative of poor governance. “The score received by Nepal on the index suggests that the situation of corruption is worrisome,” the report said. The composite index comprises a combination of surveys and assessments of public sector corruption by international agencies including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
Until recently, unstable government was cited as one of the primary reasons behind corruption. But since our culture of working in favour of a certain interest group and jettisoning work ethics is so deeply entrenched, the perception the international community has of our public sector remains to improve even with a stable government. Granted, uprooting corruption warrants systemic changes which often takes a long time; but at the very least, we should have managed to remain in the same position, not fall two places.
Ever since taking office last February, Prime Minister KP Oli had vowed to adapt a policy of zero tolerance against corruption.
Be it while speaking at luncheons organised for the diplomatic community, addressing provincial assemblies or speaking at any public event, the distaste for corruption has never failed to animate his speeches. But making pompous speeches is one thing, and taking action to improve the ground reality, another.
There was widespread euphoria when the government swiftly initiated a crackdown against the long-held syndicate system in the transportation sector just a few months after taking office. Regrettably, the enthusiasm didn’t last long. There was a serious lack of intra-ministerial coordination, and since the political leadership had their vested interests at stake too, the drive died down. With regard to a large number of infrastructure projects too that have remained idle for years, decades even, owing to various reasons, initially it appeared as if the government would take serious action against them. But this has proved nothing more than wishful thinking.
More importantly, in recent times, various government moves have given us more reason to think otherwise. Government tenders especially are big business. Last month, the government planned a new law enabling it to bypass the public procurement process and select developers for projects valued at more than Rs50 billion without bidding. It is then but obvious, that the provision leaves ample room for tender corruption.
And as if this was not enough, the wide body scandal—probably the biggest corruption scam till date—has only further highlighted the government’s persistent tendency to contradict its political rhetoric. Prime Minister Oli’s relative silence over the issue and his snail-like progress on launching a fair and open probe of all individuals involved in the scandal has worsened the situation.
For long, rampant corruption has drained the Nepali treasury. Anti-corruption efforts warrant more than big talk, and the latest report only underscores the need to strengthen anti-corruption mechanisms in the country. For this, the first step should be for the political leadership to strictly distance itself from interest groups and be guided by ethics and integrity over greed and short-term gains.