Disgusting bureaucratsDemands for commissions forced the Melamchi contractor to leave
A recent investigation by this paper highlighted the corrupt nature of some of our bureaucrats. Although not a new story, because our bureaucracy is synonymous with corruption, this time around the insatiable appetite for earning extra money forced the Italian-based contractor of the Melamchi Water Supply Project to abandon it.
According to the report, ‘Rampant corruption, regular demands for commission by government officials, and labyrinthine bureaucratic hassles’ compelled Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna to disown the national pride project that was on the verge of completion, and pushed it into uncertainty once again.
Two officials of the Italian company whom the Post interviewed said two senior Nepali bureaucrats—Gajendra Kumar Thakur, former secretary at the Water Supply Ministry, and Surya Raj Kadel, executive director of the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board—asked for commissions on a regular basis during their last three years at the project. They especially demanded a cut of the amount approved by the Dispute Adjudication Board.
From the recently formed local governments all the way up to the federal government, corruption is chronic. The overwhelming and worsening nature of corruption the country is saddled with has made Nepal slip two places to 124 on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International. Although this point has been highlighted time and again, it bears repeating. The common belief is that unstable governments is one of the primary reasons behind corruption. Perhaps not. Even with a stable government, our culture of working in favour of a certain interest group and jettisoning work ethics remains unchanged.
But it’s not just the bureaucrats who should be blamed. In most of the cases, both ministers and bureaucrats are often seen involved in unfair practices. In this case too, the fact that ministers too might have been involved in receiving commissions cannot be ruled out for it is impossible for any secretary or the director of the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board to bypass the line minister to such a great extent. Therefore, politico-bureaucratic morality is in short supply.
The canker of corruption and commission taking has blighted the higher echelons of our bureaucracy. The accused may indulge in a blame game, but that does not conceal the truth. The need for change must come from within wherein public servants need to be guided by conscience rather than greed. While expecting so would be idealistic, public vigilance combined with media support could greatly help to bring such ill practices to the fore.