Prime Minister Dahal vows not to meddle in CIAA’s anti-graft effortsConstitutional anti-corruption body chief calls for early endorsement of two bills stuck in Parliament.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Sunday vowed that the government would not meddle in the efforts of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority to control corruption.
The government and top political leadership are usually accused of influencing the anti-graft body to prosecute selectively, leaving the political figures untouched.
“The government is committed to probing and prosecuting government officials and office bearers from lower to higher ranks who are indulged in corruption,” he said, speaking at the 33th anniversary of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). “I also commit not to interfere in such matters.”
In February 2020, the anti-graft body had filed corruption cases against 175 individuals including former deputy prime minister and minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, and two former land reforms ministers Dambar Shrestha and Chandra Dev Joshi face corruption charges over the infamous Lalita Niwas scam.
But former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai were not prosecuted, terming the Cabinet decisions under their leadership as policy decisions.
The CIAA has long been urging the government and parliament to clearly define what constitutes a policy decision of the Cabinet, amid a tendency to take controversial decisions through the Cabinet to avoid prosecution by the anti-graft body.
Questions have also been raised regarding the government’s commitment to combat corruption following the introduction of a bill to amend the CIAA Act in Parliament that includes a provision barring the CIAA from investigating the policy decisions of provincial cabinets.
Two bills to amend the CIAA Act and Prevention of Corruption Control Act-2002 in Parliament have, however, sought to make the anti-corruption laws compatible with the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), to which Nepal is a party.
“Efforts will be made to pass these laws in Parliament within this year,” the prime minister said.
During the ceremony organised to mark the anniversary, CIAA’s Chief Commissioner Prem Kumar Rai called for early endorsement of the two anti-corruption bills that remain bogged down in Parliament for a long time.
“These bills have included provisions addressing the issues included in the UNCAC and federalism, and I am confident that they will get parliamentary endorsement as early as possible,” he said.
He also called for introducing laws related to conflict of interest, improper conduct, and corruption involving the private sector.
The parliamentary committees are facing accusations of involving the lawmakers on issues where they have conflict of interest. In the past, conflict of interest of lawmakers was blamed for the introduction of poor laws related to private schools, cooperatives and the banking sector.
During the event, Rai also highlighted several anomalies in areas of public procurement and management of government-owned lands.
“There is a tendency to engage in public purchases without a procurement plan, thus limiting competition and serving the interest of select groups, and sharing of government resources without allocating initially for specific tasks,” he said.
He also highlighted the tendency of granting government land for prolonged leases of up to 99 years at very low prices, and permitting certain individuals to retain land holdings beyond the legal ceiling without bringing such lands under the government’s control.
In response, Prime Minister Dahal said the government was conducting a probe and prosecution of those involved in capturing government-owned lands.