Corruption everywhereOne of the menacing problems that Nepal is grappling with today is corruption in its multiple modes and fashion. The entire bureaucracy, political spectrum, judicial administration, business, industry, inter-governmental organisations, educational institutions and security agencies are plagued by this pestilence in some form or the other.
One of the menacing problems that Nepal is grappling with today is corruption in its multiple modes and fashion. The entire bureaucracy, political spectrum, judicial administration, business, industry, inter-governmental organisations, educational institutions and security agencies are plagued by this pestilence in some form or the other.
The most contaminated of them all is the civil service and political environment—two most vital components for the evolution of a welfare state supplemented by a truly democratic governance. One has to accept corruption as a human pathology that is hard to cure even by material affluence. Therefore, no government or establishment should entertain a fallacy that it can get rid of economic malpractices and moral turpitude prevailing among its civil servants or political actors. The utmost it can hope to do is contain the blight to a permissible degree so that its virulence does not markedly impede the nation’s social and economic development.
When assuming office at Singha Durbar, every chief executive of this country performs the mundane ritual of declaring a highly chastened agenda of eradicating corruption, giving economic respite to the poor and the needy, providing public security and good governance. But people see very few of the pledges being translated into reality at the end of the term. They all turn out to be insincere political ploys authored by crouching advisors for popular consumption. With the passage of time, their own political cohorts fall pathetic victims to cupidity for wealth and other forms of malpractices. The degree and dimensions of economic corruption and abuse of authority in Nepal are so phenomenal that barely any sphere of its national life remains secure from the clutches of unblushing bribery, nepotism and political cronyism. Going by the reports occasionally carried by the ubiquitous media, the magnitude of economic malpractice prevailing in Nepal’s politicised bureaucracy practically dwarfs events cited as having taken place during the Panchayat regime.
The most disreputable branches of Nepal’s civil administration fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance where economic corruption has been practically institutionalised for several decades now. The departments of customs, taxes, excise and land management are those that people consider as being synonymous with economic corruption. These administrative units are notoriously known for blatantly throttling the poor service seekers for reaping undue monetary benefits. Several scandals of outrageous magnitude showing the explicit involvement of their high ranking officials were brought to the public notice. But after a brief spell of legal drama, their cases were put on the backburner and the corrupt creeps go scot-free. It is widely believed that a vicious nexus permanently governs the relations between the policy making caucus and those at the operational level for executing their nefarious designs in revenue administration.
The high profile constitutional body entrusted with the responsibility of investigating abuse of authority is yet to prove its worth in curbing the epidemic of graft that has engulfed the country’s entire system. Owing to a couple of instances of its being headed by controversial bureaucrats with tainted track records, the credibility of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority as an effective watchdog has been further tarnished in the public eye.
The other sector that is equally plagued with corruption is physical reconstruction and infrastructural development where unrestrained malpractice is the order of the day, and enormous amounts of public funds are unethically reaped by defaulting contractors with the complicity of the executives concerned. Roads,
bridges and buildings crumble due to substandard materials used in the construction. Strongly patronised by their political mentors, these contractors neither honour the timeframe stipulated for the completion of the project nor the quality of the work done.
While dwelling on economic corruption and abuse of authority in Nepal, my spirits are highly dampened to paint a grim picture of Nepali politicians and the political philosophy they pretend to adhere to. They have practically blurred the delicate line of demarcation between moral and immoral, honesty and dishonesty. It is an indisputable conclusion that every actor in Nepal’s political drama is preoccupied with a single fixation—how to garner maximum benefits out of the chaotic state of affairs prevailing in the country. Perpetuating the plunder is the underlying theme of every regime, be it communist, rightist or socialist.
For the last two and a half decades, the Nepali citizenry has been watching in total amazement how fast their frontline champions of the democratic movement and revolutionary communist messiahs are getting richer every passing day. Parliament is recurrently obstructed and is suspended for several days. But our lawmakers receive their full emoluments and allowances at the end of the month, as if nothing has happened. Those having permanent residences in the Capital also collect their housing allowances. Regardless of their financial status and material affluence, these demagogues do not show the slightest hesitation to claim reimbursement of their medical bills, their authenticity notwithstanding. What is disappointing for the common Nepali today is the voluntary blindness displayed by the country’s chief executive towards all these malpractices perpetrated right under his nose.
Many of Nepal’s political parties and their leaders are found to be maintaining a clouded relationship with business houses who consider the country’s bureaucracy as their pliant supplementary structure to support their long drawn designs, which in many cases, have ended up in tainted scams. Similarly, Nepal is perhaps one of the few countries in the world where businessmen can function as lawmakers without giving up their business connections during their incumbency as public figures. The spouse of a chief executive can operate educational enterprises or consultancy firms for pecuniary benefits while holding the position of a lawmaker at the same time. For them, political ethos is an abstract perception, and democratic legality a remnant of an archaic political culture.
Khanal is a retired chief of protocol.c