Friday, 31 May, 2024

CIAA Needs Committed Leadership

Mukti Rijal

The Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has been placed under civic scrutiny these days. Though CIAA has claimed that it has broken records in nabbing the corrupt and the unscrupulous, its focus only to act reportedly against the minions, not the power wielders has met with criticism. Many hold the opinion that the CIAA itself is weak, and not free from built-in maladies. It cannot, therefore, be expected to work effectively in curbing the corrupt practices. Many allege that the CIAA commissioners and authorities are appointed with reference to their loyalty to the ruling political parties, not on the basis of the prudence, independence and competence. This is one of the primary reasons as pointed out by the civil society and media why CIAA has not been functioning effectively to serve purpose for which it was created.

The argument that the appointment of CIAA chief should be based on the criteria of competence and integrity should be fully and vigorously endorsed. It is an important constitutional body endowed by with role and responsibility to guard against the misuse of public resources and abuse of authority. The CIAA act itself defines the objective basis which needs to be necessarily subscribed and adhered to while appointing chief commissioner and other commissioners for the Commission.
The appointments carried out during the initial days of the Commission especially the restoration of the multiparty democracy in 1990 had been almost free from controversies as the persons recommended for the position were more or less known for their integrity and commitment. Persons like Surya Nath Upadhyaya had reportedly lifted the morale of the CIAA high and it had earned unimpeachable credentials. However, later the CIAA had to reckon with the weakened and reduced capacity because the Constitutional Council did not function promptly to fill the vacant positions in the commission too.
The bureaucracy had to carry the onus of the CIAA’s undertaking for long in the absence of the commissioners to be appointed by the Constitutional Council. In most cases, the Council had failed to meet because of the lack of understanding and cooperation among the major political parties. The bickering among the parties and mutual distrust among the leaders led to the stalled appointments in the CIAA for long in the past. This had diminished the capacity and consequently reduced legitimacy of the constitutional body that has to work as the oversight body to check the cases of corruption and abuse of authority.
The positions in the constitutional bodies have been reportedly shared as spoils among the major parties. And the post of CIAA chief commissioner is said to be the reserve of the ruling party. The appointment of Lok Man Singh Karki not very long back as the CIAA chief commissioner had caused a furor and opposed by the civil society. It was reported that Karki’s name was proposed by the erstwhile Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda who was at the commanding height in those days to dictate the politics of the country. The defence he put up in favour of Karki as reported in the media confirms that the UCPN- Maoist boss was keen to install Karki as the CIAA chief.
In fact, the then interim government headed by Justice Khil Raj Regmi had accepted the consensual recommendation of the major parties routed through the constitutional council and thus acted as a via media to present name to the president for appointment. In those days, the civil society had taken strong exception to the rejection of the Supreme Court to register petition challenging the decision of the constitutional council to appoint Karki to head the CIAA. Again this is indirectly attributed to the chief of the interim government Khil Raj Regmi as he still continued to act as the de jure head of the Supreme Court.
Again the issue of the separation of power had been raised strongly demanding that the same person should not head the two organs of the government. It is contended, referring to the rejection to register the case against the decision of the constitutional council that the Supreme Court cannot stand up against the decision of the government and nullify when both the organs of the government are headed by the same person. Submission had been made on behalf of the civil society and Bar Association to the President not to endorse the recommendation of the government to appoint Karki to head the CIAA. The erstwhile CPN - UML leaders who had initially agreed to forward Karki’s name for CIAA chief had also backtracked and requested the President to reverse it. The office of the president had finally endorsed the recommendation to appoint Karki as the CIAA's chief commissioner.
In fact the issue raised in regard to the appointment of Karki as the CIAA chief had consumed much of the time and attention of the political parties and civil society. The same political parties that had recommended Karki and forcefully defended his candidature had to go against him later. The political party leaders, lawmakers, civil society and public spirited lawyers finally joined together to oust him disgracefully from the position of the CIAA chief commissioner.

Social accountability
The failure on the part of political leaders to recognise and appreciate the importance of the constitutional bodies like CIAA to promote good governance, rule of law and social accountability has been one of the reasons why this institution has not been able to deliver performance up to constitutional promise. The record of some of the CIAA commissioners has not been above and beyond reproach which indicates that the appointment process is itself flawed and tainted. Now time has come to select and appoint CIAA commissioners including its chief on the basis of meritocracy and integrity. It is expected that the Constitutional Council will agree to recommend the names of the persons who are taintless and committed to fight abuses of authority attributed to power wielders and influential authorities in the country.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues.