Friday, 31 May, 2024

Combating Corruption In Nepal

Mukti Rijal


Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has received discursive attention and spotlight during the last fortnight. The anti-corruption body that exists for long in Nepal enjoys constitutional mandate. But, of late, it has been accused of rather choosing to look into petty and paltry cases of irregularities and bribery and turning a blind eye to the so-called scams in which high profile politicians and bureaucrats are reportedly suspected to be involved.

Notwithstanding the charges leveled against the anti-corruption body, it is claiming to have achieved remarkable successes this year. According to the CIAA sources, the anti-corruption body has succeeded in handling the record number of complaints and taking action against the alleged wrongdoers. The CIAA has claimed to have received the largest number of complaints in its history of twenty years during the fiscal year 2018/2019. It received a total of 24,048 complaints and finalised 15,611 cases in the fiscal year2018/2019. Likewise, the CIAA filed 351 cases of corruption in Special Court and it won in 88.5 per cent cases during this fiscal year whereas it had filed only 194 cases and had succeeded in only 67.82 per cent cases during the last fiscal year.
According to the media report, out of the 351 cases filed in the court this year, 147 cases were related to corruption, 89 cases were related to counterfeit academic documents, 37 were related with destruction of public property, 12 were related with the fixed property earned illegally, 33 were related with illicit income and nine were concerned with revenue leakage and 24 were others. The CIAA claimed fine to the tune of millions of rupees in the cases of corruption. The CIAA claimed and has recovered the highest sum of fine in the case of Sikta Irrigation Project.
The media report mentions that the CIAA arrested 200 persons red-handed in 142 cases in a year. Of the, 161 were government officials, seven were elected representatives and 32 were brokers and intermediaries. Meanwhile, the CIAA has investigated 28 corruption cases of more than Rs 10 million in each case. Likewise, the CIAA has developed a mobile application to make it for citizens to register complaints get information about complaints.
During the recent days, anti-corruption agencies like CIAA, according to a World Bank study, have received a great deal of attention globally and criticism because of the high visibility of their work and their seemingly limited impact compared to the resources devoted to them. The study has highlighted the complexity and variety of anti-corruption institutions and identified key elements which are critical for their effectiveness. It is emphasised that political will and high-level commitment are the cornerstone of every successful anti-corruption effort. Once political support is obtained, the next step is the introduction of a comprehensive and clear legal framework. However, such a legal framework, although necessary, is not sufficient, and laws and regulations need to be applied effectively to make a difference.
Furthermore, inter-agency coordination and cooperation among different jurisdictions is required to enhance the investigative capacity and effectiveness of the anti-corruption agencies. Not only this, anti-corruption agencies need an explicit role and mandate, and, as with every public institution, they require adequate resources and functionaries to operate. Because of the complexity of their work, the anti-corruption bodies must also position themselves clearly within the enabling institutional environment and context. A lack of clarity about their mandate and position, and unclear political commitment, are two factors that have commonly contributed to the emergence of ineffective anti-corruption agencies that encompass multiple ill-defined functions, states the World Bank study.
Moreover, the measures intended to promote the anti-corruption body’s accountability and relationship with citizens and the media can be the powerful tools to create an enabling environment for them. However, it is incumbent upon the anti-corruption body to set an example and be accountable for its work by regularly sharing the outcome of efforts and initiatives. Anti-corruption body needs to forge sound relationships and communication with the public based on visible and relevant indicators of impact.
Despite high expectations, CIAA in Nepal has fallen short of achieving the organisational standards set by the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Moreover, the independence of the institutions such as functional, budgetary and appointments, strategic focus, human and financial resources, and mechanisms for collaboration and coordination have not achieved the level that would enable it to be effective. It does not have had any significant impact on reining in on the trends, types, and levels of corruption. The persons chosen to head the CIAA are allegedly said to be the loyalists to the ruling party elites who therefore tend to be reluctant to initiate actions against the power holders.

Moreover, corruption in Nepal has all too often been regarded as a stand-alone issue. And CIAA is thought to be just an appropriate response without taking cognizance of the broader institutional and cultural environment. In fact, Nepal should develop a national anti-corruption strategy to support the mandate of counter-corruption agency like CIAA. There is often a lack of clarity over the roles and responsibilities of other key institutions established to combat corruption like National Vigilance Centre, anti-money laundering unit and many other mechanisms. It is necessary to ensure inter-connectedness and inter-dependence of the institutional landscape to fight corruption. It is a must to create cultural-institutional ecology to fight corruption and enhance integrity in the public institutions of the country.

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