Nepal: Combat Corruption Say Development Partners
Nepal: Combat Corruption Say Development Partners
by Siddhi B Ranjitkar
December 21, 2014
The history seemed to be repeating. The old crook political parties back on the wheels behind the governance. Working on duty of the public service, ministers were very frank and blunt on collecting money from anybody for delivering anything to the people. They were not ashamed of ordering the police even to the anti-corruption agency to release the criminals from custody. They were the same political parties that had plagued the administration with rampant corruption in 1990s when they had monopoly on administration.
That corrupt activities of the mainstream political parties gave rise to the Maoists on one hand and the monarchists on the other hand ultimately giving way to the rise of the Maoists in 2008. Then, the Maoists could not manage the power the voters had entrusted in 2008 and fall from grace in the November elections of 2013. The power grabbers such as NC and CPN-UML again indulged in the open corrupt activities. Corruption was the cancer these political parties refused to understand. It would certainly send them to graves in near future.
Marking the International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, 2014, the development partners such as Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, British agency DFID, Japanese agency JICA, Asian Development Bank and UN in a statement reminded the Nepalese administration that Nepal had ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2011, and the administration needed to fight the rampant corruption on the multi fronts, said the news posted on Thehimalayantimes.com.
The development partners were so concerned with the irregularities in the Nepalese administration as their heavy investment in the development of Nepal had been at stake. They knew every bits and pieces of irregularities in each branch of the administration. Bilateral development partners had invested huge amounts in primary education, primary health care, rural infrastructures, food production, small business promotion, rural energy, and recently in institutionalizing democracy, democratic institutions, and the rule of law. Asian Development Bank, and The World Bank had invested huge amounts in large infrastructures projects such as roads, energy and water.
Some of the development partners such as Indian Cooperation Mission to Nepal, and USAID/Nepal had been helping Nepal in its development endeavors since 1950s but the Nepalese administration had been bottomless pit. Consequently, Nepal could not uplift itself from the poverty caused by the 240 years of the monarchical rule. Since 1990, the corrupt parliamentary political parties and their politicians had grabbed everything possible from the State treasury that could be called a daylight robbery. Consequently, even in the 21st century, Nepal was still a least developed country. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese had to serve in the foreign countries under severe harsh climatic conditions to earn livelihood, and escape from starvation in the home country.
The development partners had tried various other means of reaching the grassroots level people through International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs), and Nepalese Non-governmental Organization (NGOs). However, the Nepalese administration had been trying to compel the development partners to funnel their resources intended for the grassroots level development through the bottomless pit of the state administration. If the development partners were to comply with the Nepalese administration then even the resources they provided might dry up on the way to the development projects. Corruption had been shamelessly frank in Nepal. The development partners fell short of directly stating to stop the open corruption the political leaders, and the politicians serving in the ministries had been indulged in.
The recent media reports had been that Finance Minster Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, Education Minister Chitra Lekha Yadav, and other ministers had been collecting money from the staffers that had wanted transfer from one position to another. It was not a new disclosure. It had been the standard practice of the NC and CPN-UML ministers in the past and unfortunately in the present, too. If Dr Mahat had not forgotten he had once said in 1990s that taking commission was not the corruption.
Prime minister Sushil Koirala had been publicly saying that he had been hearing some ministers had been collecting money from the State-service seekers. In the recent cabinet meeting, some ministers had challenged PM Koirala to take actions against the ministers that had been allegedly involved in taking bribes rather than going around and talking about some ministers were involved in shady deals, the Nepalese media reported.
PM Koirala would have been better off firing those ministers he believed involved in corruption rather than telling it publicly if he were really bold enough to curb the corruption otherwise it would be hypocrisy that would not save the image of PM Koirala. PM Koirala would not have said so without concrete evidences but he was good enough to let his corrupt ministers go with impunity. He even opted for facing the challenges of those corrupt ministers.
If PM Koirala were really for taking actions against his corrupt ministers he did not need the hard evidences of taking and giving bribes on the official documents but the luxurious bungalows, and the high standards of living of the ministers and the politicians that had been wearing only slippers not long ago and not having any hereditary property were the living evidences for indicting those ministers and politicians. However, the administration of PM Koirala not taking actions against such corrupt elected officials, politicians and even against the regular civil servants was the vivid examples of the Nepalese administration deeply involved in the corruption.
The irony is that such corrupt politicians had been running the political parties sidelining the sincere politicians. Some politicians justified their corrupt actions stating they had sacrificed their whole lives in politics so they needed to make some money when they were in power, and save it for a rainy day. They also said that the political business had been the very risky one; they were not sure whether they would get next chance or not. They said that making money while in power was the only way of surviving in the politics. Either the corrupt politicians had been the elite or the elite politicians had been corrupt in Nepal. Both might be the truth.
In the general elections held on November 19, 2013, almost all political parties had won certain number of slots in the constituent assembly depending on the votes they received. Each political party could appoint anybody to the slots the Election Commission had declared won. What each political party did was auction the seats each had won. Each party appointed the members of its party or outsiders that bided highest.
Then, each major political party had its share in appointing ambassadors to the Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad. As each party did in the case of the slots won in the constituent assembly, every party sold out the ambassadorial positions. It was unbelievable and unnatural to the sincere and logical thinking people.
On December 19, 2014, the online news ‘ratopati.com’ reported that the parliamentary Public Account Committee had instructed the office of the ministry of energy, the offices of prime minister and the cabinet, and the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate the irregularities of Rs 540 millions in the Chameliya Hydropower Project. If the real investigation were to be held, a large number of former ministers, state ministers, executive directors of Nepal Electricity Authority, and members of the Board including the current energy minister Radha Gyawali would fall in the corruption net. The irony is that even the current chief of CIAA Lokman Singh Karki had been involved in it as the secretary to the then ministry of energy. How the CIAA would hold investigation into the irregularities in the project in which the chief of CIAA was involved remains to be seen, says the news on ‘ratopati.com.’
A letter posted by “Kamal Krishna Joshi” firstname.lastname@example.org and forwarded by the "The Himalayan Voice" email@example.com on December 20, 2014 said, “Several hydroelectric projects including those being constructed by private sectors of India and China had been under attack. The local cadres of the two ruling parties such as NC and CPN-UML had asked for shares in the Bhotekoshi project exhibiting the lowest level of political ethics. This is something like asking ransom for the kidnapped children as hydro-projects in the power-hungry nation is extremely important. Obviously the current Koirala government is a mute spectator to this dirty game of brinkmanship. Money not the Constitution seems to be the priority of these party leaders.”
Speaking at the “Reporter’s Club Nepal” on December 20, 2014, members of parliament representing the Tanahu constituency said that the prime minister should immediately fired Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali for suspending the implementation of the Tanahu Hydropower Project of 140 MW capacity with the price tag of Rs 50 billion, according to the news posted on ‘setopati.com’ on December 20, 2014. They charged the minister with unilaterally suspending the project for not having her personal benefit from it. The corrupt mentality of the minister would cause the end of the project said the parliamentarians.
The regular practice of the Nepalese ministers had been to ask for the commission from the contractors of the huge development projects for making decisions on commissioning such projects. Not even the prime minister that pretended to be the clean did not speak out against such practices means even the head of the government might have a share in the commission. Not surprisingly, Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali unilaterally suspended the hydropower project causing the uproar of the parliamentarians of that constituency.
At one public event, Superintendent of Police (SP) Ramesh Kharel said that senior police officers visited the concerned minister with a suitcase full of banknotes for getting promotion to higher offices. Instead of patting SP Kharel for his oldness and sincerity, the police headquarters went after him, and harassed him not to mention investigating the allegations against the unscrupulous police officers. According to the media reports, Home Minister Bamdev Gautam representing CPN-UML had put pressure on the headquarters to send SP Kharel on one-month holidays and find out any possible means to take actions against him.
On Saturday, December 6, 2014, CIAA arrested red-handed seven people including Golden Gate International College Director Deviram Pandey and Dr Prabhat Kumar Kushwaha while selling the MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery) entrance exam question papers (biology) to nine students for Rs 1 million each,myrepublica.com reported on December 9, 2014.
Senior politicians including Chairman of CPN-UML KP Oli and senior leader of NC Sher Bahadur Deuba allegedly put pressure on the CIAA to mitigate the investigation into the recent MBBS question paper sale. According to CIAA sources, Chairman Oli and leader Deuba had made repeated telephone calls to Commissioner Keshav Baral and Acting Secretary Prem Kumar Rai for releasing those arrested, according to the news posted on Ekantipur.com, December 18, 2014.
Former king Gyanendra had fired former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and sent him to jail allegedly for corruption. Only the people’s movement that toppled the monarchy in 2006 saved Deuba for being indicted for corruption. KP Oli was determined to save his cadres and Deuba his, too. He had the history of breaking the chairs in the parliament protesting against the then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.
These Nepalese top politicians had been openly engaged in making money whatever the means might be. That had been quite unfortunate for the Nepalese. However, voters gave the two political parties such as NC and CPN-UML together the majority in the elections held on November 19, 2013 trusting them they would sincerely serve the people. These politicians had not learned the lesson. They simply repeated the history of corruption while in power. So, voters would need to realize whom to vote for in the future.
Nepalese judiciary also had been not so clean as it should be for delivering justice to the people. Judicial Council recommended six highly controversial judges with the history of corruption to the offices of justices at the Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal in 2014. The SC summoned the editors of the Kantipur Daily: a national newspaper for questioning about the record of corruption and scandals the judges had been involved, according to the report the Asian Human Rights Commission posted on Srilankaguardian.org on December 10, 2014. The report also said, “The year 2014 also saw judges visiting party offices following their appointment. There is a growing understanding in Nepal that a judiciary cannot remain independent when judges of the apex court are bound politically and appointed despite their dubious records.”
Another serious lapse in delivering the justice to the victim of rape was the release of two rapists convicted by the District Court of Baitadi, and sent to jail for 13 years with the fine of Rs 50,000 on each. According to the editorial published on ekantipur.com on December 17, 2014, a 14-year-old girl named ‘Puja Bohara’ was taking the School Leaving Certificate examinations in March 2012 when she became the victim of the two rapists; the District Court of Baitadi indicted the men for rape, and awarded the 13-year jail term to each of them, and imposed the fine of Rs 50,000 on them. However, not even a year had passed since the criminals went to jail, the Appellate Court in Mahendranagar acquitted them.
The rape victim had been going from pillar to post demanding to indict her if the rapists were not criminals otherwise bring them to justice. The news posted on Thehimalayantimes.com on December 17, 2014 said, “She had lodged an FIR against the two and the district court convicted the accused on the basis of her deposition in the court, medical examination report and other circumstantial evidences.” “Does their acquittal mean that I lodged a false FIR? If so, I should be punished, otherwise they should be immediately arrested,” she said.” She also went to former Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai for help. Dr Bhattarai had hard time to believe that the criminals were actually released from the jail.
The bill for purchasing the 442 red chairs China had provided gratis to Nepal for the SAARC submit held on November 25 & 26, 2014 in Kathmandu came to Rs 25.34 millions as the ministry of urban development submitted to the ministry of finance, according to the online news posted on the ‘ratopati.com’ on December 20, 2014. This amount might be a tiny sum of the total bill for holding the SAARC. Allegedly, the government of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had reportedly spent two billion rupees. Most of the money spent on decorating and redecorating the SAARC venue: Rasrtiya Sabha Griha” and paving the sidewalks. PM Koirala must have made some money for the next elections. Such events had been the best opportune moments for the corrupt ministers and officials to make good money.
Politicians and ministers had been making huge money out of the large development projects such as large infrastructures projects, hydropower projects and irrigation and other water projects. One of them was the Melamchi Drinking Water Project: a multi-billion-rupee project.
The next deadline for completing the Melamchi Drinking Water Project had been April 2016 according to the local media. Kathmanduites had been anticipating water from this project since 1990 when the then interim Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai declared that he would wash the streets of Kathmandu by the water from the Melamchi River. Anybody could guess how long Kathmanduites had been waiting for this project to complete and then the water from the Melamchi River to Kathmandu.
Construction of the more than 26-km long tunnel to bring the water from the Melamchi River had been the challenging task to the contractors but it had been the main moneymaking project for the concerned minister and officials. Currently, an Italian contractor had been working on it after the Chinese contractor gave it up. The contractor had been digging a tunnel less than one kilometer a month, according to the news posted on myrepublica.com on December 20, 2014 whereas it had to be more than a kilometer to make sure that the water from the Melamchi River flow to Kathmandu in April 2016. The more the project got delayed the more the officials including the minister made money as they could make variation orders to extend the time and money for the contractor causing time overrun and cost overrun.
The irony is that the project had been digging the roads that had been nicely pitched for the SAARC summit held in November 2014 for laying the distribution pipes that would probably take the water from the Melamchi River to the homes of Kathmanduites. They allegedly made money for renovating the roads for the SAARC summit and then they had been digging the road for making money again. The victims had been the common folks. Every development activity launched by the State had been the opportunity for the officials to make money. When the poor Nepal would graduate from the least developed country to a developing if the officials were only to work for making money rather than for completing the development projects.