It has been revealed that the bureaucrats working in various ministries and departments and politicians take up to 10 percent as commission from contractors while approving projects. More than 20 billion rupees was paid in commissions to bureaucrats and politicians last year alone. Contractors working on road and other infrastructure projects have to bribe local politicians to local gangsters to government engineers to even top-level politicians and ministers to get their work done or even to get their bills certified. This is a disturbing fact. The same bureaucrats who are there to serve the people are colluding with contractors to siphon off resources meant for development works. People then have the right to ask their government: Why pay the taxes? The commission culture is not only a big blow to the taxpayers, it also compromises quality works in projects and provides no incentive for contractors to complete the work on time. If contractors are making politicians and bureaucrats happy, why should they bother finishing the work and maintain top quality? After all, the contractor will continue getting more projects as long as politicians and bureaucrats are kept happy. Our horrible state of highways, bridges and other projects reminds us daily the cost of corruption we, as a country, are paying for.
As we begin devolving our bureaucracy to the federal structure, this pervasive corruption culture might also seep into the provincial and local levels if not checked now. The incoming government must enforce anti-corruption rhetoric to reality. Or else we will be stuck where we are today. Politicians and bureaucrats will keep on enriching themselves at the expense of taxpayers’ money and the overall progress of the country. And that is where the societal inequality will invite further chaos and conflict. We have seen a lot of politicians amass ungodly wealth in the last few years without ever running a business. At the same time, we have also seen some bureaucrats turned into billionaires from just working for the government. Unfortunately, we have also seen these same people been provided “clean chit” by our courts. Some of the decisions by our courts in recent times make us question the fairness of the judicial system when it comes to prosecuting corrupt individuals with ties to powerful politicians.
Similar is the story of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA)—the constitutional body entrusted with vital corruption control task. The agency is busy arresting bureaucrats involved in petty corruption cases, sometimes as little as Rs 20,000 while turning deaf ears to corrupt individuals like Gopal Khadka, former managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation and Chudamani Sharma, former director general of Inland Revenue Department. Even after a series of corruption cases surfaced against the two individuals, CIAA never bothered to thoroughly investigate their cases before taking them to the court. The deep collusion among bureaucrats, businesspeople and politicians is a troubling sign for a transparent and open government that the people expect. If those in power are hell-bent on amassing as much wealth then why should the people follow the law? Our agencies that are supposed to be the vanguard of law, order and open government must do their job before it’s too late.