KATHMANDU, Dec 27: Experts have made a clarion call to stop institutionalized corruption and payment of commissions to government officials for winning contracts as well as release of payments.
Talking to Republica on the backdrop of regarding a news story entitled 'Contractors, suppliers paid Rs 20 billion in bribes last year' carried by Republica on Monday, they stressed for immediate reforms to address the chronic issue.
Former Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Surya Nath Upadhyaya, suggested strengthening the government agency that monitors public contracts. He also said that the CIAA should investigate against financial deals reached among contractors, politicians and bureaucrats.
Public Procurement Monitoring Office under the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers is the nodal agency for monitoring contract performances.
“With a stronger investigative approach, CIAA can crack down on bigger bribing and commission payments in the way it arrests junior engineers red-handed with few thousands of rupees,” said Upadhyaya.
Former Acting Auditor General Sukadev Bhattarai Khatri said ministers and highly-placed government officials like secretaries and joint secretaries have the willpower to control institutionalized corruption and help in proper utilization of taxpayers' money. “Top to bottom approach can start the cleaning process,” he said, adding: “Fierce competition among politicians to get the physical infrastructure portfolio explains the gravity of the situation. These ministers show the tendency of influencing decisions in one way or the other. This should end at any cost,” added Khatri.
Former bureaucrats also expressed their worries for time overruns and substandard work in public infrastructure as well as undue political protection to unscrupulous contractors.
“Corruption in public procurements is not a new thing in our society and culture where there is a tendency to corrupt even the Gods by offering them sweets in return for favors,” Sujeev Shakya, founder CEO of Beed Management, an international management consulting and advisory firm, said. “This is so deeply rooted that the society honors corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and professionals in one way or the other,” Shakya said, emphasizing the need for distancing them from social and cultural activities as the initial step to address the problem.
Shakya is of the view that solving this issue by regulation is merely a wishful thinking. According to the news report, about 10 percent of all public procurement, both purchase of goods for capital formation and contracts of development works, goes to pay bribes to the project administering officials, department heads, secretaries, ministers and also political parties, making corruption deeply rooted and institutionalized.