Political parties make corruption control their main agenda during election times and it features in their pledges and election manifestoes too. But when these same parties are in power, they somehow happen to abet corruption rather than controlling it. Current government of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has been no different in this regard. While cabinet ministers, even the Prime Minister, reiterate zero-tolerance against corruption in public utterances, their words do not match with actions. Look at some of the high-profile graft scams of the last couple of years. There was wide-body purchase scam involving embezzlement of estimated four billion rupees. Most recent scam involves the government awarding various contracts to Yeti Holdings without transparent bidding. Worse still, instead of helping with prosecution, the government ministers are seen to defend government’s actions. It is mainly because of such tendencies among political parties in power that Nepal has not been able to improve its ranking in corruption index.
According to Transparency International’s annual report, Nepal still remains among the most corrupt countries in the world. TI has placed Nepal in the 113th position with a score of 34 among the total 180 countries surveyed. In 2018, Nepal was ranked 124th with a score of 31. Among the surveyed countries, Denmark was ranked as the least corrupt country with a score of 87. Somalia, with a score of nine, has been named the most corrupt. In South Asia, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka are less corrupt than Nepal. Bhutan is in 25th position with a score of 68, India in the 80th position with a score of 41 and Sri Lanka with a score of 38 is in the 93rd position. The TI’s report shows two worrying trends: Efforts at controlling corruption are slowing down and the trend of misusing funds to secure electoral win is growing. Besides, the report points to lapses in implementing the commitments made from the government for controlling corruption. It has expressed concerns over Nepal’s failure to stop misuse of positions in public service, trade and entrepreneurship. According to the report, major challenges to Nepal’s fight against corruption are lack of people’s access to information, continuous control over state power by a limited number of people and pervasive corruption in political sectors.
It is troubling that the tendencies which contributed to raising corruption graph of Nepal in the past have not changed much. Nor have the tendencies not to book the corrupt officials and individuals who enjoy political protection. Generations of Nepalis have grown up learning that corruption is rampant in the country and that Nepali governments have failed to control it. One reason why corruption thrives is because Nepal’s anti-corruption watchdog, Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), has not been able to prosecute big fishes. Often, its actions are limited to arresting clerical staffs or few officials in the bureaucracy. More often than not, its approach seems to spare the high-profile politicians even in big cases. Thus the change should begin with the change in modus operandi of CIAA. Most important, Nepali political parties, especially ruling ones, have to be committed in action to nip corruption. Nepal has not been able to come out of infamy of corruption mainly because there is a visible lack of actions to match commitment from the ruling parties—present as well as the past—to eliminate it. As long as this does not change, we risk being featured as a corrupt country in the future too.