KATHMANDU, Jan 30: Nepal has slipped in the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency International despite the government’s frequent commitments to crack down on graft. The extent of corruption has worsened at a time when it was expected that the election of governments to federal, provincial and local levels would help reduce this social malaise.
The annual survey released by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog has placed Nepal in 124th position with a score of 31, among the 180 countries surveyed. Nepal was in 122th position last year although its score was the same.
Similarly, Nepal ranked 131st out of 176 countries in 2016; 130th among 168 countries in 2015; 126th among 175 in 2014; 116th among 177 in 2013; and 139th among 176 in 2012, according to a statement issued by TI on Tuesday.
The CPI measures a country on a score of zero to 100. Countries securing higher scores are taken as less corrupt whereas more corrupt countries are given lower marks.
In the 2018 survey, more than two-thirds of the countries scored below 50, and the average score was 43.
Among South Asian countries Nepal is ranked as third most corrupt after Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Bhutan is perceived as the least corrupt, with a score of 68.
India has been ranked in 78th position with a score of 41 whereas Sri Lanka scored 38, Pakistan 33, Maldives 31, Bangladesh 26, and Afghanistan 16. Nepal’s northern neighbor China stood at 87th position with a score of 39.
Returning to Nepal, TI Nepal officials cite a failure of the political leadership to implement their commitment to act against corruption as a major reason for lack of improvement on this front. “The extent of corruption seems concerning. Nothing has changed despite the government’s talking big about taking on corruption,” said TIN’s President Khemraj Regmi.
In 2018, leaders of the major political parties were accused of embezzling more than Rs 4 billion while procuring two jet aircraft for the national airline. Likewise, a big contractor with big connections has been accused of pocketing Rs 8 billion out of a total amount of Rs 12 billion released by the government for the Sikta Irrigation Project in Banke district. The CIAA, the anti-corruption watchdog, has hauled in numerous bureaucrats and politicians for allegedly being on the take.
The present government came into office making loud noises about ending the carteling in public transportation. But it has now gone silent about this burning issue. Likewise, its efforts to haul up non-performing public works contractors have ground to a halt following protests from powerful construction interests. At a different level, the government is gradually tightening the screws on mass media and the public when it comes to access to information.
“More importantly, government activities are not transparent nor is the government showing accountability,” said Regmi.
“If the present government, which is considered the most powerful so far, fails to improve the country’s tainted image, good governance will never materialize and the corrupt will always rule the roost.”