The CIAA has failed us

Published On: September 15, 2020 06:40 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the anti-corruption watchdog, has failed miserably to investigate and take corruption cases to the court. The highest anti-graft body has been selective in its prosecution, sparing those with connections to power centers, and going after petty corruption cases. It is rather a shame that proven and suspected corrupts walk free, and their corruption cases are not even investigated. We ask this question in this space with the hope and expectation that the CIAA lives up to its mandate, and that it fulfils its constitutional mandate to combat corruption.

Nabin Kumar Ghimire, who retired two days ago from the CIAA, decided to give a clean chit to those involved in the multi-billion rupees scam involving the procurement of land for Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC). Ghimire has been accused of keeping major files related to this corruption case on hold.  He stands accused of sparing those involved under political and other interest groups. Needless to say, the NOC land scam is one of the biggest corruption stories of our times. Various parliamentary committees and other oversight mechanisms had sought action against those involved in this case.  Republica had reported a series of stories on the NOC land scam. 

This, however, is not the first time that the CIAA chief and its officials have come under public scrutiny.  The CIAA and its head often face public criticism mainly because it seems to take actions selectively. Stories of clerical staff arrested for receiving bribes of small amounts are publicized by the CIAA. Himalkhabar recently ran a moving story of a clerk, a khardar, who committed suicide after the CIAA arrested him for taking a bribe of Rs 1000 in 2019. He was put in detention for 42 days. The special court recently declared him innocent. The CIAA’s flawed investigation is responsible for the death of a khardar.

Ghimire was the second successor to Lok Man Singh Karki, whose abuse of authority has left a blot in CIAA’s history.  The damage Karki had inflicted on CIAA and its public image could have been repaired if Ghimire had taken initiatives to investigate the big cases.  He retired, leaving a lot to question about his tenure. 

We also need to bear in mind that it is the political parties in power which have relegated the CIAA to a tool that can be used to avenge or prosecute political opponents. The CIAA can recover its image when it works freely and fairly, the precondition for which is, again, non-interference on its business by the political parties in power. As things stand, the very relevance of CIAA is being questioned, and with the corruption graph rising, there might be a complete erosion of public trust in the agency as a public institution.

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