KATHMANDU, June 25: The government has backed out of the plan to push ahead with the passage of the bill to amend the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority Act, 1991, following widespread backlash from the private sector over the proposed provisions to bring private businesses under the jurisdiction of the apex constitutional body to combat corruption.
Following the private sector’s outcry over the provision, the main ruling party - Nepal Communist Party (NCP) - has decided to put on hold the amendment bill for now. The new bill that was under consideration at the National Assembly was scheduled to be passed from the upper house on Tuesday.
However, it was removed from the daily agenda of the upper house, following protests from the main opposition party Nepali Congress as well as the indication of some leaders of the ruling NCP to change tack.
The amendment bill that was tabled by the government proposes giving legal authority to the CIAA to investigate private sector companies by expanding the definition of ‘public institutions’. As the CIAA is legally authorized to conduct investigations, file cases and take any action against any person holding a post with public institutions if found guilty of corruption or abusing power, it was limited largely to the government agencies and those institutions owned or controlled by the government. However, the new amendment bill redefines ‘public institutions’, listing out councils, banks, medical colleges and hospitals and other establishments as well as any other organization prescribed by the government as public institutions by publishing a notice in the Nepal Gazette.
This amendment bill, if passed and approved in the current form, will enable the anti-corruption watchdog to look into cases of corruption or abuse of authority in private companies or firms like it has been doing in the government agencies.
Criticizing the government’s proposal to add CIAA as another regulator, private sector leaders have called for an amendment to the provision. The amendment bill even brought the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) together. In what appears to be a rare move, the two umbrella organizations of the private sector issued a joint statement calling for an amendment to the proposed provision.
Business leaders say that bringing the private sector within the legal ambit of the CIAA will lead to interference in the business freedom of private companies and make doing business in the country more difficult.
The proposed provision giving sweeping powers to the anti-corruption watchdog could lead the CIAA’s witch-hunt of businesses, some private sector leaders say.