Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli spares no opportunity to express commitment to root out all forms of corruption from the country. In public speeches, he reiterates that zero tolerance against corruption is one of the key agendas of his government. Indeed, this is how it should be for corruption has plagued our public institutions. Prime Minister is heard to direct anti-corruption bodies not to spare any corrupt persons—whether officials of his government or cadres of his party. “Adopt zero tolerance policy on corruption,” he told the officials of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on the occasion of International Anti-corruption Day last week. But his aides are making mockery of these commitments. Republica’s investigation has found that honorary Information Technology (IT) consultant to Prime Minister KP Oli, Asgar Ali, is misusing his position to secure major IT contracts at different government bodies without a competitive bidding process. IT-related projects are being awarded to private companies of Ali’s choice directly through cabinet decisions so as to avoid investigations by CIAA.
Ali, in backing with Prime Minister’s Chief Advisor Bishnu Rimal, has been found exerting pressure on various government bodies to secure major projects for companies he favors. Our investigation shows Ali and Rimal have already helped these firms bag some contracts this way and many others are in the process of being awarded to certain firms without competitive bidding. For example, a contract was awarded to Malika Incorporate Private Limited, to print smart licenses through a cabinet decision on September 16, without announcing tender bids. These actors even manage secret trips for their near and dear ones to secure contracts for the companies they like. Ali has been also exerting pressure on Nepal Telecommunications Authority to award a contract worth USD 13 million for design, development, establishment, examination, operation and consulting of Mobile Service Management and Promotion System to a private firm of his choice.
It is obvious what damages this all will result in. When contracts are awarded without following due process of competitive bidding, quality of work suffers and people get low quality of service at the cost of huge expense from state coffers. It also involves exchange of huge amount in kickbacks—leading to bad governance and large-scale corruption. Besides, a consultant’s main job is to offer advice to the prime minister in areas of his personal expertise, not to exercise power and influence. Most of all, such activities defame the government and its head. It is hard to believe prime minister is unaware of this shoddy practices abetted by the actors he has entrusted to carry out vital jobs. In fact, he has no liberty not to be aware of this. Prime Minister should investigate complicity of his aides in misusing the power that comes by virtue of being his aides and hold them accountable. Not doing so will send the message that he is allowing his aides to amass wealth illegally. This will badly erode his credibility.