Corruption has been widespread in Nepal. There is virtually no sector in Nepal that is free from this ailment. While the Prime Minister boasts of ‘Happy Nepali, Prosperous Nepal,’ the visionless ideas of the incompetent government have only shattered the hopes of the ‘happy Nepali’. The scale of corruption in the country has only gone from bad to worse, over the course of two years that KP Oli has taken office. The government has time and again said that it has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption but there have been several contradictions to that statement. The incompetency of the government to control and eradicate corruption has only been maintained to push people out of positions only to appoint someone equally or far more corrupt in nature.
To begin with, there are several legal tools in place that have been designed to prevent corruption and other irregularities. The CIAA has reported several arrests of people in positions over corruption charges. At a press conference in January CIAA spokesperson, Pradeep Kumar Koirala has appreciated ‘the great achievements’ of CIAA by busting several corruption cases by using sting tactics. However, in several of those cases the court has ruled out on the decision of corruption because CIAA has been found to be working under the behest of special interest groups. CIAA is a powerful institutional body that is given responsibility to control graft in the government to ensure a good governance. But CIAA has been found taking sides while they trap small fishes but let the big ones free. CIAA is not going after people who are involved in tax evasion. Around 200 firms have been found in faking VAT bills worth Rs 15 billion but the CIAA is happy to trap small cases of bribery. None of the big scams of high-profile cases like the Airbus deal, Ncell tax or the Yeti Holdings have been investigated. This only portrays that the CIAA, the only anti-graft body in the country has sidelined larger issues of corruption making the CIAA ironically, a corrupt body too.
In addition to that, in a recent event, The Metropolitan Police Circle in Durbarmarg was found to be faking an incident involving 14 kilograms of gold. While it was said by the APF that a suspected car was followed after the police were tipped, to be carrying a huge amount of gold. Later the car threw the yellow metal and some weapons from a moving vehicle only to have the Nepal Police get busy collecting the gold thrown on the roads of Kamaladi, as it was said. The police did not nab the car. Later when the case was analyzed there was no CCTV evidence that the Durbarmarg Police seized the ‘gold’ from Kamaladi area. It was later investigated by another division only to find that the Police involved in nabbing the people in the car, did not even contact their Division to take the vehicle under control. Such instances make people doubt the authenticity of the entire Police Force. The people entrust the police force to control and manage any suspicious situations but if the police are creating false stories, it only shows the incompetency of the whole Police Force.
In the 57th Annual Report by the office of the Auditor General, it has been stated that the minister and high-level authorities have been misusing state fund in pretext of maintaining law and order. Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and former home secretary have been found to be releasing and spending Rs 7.2 and Rs 7.3 million of funds respectively from the state coffers, the report states. The reason for this extravagant expenditure seems to be unclear only to reiterate the fact that these funds might have been corrupted by the officials. The same report also indicated that the ministry of Home Affairs was found to be distributing large amounts as medical expenses and financial relief. The office of Auditor General has recommended the government to control such embezzlement off state funds and develop clear guidelines for transparency. This kind off spending causes the nation great financial loss. It also questions the moralities of our leadership.
Similarly, controversial political appointments of people who fuel corruption have been rampant. In a recent event, the government decided to appoint Upendra Kumar Koirala as the chairperson of Rastriya Banijya Bank. Koirala has been known to have ties with the Deputy Minister Ishwar Pokharel has already worked in various government bodies as a political appointee. He has been accused of involvement in embezzlement and corruption several times during his previous appointments. Appointment of such personalities only reinforces corruption. More often than not such corrupt people also escape punishment on paltry bail. The person accused of corruption have avoided harsh punishments without or negligible bail. The demand of payment of paltry, negligible bails, have only been factors that encourage corruption.
The evidence of failure of the government has been perceptible in its inability to tackle COVID -19 cases too. From the beginning of the pandemic in the country, the government was engulfed in corruption of procuring medical kits, preparing quarantine facilities and accommodation and other important facilities that counter the effects of a pandemic. To add to that, the government imposed an abrupt a four-month long lockdown on March 23, 2020. During the lockdown, the government should have prepared to set up quarantine and isolation facilities, COVID-dedicated infrastructure, training frontline health workers and expanding tests. The government should have prepared itself to upgrade the health infrastructure during the lockdown, but instead the lockdown was lifted on July 21, 2020, as abruptly as it was imposed. Four months of lockdown and a re-shutdown has drained the country’s economy. While the health impact is an important concern, a prolonged lockdown will damage the economy for a long time. The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has estimated that it would take at least nine months after the lockdown is fully lifted for the economy to come back to where it was. NRB has studied that in the past five months of lockdown, a total of 22.5% of those employed have lost jobs. Tourism and aviation sector have been hit the hardest, where revenue has been almost zero in the past five months. Businesses have been equally hit. Businesses that have taken loan from banks are not in a position to repay even the interests, let alone the capital, because transactions have been close to none. The government has remained mum even through all of this.
Corruption is rife and large scandals are pushed under the rug. Investigations are being pursed slowly. The corruption in various bodies of the state only weakens the nation. In a developing country like Nepal, the lack of a strong leadership and transparency makes it difficult to implement good governance thus fueling the fire corruption needs. The procurement of health supplies, delay in test results, and failure to provide adequate support to its people are only some issues that brings forth the current government’s incompetency. The CIAA’s inability to charge larger cases that affect the good governance only portrays the government in a negative light. The public frustration towards the government’s inability to control corruption is rising. The COVID-19 crisis has brought forth and amplified a number of the government’s long-standing weaknesses like corruption, poor preparation to any given situation, and negligence to provide employment opportunities to those that have returned back to the nation. It has also magnified the incompetency of our Health Ministry proving how our healthcare system is under-resourced. The government has miserably failed to provide a firm foundation to the people that voted it into power. As people of the nation we should be more vigilant and watch the government more carefully than ever to ensure transparency.