On July 31, Education Minister Ganga Lal Tuladhar told a parliamentary committee that money played a role in admission of students in the government-funded Budhanilkantha School. No one knows if it is a political statement without any sense of accountability by a minister, or a reality. But the onus to bring the whole truth lies on the minister, more than on the school management. Yes, money has started playing a big role, and openly in the current context.
But unless a serious attempt to attack it from the top, or from the political level, begins, and as long as the political bosses continue to appropriate immunity, like in the Darfur scam, under the current political dispensation, no one will take a minister or a politician seriously. Tuladhar may have felt the pinch of corruption in his ministry, but can he be sure, and speak honestly, if the political bosses who have pressurized him to recommend names of seven vice-chancellors for different universities--which he has obediently done--have not taken any money from the would-be vice-chancellors? On August 1, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, who is also the leader of Tuladhar, defied his own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and solely went by what Maoist Chief Prachanda ordered him to do. Khanal said he will use his prerogative as the Prime Minister to expand the Council of Ministers. But was he actually using his prerogative, or acting like a stooge? After all, the Maoists had declared the name and distributed portfolios of all the ministers-to-be a week ago, leaving Khanal with just a fait accompli.
Let us get into the circumstances leading to the cabinet expansion and portfolio distribution. Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari—albeit, held guilty for budget leak, which is a crime in parliamentary practices--allocated Rs 2,000 million for the Peace and Reconstruction Ministry a week ago. Maoist leader Pampha Bhusal came to own that ministry on August 1. During the past five years, since April 2006, the state has been turned into a fief, and each minister has been enjoying discretion to use the ministerial funds without any transparency and accountability.
There is no official auditing of more than 18,000 million rupees that the state paid in salaries and allowances to the Maoist combatants kept in 28 camps and sub-camps. A sizable part of that has gone to the coffer of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M). The authority of the state is being usurped by political parties and their leaders, and they have acted more like swindlers in use or misuse of the state funds. Bhusal will be distributing a large part of funds under her command to Maoist families.
Prachanda did not take long to trudge on the footsteps of G. P.Koirala, who despite his credentials as a 'fighter for democracy', never believed in the principle of probity in public life. He promoted his daughter as an extra-constitutional authority, a status that Prachanda enjoys now.
Prachanda may have tried to placate a section of his disgruntled colleagues by giving their loyalists some share in the cabinet, but he is yet to earn a clean chit on charges of financial irregularities and sources of his property now. His explanation so far has been that ‘others’ in the party are corrupt as well.
Khanal, during his past few months, has spent more than 800 million rupees out of discretion, The amount was almost similar to that spent during Madhav Nepal's regime. Koirala was above the law. Prachanda, Nepal, Khanal and all others of these political breeds are following the precedents he created. Both Khanal and Tuladhar know that Khanal will be in power, as long as Prachanda remains the leader of the UCPN-M, and as long as he supports Prachanda. But Prachanda's support to Khanal will come not to promote nationalism, democracy and economic prosperity, but at their cost.
So the source of corruption that needs to be eradicated lies in political deals, sale of minister's positions, free hand to politically affiliated gangsters to acquire overnment contract, and political patronage to clandestine business of natural resources including stones, sands and forests. Tuladhar can sort out the Budhanilkantha issue in a few hours if he is committed to fight corruption inside his government and his party at the top. There has been no government as corrupt in the past, and no minister above accountability in corruption cases like in the present.