Realities In Conflict Of Interest And Challenges Of Combating Corruption In Nepal: PART -TWO

Addressing both the causes of conflict of interest and effects of corruption in governance is crucial for promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance and community welfare in a society.

June 8, 2023, 7:52 a.m.

Continued…...

Why is Nepal being labelled most corrupt in Asia?

Political interference, financial mismanagement, and lack of accountability of the public funds by the decision makers in the governance system have contributed to the conflict of interest across all three branches of the governance. It is perceived by people that government officials and political leaderships have conflicting interests, such as personal gain or loyalty to certain groups or individuals, they may be more likely to engage in corrupt practices, such as bribery or nepotism. This situation would lead to policies and decisions that serve their own interests rather than the public good and/or in favor of the common people. This undermines public trust in government institutions which are under the dominance of political patronage, and they are unable to function autonomously for the public good, leading to morally unjust behavior, political instability, and unrest.

Addressing both the causes of conflict of interest and effects of corruption in governance is crucial for promoting transparency, accountability, and good governance and community welfare in a society. This requires robust combating measures like anti-graft and corrupt practices and red-tape laws, independent oversight and enforcement mechanisms, and transparency in decision-making process.Top of FormBottom of Form

Several factors have contributed to the cancer of corruption in state bureaucracy in Nepal, major ones being political interference, inefficient bureaucracy, fiscal abuse, ineffective parliamentarians, and the subservient nature of bureaucrats. Political interference is common where politicians use their power to influence bureaucratic decisions or engage in patronage networks to advance their own interests. This is exemplified by the appointment of unqualified or corrupt officials, and the misuse of public resources for personal gain.

Inefficient and inept bureaucracy enhance state corruption, as bureaucratic processes become slow and less transparent appearing like it is a complex, and opaque to most people. This concomitantly creates opportunities for officials and intermediaries to demand bribes or engage in graft and other corrupt practices to expedite or manipulate decision-making processes.

The other major problem is the subservient nature of bureaucrats in Nepal is a contributing factor to state and political corruption. It may also be recognized that, in many cases, bureaucrats may not be the only one and independent actors but serve on the whim of political leaders or senior officials. This creates a culture of deference and obedience, where officials prioritize loyalty to their superiors over their duties to the public.

Civil Service cadre in Nepal is influential because of unionization on political party lines and network of patronage who frequently use bureaucratic appointments to create a culture of favoritism and political loyalty, rather than merit-based appointments and transfers as a tool to consolidate power and reward supporters. This is one of the major problems that has wreaked the civil service in Nepal and system of governance has become near dysfunctional and have failed delivery of public goods for common people.

The issue of corruption in the state governance requires adoption and implementation of combat measures to increase transparency, accountability, and professionalism to reduce political interference and simplicity in bureaucratic decision-making processes. However, it is also important to note that combating corruption is a long-term process that requires sustained effort and commitment from all stakeholders.

C. Measures to Combat Cancer Culture of Corruption:

To manage corruption, Nepal needs strong legislations, rules, and regulations, upon analyzing root causes of the conflict of interest and operating environment that fosters corruption. This could include effective anti-graft and corrupt practices and anti-red tape laws, promote transparency and accountability, and build public trust in government institutions. Below are some measures which would help check political, financial, and judicial corruption in Nepal:

(i) Strengthening anti-graft and corrupt practices and re-tape laws and institutions with strong legal frameworks: Nepal needs a robust legal framework that criminalizes corruption and provides harsh penalties for those found guilty. The government must enforce these laws strictly and impartially. To do this, Nepal needs to have strong Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices and the Anti-Red Tape Laws that would provide the backbone for the country’s fight against corruption. Our efforts should be focused on this just as democracy requires constant monitoring and reform. Laws should be applied across all segments of society and institutions to prevent and punish corruption without exceptions and to reduce conflict of interest. Effective execution and implementation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices and Anti-Red-Tape Laws will require autonomous Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and strengthened to ensure their independence, impartiality, and effectiveness. Anti-corruption agencies should be provided with sufficient legal powers, resources, and authority to investigate and prosecute graft and corrupt practices which can go a long way in addressing this cancer in the governance. The selection of senior appointees to run this institution is to be selected on the merits of individuals having impeccable exacting standards of relevant work experience and having non-political background. The selection process must also include open discussions on the candidates, and voting in public by a select committee, including members from civil society organizations.

(ii) Increasing transparency and accountability: Nepal needs to promote transparency and accountability in its governance processes, including public procurement, budgeting (not only as a yearly event without open debate), and accountable fiscal management. Transparency and accountability are key to fighting corruption. Nepal can increase transparency by making government processes, budgets, and transactions publicly available and accessible. The government should implement a system of performance auditing and measures to ensure that public officials are held accountable for their actions as well as for their inactions. For this purpose, laws should be enacted allowing freedom of information accelerating programs like citizen’s partnership in scrutiny of the government’s auditing program to promote inclusive governance and transparency, modelling from international best practices. This must precede with audit of “Beruzu” account (yearly sum of billions of rupees) and performance auditing system in Nepal for financial accountability which does not exist yet.

(iii) Enhancing public awareness: Encouraging citizen participation in decision-making process and creating channels for feedback and grievance redressal can help to prevent corruption. Educating the public about the harms of corruption and how to recognize them and report would be equally crucial. This can go a long way in preventing and fighting corruption. The government, civil society organizations, and the free media can play a key role in raising awareness and promoting a culture of zero-tolerance towards corruption and minimize conflict of interest.

(iv) Strengthening judicial independence: Judicial independence is critical to ensuring the rule of law and fighting corruption in any democracy. Selection of judges should be transparent, and on merit, and appointees must have impeccably exacting standards of relevant work experience and who are non-partisan and have no political affiliation whatsoever. The government should take measures to ensure that the judiciary is free and independent without political influence and pressure and can provide fair and impartial justice.

(v) Strengthening bureaucracy: The bureaucracy can play a crucial role in combating corruption. It is essential to recognize that no single institution can stop it on its own. It requires a collaborative effort from all segments of society to create a corruption-free Nepal. The bureaucracy in Nepal needs to be strengthened with competent and well-trained staff who are adequately compensated financially, secured, and protected from political interference. The merit-based recruitment system would help reduce corruption in recruitment and promotion processes.

(vi) Creating a whistleblower protection mechanism: Raising awareness among working employees and civil society organizations about the impact of corruption on society and promoting civic education can help to build a culture of accountability and transparency. In these efforts, whistleblowers can play a vital role in exposing corruption. Nepal should create a mechanism to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and ensure their anonymity.

(vii) Implementing e-Governance: E-governance could help reduce corruption by increasing transparency, reducing human interaction, and improving efficiency. Nepal should invest in e-governance infrastructure to ensure that government processes are streamlined, and corruption is minimized. This should start with reforming the government procurement process and focus on quality, timely delivery, and sustainability rather than cost-effectiveness.

(viii) Strengthening political party finance regulations and electoral reform: Political parties are often the leading source of conflict of interest and causes corruption. Nepal should strengthen regulations around political party finance, intra-party consultation process, and electoral system reform to ensure that inclusive and transparency in their deliberations and management of party affairs, funding, finances, and abide by culture of ethics in democratic functioning of political party.

D. Implications:

Conflict of interest in parliamentary system of governance and uncertain future.

The parliamentary system of governance has failed deliveries on people’s expectations of sustainable economic development due to overwhelming conflict of interest in the system of governance. Governance operating modules and instruments appear to have been favorable to elected officials catering vested personal interests for power, authority of the position motivated by financial gains in policies or decisions being made by the government. This has created a situation where the officials prioritize their own interests over those of the constituency and the nation they are elected to represent. There have been several instances of conflict of interests among parliamentarians and decision makers in the executive, bureaucracy, and judiciary. Long term implications of such dismal performance of the governance system in this tiny republic are hard to predict except to say that there will be long-term adverse fall outs and compromises in common people’s aspiration to prosperity and wellness. Undoubtedly, this nation is actively transforming itself to become a failed state of the 21st century, instead of graduating to the club of middle-income countries as a sustainable economy in coming years as predicted by the successive governments.

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