Nepal stands 122 out of 180 countries measured in Transparency International’s recently released annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). While this is a slight improvement from last year’s ranking of 131, corruption is still rampant in Nepal. Even in our nationwide survey last year, we found public institutions the most corrupt. While TI’s CPI is not accurate measure of the extent of corruption in Nepal, this is a reflection of people’s experience of dealing with different agencies in their day-to-day life. Now that we have all tiers of government, it is the right time for us to pledge to make our systems corruption free. Many chief ministers, chairmen of rural municipalities and mayors of cities have pledged to make their place zero-tolerance in corruption, but we have yet to see targeted, effective campaign to make their pledge come true.
Often offices like land revenue and driving license department rank at the top of the list where citizens pay to get even the basic service. Many anecdotal accounts also point to tax payers’ office where people have to bribe in order to pay their taxes. Ironically, officers at these offices even discourage people from paying their share of taxes. This must change. The federal government is already struggling to come up with enough resources to run the new system. Our revenue base has not increased. Economic growth has not taken off yet. Industries are not running in full capacity and our vital infrastructures like roads and communication remain poor. Part of the reason for delays in these projects is also corruption, and this reaches from the very top to the bottom. Everyone in that chain from minister to the contractor is benefitting at the cost of tax payer money. Unless we urgently do something to change this, our projects will never be completed, and only few will keep on making money.
We believe that with commitment from corruption control agencies and judicial bodies, we can improve our CPI ranking. On Thursday, Special Court slapped seven-year jail term to former chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board for embezzlement on the case filed by Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Such ruling could go a long way in deterring the public officials from misusing tax payers’ money while in office. But for this, the CIAA needs to work proactively. Most importantly, there should be strong political commitment among the top leaders of the parties to make the country corruption-free. We urge prime minister K P Oli to take a major step against corruption. A crusade against this infectious disease can be a part of the cure that everyone is hoping from the new leader. PM Oli reiterated his promise to end corruption on the day of swearing-in. We will wait to see if he turns that promise into a promising action plan.