CIAA fails to take up corruption row in cantonments
THIRA L BHUSAL
KATHMANDU, Aug 25: Despite calls from opposition parties to probe the financial irregularities in the Maoist cantonments, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has turned a blind eye to the matter even as the issue has become a big scandal within the UCPN (Maoist) party.
However, officials at the CIAA said they were closely monitoring the issue though it has not formally begun any investigation into the alleged embezzlement of millions of rupees released from the state coffer as ration and salary to former Maoist combatants.
"We are aware of the issue and the CIAA is closely monitoring the matter," CIAA Secretary Bhagwati Prasad Kafle told Republica. However, he refused to elaborate.
The corruption in the cantonments became a major issue during the Maoist party´s plenum held in July and the party had to form an internal investigation commission to probe the financial irregularities amounting to around Rs. 2 billion. The commission is investigating the allegation by collecting complaints from party leaders and cadres.
Opposition leaders and former combatants have accused the Maoist leadership of misappropriating over two billion rupees by producing forged signatures of about 6,000 "fake combatants who never existed or were never in the cantonments".
Though CIAA officials said the anti-corruption body is closely monitoring the matter, independent experts believe that the CIAA without any commissioner would not be able to take up an issue of this magnitude.
Sources at the commission said they were in wait and watch mode and they would take up the matter at the right time.
"It is not that the CIAA has turned a blind eye to the issue. We are watching it and can take up the matter at a right time," said the source. "There is nothing to worry even if it takes some time to investigate into the matter because the Commission can take it up any time in future."
Sources at the CIAA further said officials believe that the Commission should take up the matter only after the body is headed by a strong leadership. They thought it wouldn´t be right time to take up the matter given the fact that the government and political leadership from other political parties hadn´t bothered to appoint commissioners even though they had retired in January, 2010.
Though leaders from opposition parties have accused the CIAA officials of turning a blind eye to the matter, experts said it was not fair to blame the officials.
Bishnu Bahadur KC, president of Transparency International Nepal, said that the political leadership should own up the responsibility for the failure because they were the ones who had virtually paralyzed the commission .
"I don´t see any point in blaming the CIAA officials for the failure to take up issues of such magnitude," KC told Republica. "The political leaders need to appoint commissioners instead of pointing fingers at the staffers."
According to him, the only solution left for the government and major political parties is to appoint chief and other commissioners at the CIAA and entrust it with the task of uncovering any irregularities in the cantonments so as to ensure good governance in the country.
Also, a former commissioner of the CIAA, preferring anonymity, said the political leadership´s intention to render the anti-graft body toothless is the major reason behind the failure to address such issues.
According to KC, his head office had written to the prime minister demanding the government make public all the details of expenditures made in the name of former Maoist combatants and in all the cantonments across the country.
"We corresponded with the prime minister´s office demanding that the government make public all the details about the expenditures because the money distributed in cantonments and in the name of cantonments was released from state treasury," KC explained. "We demanded breakdowns of the expenditures."