| May 23, 2019

Is tolerance of corruption increasing in Nepali society?

 The CPI scores countries  based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and a 100 means that a country is perceived as very clean. The CPI scores countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and a 100 means that a country is perceived as very clean.

KATHMANDU, JUNE 15 : Former All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) chairman Ganesh Thapa was accused of embezzling around £4m and implicated in bribery by FIFA's executive committee. Later, the RPP-N nominated him as a lawmaker under the party's proportional representation quota in Parliament. Nepal's civil society could not make a serious issue out of this. As a result, Thapa has been enjoying a position of power despite the serious allegations made against him by the renowned global sports body.

 NC leader Khum Bahadur Khadka, who was convicted of corruption by the Supreme Court, polled the second highest number of votes in the recent election for the party's Central Working Committee. How soon NC cadres forgot that Khadka was a convict and voted for him.

It is an open secret that bribery is commonplace when obtaining services at various government offices such as Land Revenue, Transport Management and Customs. Systematic hurdles have been created at such agencies and the public opts to pay some bribes to get over these instead of resisting the corruption. And the government does not bother to crack down.

The above-mentioned examples and observations indicate how corruption seems to be getting social acceptance and how public tolerance has increased. It is noteworthy that despite government announcements about  curbing corruption through preventive and legal measures, the incidence of corruption remains unabated. Various government agencies against corruption and independent and autonomous constitutional bodies, including the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the National Vigilance Center (NVC), the Judiciary and the parliamentary committees have become ineffective, said Bharat Bahadur Thapa, president of Transparency International Nepal.

Enforcement of anti-corruption measures is important for curbing corruption. But according to Thapa, such measures and the laws have only become tools for silencing political rivals and dissident voices.

The CIAA has often courted controversy and NVC cannot take bold decisions without the consent of the government, he said. “Politicians and the various cartels and syndicates work hand-in-globe. As a result, the parliamentary committees have become morally weak and lethargic,” he opined. Gradually, corruption has become part of our political system and the corrupt enjoy the protection of politicians, he said. The anti-corruption battle has turned into a direct confrontation between powerful politicians, the cartel and syndicates and top bureaucrats on one hand and small groups of the public who do not hold any power on the other. Institutional protection of corruption by powerful leaders and the political parties has made matters worse, he said.

According to Thapa, it is embarrassing for a democratic country to see even the judiciary, which is supposed to dispense justice, being subjected to corruption allegations. There were newspaper reports about judges being bribed by medical colleges to rule in their favor. The issue faded away without any thorough investigation by the authorities concerned. Nor was there any meaningful debate by independent civil society members. Malpractices in the judiciary have become rampant because of the lack of surveillance over judiciary staff, Thapa said. Such rampant malpractices as a result of lack of surveillance worries him, he further said.

The role of civil society should be more effective when the government shows itself feckless in such matters. But these days questions have been raised from various quarters why the voice of civil society is so diminished.

Administration expert Dr Bhim Dev Bhatta believed that this is because of  frustration among anti-corruption activists. Civil society leaders and social groups feel that their voice will not be heard, he said. The situation had resulted in social acceptance by default for corruption and the corrupt.

There are several social factors that contribute to increased corruption. In our society, social respect is directly linked to the amount of property someone has, with scant regard for how that property was come by, Bhatta said. And nobody dares to question the source of income of those who are in power. “This  has resulted in a situation where corruption is socially accepted.”

The most powerful tool to challenge corruption is the commitment of individuals to fight against it, said Thapa of Transparency International. We need to embolden the public  to hold the leaders accountable, he added. The entire political system would become defunct if people stopped speaking out against corruption.