A corruption-free society is possible when the powers that be and the CIAA are committed to ending it from all layers
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on Tuesday filed charge-sheets against five persons, including the project manager of Bara-based Bagmati and Lalbakaiya River Training Project, at the Special Court for embezzling millions of rupees through the use of substandard materials.
Project manager Rajkumar Srivastav and engineer Pandav Prasad Dev were charged under the Prevention of Corruption Control Act-2002. The anti-graft body has claimed the principal amount of Rs 36.5 million from each of the duo for paying seven running bills in a row to the contractor companies without conducting the quality test of the gabion used in the construction of studs. Similarly, managing director of Mahadev Khimti Nirman Sewa Pvt Ltd and managing director of Mainachuli Nirman Sewa have also been accused of taking payment for the construction of the stud by providing falsified details.
The CIAA said both of them claimed payment of bills, stating that it was on par with the quality standards stipulated in the specification. The CIAA has also sought the principal amount of Rs 36.5 million from each of them as per the legal provision. The anti-graft body has also sought legal action against the authorised representatives of the contractors for receiving payment on behalf of the contractors, which won the contract to build embankments on the rivers.
While the CIAA deserves praise for taking legal action against the contractors and their representatives, project manager and engineer, the anti-graft body has often received flak from all sides for not taking any prompt legal action against the ‘big fishes’ – mostly politicians and bureaucrats – for their involvement in irregularities and corruption involving billions of rupees. There are so many cases of corruption and irregularities involving high-profile politicians, ministers and bureaucrats.
But the CIAA has taken no action against them or has even closed the files to let them go scot-free.
Omni Group is a case in point. The supplier firm was tasked with importing PPEs and reagents from China to control COVID-19. The group was awarded with the multi-million rupee contract by the Ministry of Health. But it could not deliver the goods on time and whatever goods it brought turned out to be substandard and were less than the quantity specified.
However, the CIAA took no action against it because of the political protection the firm got.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index-2019 report has ranked Nepal 113th out of 180 countries. Though Nepal has improved its ranking in the corruption perception index, it failed to make any progress on long-term issues as the government failed to implement its commitment to zero tolerance against corruption. Taking action against junior level employees and contractors will not help bring an end to corruption. A corruption-free society is possible when the powers that be are committed to it. The CIAA needs be equipped with competent human resources who have no political bias. The persons to be appointed to the CIAA must shun political affiliation, and they must possess high moral integrity and professional credentials. But sad to say, they lack these qualities, and corruption is rife.
Wild tusker menace
Year in year out, wild tuskers go on a rampage, killing people, destroying crops and vandalising property, including farmers’ homes in different parts of the country. Just in the past fortnight, two people have died in attacks by a wild elephant in the Koshi erosion area. The tusker venturing out of the Koshi Wildlife Reserve is said to have killed as many as 24 people in and around the surroundings of the reserve in the past four years. People elsewhere are tormented not only by wild elephants from Nepal’s jungles but also by those straying from across the border in India. Farmers spend sleepless nights as they must keep vigil.
Locals cannot be living in perpetual fear, and the authorities must move into swift action to provide security. To draw the attention of the authorities, the locals often stage demonstrations on the highways, disrupting traffic. They usually end with some compensation package for the affected families and assurances to tame the wild tuskers. Recently, an appliance made by the National Innovation Centre to ward off the monkey menace has proved effective in keeping wild tuskers at bay, too. Perhaps, the authorities could bring the equipment into wider use.