Case against CIAA

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Case against CIAA

This is the time to say “Down with the CIAA”. This is not just a demand for the abolition of this anti-graft body. It is also the reason for such a demand. The entire Nepali economy as well as the entire institutional superstructure of democracy based on political parties are going “down with the CIAA”. 

Many ongoing development works have stalled due to the fear of the CIAA. Government officials do not dare to take a decision out of fear of the CIAA. As a consequence, the businesses that depend on development activities initiated by the government are left in limbo. We all know that the major spender (for both consumption and investment) in the Nepali economy is the government. And there are many private sector firms that have been directly attacked by the CIAA. 

And the entire political leadership of the country is now discredited. The general perception is that the impeachment being initiated against CIAA chief Lok Man Singh Karki was triggered primarily due to Karki’s initiatives to start investigations into the corrupt practices of the political leaders. Thus, not only businesses and the government administration, even the political leadership is going “down with the CIAA”.

As Karki is facing parliamentary impeachment, the Supreme Court is checking if his qualifications were sufficient enough to give him that coveted position. The general public seems convinced that he will get out for sure. He may not be able to overcome both these challenges. But even his ouster will not make him powerless. He already possesses so many weapons in his hands that outside the CIAA he will be more dangerous to the system and society than while in the CIAA where he has to observe at least a few legal and procedural limitations. 

If Karki is removed from the CIAA ultimately, the next question is: Who will succeed him and how will the successor be selected? 

Anyone who gets such supreme power as the CIAA chief is naturally prone to misuse it. As the saying goes, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

Also, the existing process of selecting the person for that position is not right. Karki was selected by a few political leaders and his successor will be selected by a similar (practically the same) group. The only difference is that now there will be a parliamentary hearing before the is appointment. However, that parliamentary hearing has been proved to be a mere ritual that just approves the nomination. It only delays the appointment by a few days or weeks.

No matter who and how the CIAA chief is appointed, experience shows that the CIAA has become a problem in itself rather than it helping to solve the problem. It has become the main source of corruption, the main claim in the impeachment motion. Undoubtedly, it is exacerbating that very problem of corruption by not taking any action against those who are clearly identified as being corrupt. And it is forcing people to be corrupt. If a government official entrusted with a duty avoids doing that duty for fear of the CIAA or otherwise, that too is corruption. 

There are many countries in the world where there is no anti-graft agency like the CIAA, but the problem of corruption is the lowest by world standard. Let’s learn from the kind of system they have. Such countries have clear laws that do not grant any discretionary leverage to government officials. 

So, if parliament, while discussing the impeachment case against Karki, decides to scrap the CIAA and sets out on fine tuning the existing laws and formulating others that discourage corrupt practices and dereliction of duty of any kind, that will be a really great development worth rejoicing. 

Madan Lamsal
madanlamsal@gmail.com

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