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Ishwar Khatiwada


Why Politicize the CIAA?

It is disheartening to know that some of our recently re-instated members of parliament are demanding removal of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority’s (CIAA) chief Surya Nath Upadhyay. These are the same political leaders who were indicted with massive corruption and irregularities and brought forward for prosecution by the CIAA. Political leaders ill-conceived motive is simple- replace Mr. Upadhyay with their henchman, come out unscathed from the previous corruption charges and enjoy a new, lavish political life with illegally amassed means. It is a matter of less concern of who will replace Mr. Upadhya in the agency, but a fundamental concern on politicization of CIAA for personal and political gains. Such acts from any responsible side- the government bureaucrats, judicial, and the police, not only severely weaken our institutions but also threaten our national liberty. Besides, these are the same leaders, who during 2000/2001 voted to give CIAA more power and autonomy. If they have had a full-knowledge that their own creation would go after their crimes in the future, most of them would not have voted in favor of empowering the CIAA then.

It is very likely that our octogenarian prime minister with support from his coterie and loyalists will attempt to remove Mr. Upadhyay. There are pending investigations in the CIAA on high-ranking leaders, mostly from the Nepali Congress, including Mr. Koirala and the government bureaucrats. Those parliamentarians who were previously charged by the CIAA are mustering support and lobbying hard to replace Mr. Upadhyay. However, Prime Minister Koirala will need a qualified reason for justifying his case for removing Mr. Upadhyay not only to his opponents and some of his own party members in the parliament but also to the public, media and the members of the civil society. Mr. Koirala should realize that politicizing an institution such as the CIAA will be a national tragedy and a major setback in the fight to reduce corruption. All of us realize that we are plagued by endemic corruption and irregularities in our government and the public service system, as standard law enforcement mechanisms to tackle these chronic problems have utterly failed. The major cause of the failure of such law enforcement mechanisms was the system that itself harbored corrupt officials. How justifiable is it to sacrifice a just and clean system for such reasons as pure retaliations and personal motives. Furthermore, such an irresponsible act from any responsible leader will send a very powerful wrong message to those prone to corruption, especially to some of our inept and corrupt leaders who were fostered in an environment where they felt that could get away with anything, including massive corruption, irregularities and crime. Mr. Koirala and his coterie should realize that politicizing a guard institution such as the CIAA will further erode people’s belief in their leaders and their institutions and convince the public that these leaders have not leaned anything from their past mistakes.

Since getting a new life in 2002, the CIAA has performed in a quite impressive manner. It has overcome numerous obstacles, particularly from political groups, while undertaking its responsibilities. The CIAA has performed its job independently, bringing corrupt leaders and bureaucrats to justice and instilling a belief in others that no one will be spared from corruption and irregularities. It takes many years for any institution to evolve and mature. An independent institution like this one needs to be strengthened in countries like ours where corruption and irregularities are rife. Supporting the CIAA in continuing its course will gradually lessen corruption and irregularities in our public service system thereby creating an environment of fairness and efficiency, two necessary conditions for promoting economic growth. Every year, government corruption and irregularities have stifled potential economic growth in our nation. Research findings on poor countries like ours have consistently revealed a loss in the annual growth rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the monetary value of goods and services produced by a country within a year, ranging from 2 to 3 percentage points due to corruption and irregularities in the public service system. The economic evidence builds a powerful case calling for the strengthening of anti-corruption bodies such as the CIAA in Nepal.

Responsible leaders, media and members of the civil society should strongly oppose the very idea of politicizing CIAA. If there is any virtue left in our political leaders, they should let the CIAA carry out its mission. It will be a betrayal to the Nepalese people who are pining to taste freedom and economic prosperity in a democratic and just society. Mr. Koirala should rise above politics and strongly reject any motions for the politicization of CIAA. Mr. Prime Minister should give his full personal and moral support for the CIAA and its deliberations.

The article was published in the Editorial section of the Kathmandu Post.