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Ishwar Khatiwada

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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.

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  40. Issuse relating replacing S.N Upadhaya and restructuring CIAA are two different issues..Many sources claim that S.upadhaya himself has been involved in lot of irregularities when he was a bureauocrat..
    He did brought out lot of issues involving corruptions and irregularities but he was indiscriminate in bringing charges to people who were innocent..His charges have ruined many innocent bureaucrats career rather than bringing corrupt people to justice.Therefore, I strongly feel that he should be replaced by someone who is ethical and neutral person who isnot influenced by any political forces..
    I strongly feel CIAA has to be made stronger and independent from executive branch of the goverment and it should be able to bring corrupt people to justice including Mr.Upadhaya. himself..And I do feel there are lot of capable people who can do better job than Mr.upadhaya
    Replacing him with somebody ethical and not driven by political interest doesnot reduce the credibilty of CIAA rather its reputation will be strenghten..

  41. A neutral political body that investigates corrutpion may be a good idea for a country like Nepal, where political meddling in beaurocratic affairs in very high. However, if institutions of our country were strong (like the FBI and supreme court in the US), having it under the AG’s office would also be a good idea.

    Another way would be to have CIAA report to the Supreme Court, a neutral strong body.

  42. I am even wondering why we need CIAA in the first place. We should empower office of public prosecutor or Attorney General (AG). The body like CIAA should exist as a unit inside AG organization. We can’t have any organization not reporting to the parliament directly or indirectly. Who does S.N. Upadhyaya currently report too? King? If so, it does not make sense any more. Who fires him? What happens if he is corrupted? There needs to be clear and transparent reporting structure that we all can understand. I have some respect for S.N. Upadhyaya. He may not misuse his authority. What about somebody else replacing him? The CIAA the way it exists now can’t be justified. It needs to be restructured. How does other democratic country prosecute civil servants and political leaders?
    I know how it works in USA. FBI and public prosecutor start investigation based on media reports and even soft rumors. Following investigation, either the person is charged or case is dropped. If charged, the court things start and defendant remains innocent until proven guilty. AG reports to the head of the executive body, the President. Still the AG office can prosecute even the president. If the AG office does not do, congress has right to start its own investigation. This happens in partisan cases like Iran-Contra and Monica Lewinsky. Most of the time AG office works very in a very balanced way.

    We have to learn from these matured protocols which have worked in great democratic countries instead of trying to create something of our own. Ultimate power and authority should be with the people via their elected representative. CIAA in current form does not make sense any more. Let us restructure it.

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