Nepali Times
By The Way
Corrupt at the roots



In a nationwide public opinion poll conducted earlier this year by Himalmedia, the publisher of this newspaper, respondents overwhelmingly said they wanted local elections. A recent Carter Center report reaches the same conclusion.

The opening of political space in the last few months has contributed to healing the wounds of conflict and kick-started development work stalled for the last decade, but the report concludes that there are serious challenges to transparency andaccountability.

Local governance these days is carried out by what are euphemistically called all-party mechanisms, and they have grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons. From small scuffles over the appointment of user committees to fighting over kickbacks in lucrative road and irrigation projects, the mechanisms have a notorious reputation for corruption.

The same Himalmedia poll showed most people hadn't heard of the mechanisms, and those that had didn't think much of them. It is not hard to imagine why people do not trust them, and prefer to go to council members they elected back in 1999--the last time local elections were held. This is an indication, in spite of being denied the right to elect local leaders for over a decade, the public faith in democracy is still deep rooted. They know that only through accountable local leadership will they get service delivery.

The 'all-party mechanism' was set up earlier this year to fill the vacuum created after local bodies were dissolved 10 years ago. But the body has become a fertile ground for corruption with the appointees from various parties 'cooperating' to divide up allocated budgets.

Politically powerful local members have hijacked influential positions and even supposedly non-partisan bodies like school management committees and user groups overseeing local projects have become grossly politicised. Appointment and dismissal of teachers in school committees and elections to key positions on the committees of the user groups have turned local bodies into battlegrounds.

A journalist in Rukum notes that school management elections frequently lead to turf wars between political parties. Ordinary citizens in the local committees are either excluded or pressured and threatened to fall into line. The report cites examples where positions were even distributed to outsiders under the influence of the political parties.

Road committees were among the most corrupt simply because that is where most money is. In one road committee, the report says, nine of the 15 members were from the village all-party mechanism, with three key position going to NC, UML and the Maoists in clear violation of the government regulations.

In places where the Big Three don't agree on their share of the spoils, projects are indefinitely delayed or even suspended. An irrigation project in Sunsari was suspended because the parties did not agree on positions in the committee and a road project in another VDC is in limbo for years.

At one level, people believe party involvement has helped to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and push through local development. But the lack of elected leaders has made local bodies less transparent.

The Local Development Ministry is making adjustments to policies, and a decision to restrict the tenure of the committee members and make them legally accountable is a welcome one.

The Carter Center's Sarah Levit-Shore says, "Corruption at the local level is linked with larger problem of impunity. For laws and regulations to be effective, they need to be fully enforced. Once it is clear that people will be held accountable for their actions regardless of their political affiliation, the deterrence effect will increase."

The parent parties are silent on the issue, probably because they benefit so much. Senior leaders often use influence at the local level for their own interests, showing that the rot starts right at the top. There is deep disquiet about the conduct of the parties, but most people don't speak for fear of their own safety.

Most people prefer to overlook what goes on in local bodies, and try to get on with their lives the best they can. But it is clear that the democratic deficit at the grassroots is setting back the people's welfare.

See also:
A decade of democratic deficit , ANURAG ACHARYA
Local elections needed to spur local development, most survey respondents say

Read also:
Awesome chance

Unfinished business, RUBEENA MAHATO
The problems of a nation are too complex and entrenched to be corrected by fait accompli decision-making

1. concerned citizen
I was sickened to hear that Maoists have taken more than 1 Billion Rupees of Nepali Tax Payers money for rebels who have already abandoned their cantonment. This is in addition to tax they charge their own army for state allowances. No wonder these Maoist leaders are living a life of luxury while their soldiers are living a life of misery . No wonder they want to prolong the peace process as long as possible.ツ
This shows how corrupt and criminal these Maoists are and why we should not expect anything from them. They are more corrupt than Royals, Congress, and UML combined.ツ

2. prakash
These political parties are mercenary. At any cost, and by hook or crook they cooperate for gobbling the national treasure. But, when there comes a single point to be discuss for the country's empowerment, they seems to loggerheads within. Such double head strategy by these so called "purveyor of good democratic government" are bounded by narrow interest of their own. Political parties should be taught a lesson by all the outsider-like civil society, journalists and other concern citizens so that these leaders walk in a path of justice and what really the duty of them.

3. who cares
i too demand local election.......... look at the faces of those who oppose local election, SC verdict regarding CA's term--- maoist, jhallu ram gang .. ... their reason looks even more stupid.

4. kamal kishor
The pace of the development when local bodies were functioning was much more higher, more tranparent, more people oriented, and more need based. Many programs were big headlines even in international media. Many were the fine examples of people's democracy and grass-roots democracy. Even though at the end time, they were being manupulated by the Maoists, but the threats of these movements to the Maoists agendas were so big, that the first thing they did was to dismantle it and others could not resists.

Let us hope that election of local bodies would take place as soon as possible so that ordinary people could feel a part of democratization of Nepal.

5. Deepak Magar
The politics and politicians of Nepal have gone too far. In the same vein, politics in USA has also crossed many limits.テつ People in Nepal are fed up of being poor.テつ People in America are fed of losing their jobs and homes. People in America are fed up of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kudos to Obama the wars are winding down, bad news for the Repblicans with ties to defense industry.テつ People in Nepal are just lazy.テつ The people in America are doing something, they have the OCUUPY movement. Theテつ American people have woken up and are taking matters in their hands.テつ They have Occupy Wall Street and now Occupy The Congress of United States. This is what we need in Kathmandu.テつ Lets us occupy Singha Durbar and the Prime Minister's home and all the other ministers home.テつ We cannot let a handful of corrupt people in govt hijack the future of Nepal and Nepalis.テつ The Civil society in Nepal is full of jokers,テつ hand in glove with the party in power. Its for the people to start the uprising. There is no time to lose or waste. The time to act is now.テつ Lets teach these dirty politicians a lesson they will never forget. Lets make them an offer thet cannot refuse.テつ テつ テつ テつ テつ

6. Phurpa Tamang
Corruption can be seen in everywhere in Nepal. It is not only in governmental offices. Why our forest area is decreasing day by day? Why the market price is hiking day by day and why high inflation rate in Nepal? Why timely works are not completing? Why kidnapping? murdering? theft? Banks are not operating smoothly? Why no water facility? Whyツload shedding? If we ask these questions, the answers come because of corruption. Nepal is becoming a golden ground for DON culture. These gangs have direct connection with ツpolitical parties. Therefore the police force is failing toツeradicate such activities. Political parties sister organizations are also showing the similar activities. The industry is totally collapsed by the labor politics. Business men are not paying taxes. The evasion of taxes is also called crime. Therefore we need to identify new definition of corruption for Nepalese context.ツ
Advocate Phurpa Tamangツ

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)