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Failed Leaders And Corrupt Nation-X

Issue 04, January 23, 2011

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Corruption has been in the blood of the Nepalese rulers whether they have been the Ranas, Shahs, or Koiralas and lately Madhavs. The 104-year Rana rule has been the darkest period of the Nepalese history for the Nepalis in general; as the Ranas have sucked the people’s blood to the extent possible keeping them starve while they have enjoyed lavish dinners in the western styled palaces. After the fall of the despotic Rana rule, Shahs have taken over the power and during their reign they have institutionalized the corruption. Then, Koiralas have come to power only to grab everything possible, and let the politicians and state officials take bribe on the table. Finally, unelected Madhav and his fellow ministers have stolen the taxpayers’ money shamelessly.

If we take a look at the Auditor General’s annual reports we find billions of rupees have been spent going out of the rules and regulations but the Auditor General has no authority to do anything but the parliament that has authority to do something has to depend on the government for taking actions against the corrupt. How could a bunch of corrupt people running a government take actions against themselves for corruption?

On Sunday, January 16, 2011, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the annual report of the Office of the Auditor General has revealed that the Nepal Army has Rs 1.61 billion worth of irregularities in its financial accounts, as the Nepal Army has spent the money not following the financial norms, acts and regulations, writes. The unsettled accounts date back to several years. However, the Nepal Army Accounts Coordinator Brigadier General Amir Bista has no remorse for not complying with the financial rules and laws rather blames the officials of the office of the Auditor General for not letting the Nepal Army know the rules, regulations and laws so that he could comply with the financial rules, regulations and laws. Director at the office of the Auditor General, Radha Krishna Paudel has apprised the PAC members that the Office of the Director General of Development and Construction of the Nepal Army has been awarding building construction contracts without estimating the cost and calling for tenders. The eight units of the Nepal Army have made about Rs 280 million worth of purchases in this fiscal year without preparing a purchase plan needed by the laws. Similarly, the 17 units of the Nepal Army have made about Rs 830 million worth of purchases in this fiscal year without calling bids thus going against the Public Procurement Act.

The Office of Auditor General has said that the management of the Nepal Army Welfare Fund has not been complying with the Welfare Fund Regulations putting the hard-earned money of Nepal Army peacekeepers serving in UN missions abroad at risk, reports on January 18, 2011. Following the Welfare Fund Regulations, the Nepal Army can spend only the interest earned from the Welfare Fund but the Nepal Army has spent about Rs 960 million from the Welfare Fund whereas the Welfare Fund has managed to earn the interest only about Rs 660 million in the last fiscal year. The Nepal Army Welfare Fund comprises deductions from the allowances given to the Nepal Army peacekeepers in the UN missions abroad. The Nepal Army (NA) keeps a maximum of 22 percent of about US$ 1,025 per month per person salary of the peacekeepers for a deposit in the Nepal Army Welfare Fund. The office of the Auditor General has even traced about US$ 2.8 million in the Himalayan Bank unaccounted for. "NA had failed to furnish details of about US$ 2.8 million in its last year’s balance sheet. However, we investigated after obtaining a document from the archives and located the money in the Himalayan Bank," Paudel told Republica. "The bank later returned the money."

Similarly, the office of Auditor General has revealed the lack of transparency in the money reimbursed by the UN for distribution of pensions, deposit transactions, and monitoring and evaluation of equipment sent on missions, and the selection of financial institutions for depositing the money of the Nepal Army Welfare Fund. On December 22, 2010, the government has set up an eight-member high-level taskforce chaired by the Defense Accounts Controller to properly manage the fund but the taskforce has not been operational, yet due to the Nepal Army not sending its three representatives to the taskforce. The Army Welfare Fund has lost about Rs 180 million deposited in the Nepal Development Bank that has been bankrupt, and is sure to lose another Rs 16 million deposited at Samjhana Finance Company that is also going to bankrupt.

Ministers of officiating Prime Minister Madhav Nepal have outsmarted even the most corrupt ministers of the past Panchayat system of governance run by the Shah kings in embezzling the state resources. On Sunday, December 26, 2010, Managing Director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Digambar Jha has disclosed to the members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of legislature-parliament that his company NOC has been filling the fuel tanks of the official cars of the Minister for Commerce and Supplies Rajendra Mahato and his Deputy Minister of State for Commerce and Supplies Saroj Kumar Yadav without charge.

When the high-level elected officials have resorted to stealing the petrol from the NOC then the lower-level staffs have adopted a different way to steal the petrol from the NOC depots. The NOC staffs have been showing almost double the permitted technical loss of petrol at Amalekhgunj, Biratnagar and Tribhuvan International Airport. Staffs working at the Amalekhgunj depot have claimed that the depot has the technical loss of 0.96 percent of total petrol whereas the technical loss allowed is not more than 0.57 percent, writes on January 16, 2011. Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority has been investigating the loss at Amalekhgunj depot, has suspended depot Chief Dinesh Yadav and implicated him in making the loss of Rs 2.92 million to the NOC.

The state-run NOC has been running in loss even after increasing the prices of petroleum products beyond the international prices; consequently, the government has to feed the NOC with loans to keep it surviving. The Indian state-run oil company called Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has served a notice to the NOC stating it will cut the supplies of petroleum products to the NOC if it does not pay off the dues on time. The NOC has to pay about Rs 450 million to the IOC immediately to keep the smooth supply of petroleum products. So, the NOC has requested the government for Rs 600 million loan on the top of the loan of Rs 800 million it has already received about six months ago but the government has been so generous to the NOC that it has provided NOC with the loan of Rs 1.2 billion, ‘Himalayan News Service’ online writes on January 16, 2011.

On the pretext of the government increasing the tax on the petroleum products, Minister for Commerce and Supplies Rajendra Mahato has increased the prices of petrol, diesel, and kerosene in December 2010. Stating the Ministry of Finance has increased the tax on the petroleum products in the budget for the fiscal year 2010 announced by the presidential order on November 20, 2010, Minister Mahato has increased the prices of petroleum products in December 2010. Thus, using the excuse the Finance Minister has provided him with, Minister Mahato has stolen millions of rupees from the pockets of the consumers only to fill up his own pockets and his assistants, and certainly of officiating Prime Minister Madhav Nepal, too.

After the officiating government headed by unelected Madhav Nepal has announced the increase in the tax on the petroleum products in the budget for the fiscal year 2010, the state-run NOC has increased the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas as follow Rs 4 per liter on petrol and Rs 2 per liter on diesel on December 6, 2010. Consequently, the price of cooking gas has gone up to Rs 1350 per 14.5 kg cylinder increasing the price by Rs 75, of petrol to Rs 88 per liter from Rs 84, of diesel to Rs 68.50 from Rs 65.50. The Madhav government has increased the prices of petroleum products the third time during his immoral reign. Before Madhav Nepal has become the Prime Minister, the price of petrol has been Rs 75 per liter, of diesel Rs 55 per liter and of cooking gas Rs 1100 per 14.5 kg cylinder.

Interim Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has been the master troublemaker to the people. He has made the consumers of petroleum products stand in line fro several hours to have just 10 liter of gas during the tow-year period of his interim reign. He has kept the prices of petroleum products in Nepal lower than in India and has sold a half of the petroleum products designated for Nepal in the Indian market during the two-year period of the interim government he has headed from 2006 to 2008. Interim Prime Minister Koirala has enjoyed reaping the harvest of money but Nepalese consumers have to keep on waiting in the long line for filling the petrol at every gas station. Most of the private gas stations have remained closed because the NOC has delivered the petroleum products mainly to the cooperative gas stations owned by Sajha, police and the army. The shortage of petroleum products created by Girija Prasad Koirala has immediately removed after a new party has taken over the government in August 2008.

Anther smart minister that has stolen the state-run utility corporation for his personal benefit is Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat. Currently, Nepalis have been living without the electric power for more than 12 hours a day it goes on increasing until the first rains of the monsoon starts while Minister for Energy Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat has been enjoying twenty-four-hour power supply. Mr. Mahat has forced the management of the state-owned power company called Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to install a high-power generator at his house to supply power without interruption thus stealing the resources from the NEA. The ‘Kantipur daily’ has the news about the NEA installing a powerful generator at his residence in Bansbari soon after he became the energy minister in July 2009 reports on January 11, 2011.

Another high-profile minister embezzling the state resources is Deputy Prime Minister Bijaya Gacchedar holding the portfolio of Housing and Physical Planning. Millions of rupees if not billions have been spent on the two major projects such as Melamchi Drinking Water Project and the Kathmandu-Hetauda Fast Track Project implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning but nothing has happened at the project sites of these two projects. Both the projects are of billions of rupees. After completion of these projects, millions of Nepalis will benefit from the supply of water from the Melamchi River; and people traveling back and forth between Kathmandu and Hetauda will save time and money from the fast track. However, Mr. Gacchedar has done nothing to these projects except for hiring some people from among his party cadres. The legislative Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has served a notice to Mr. Gacchedar to be at the meeting of the PAC for inquiring about the financial irregularities found at his ministry in the fiscal year 2009 but Mr. Gacchedar has failed in complying with the notice putting forward several excuses for not appearing before the PAC but Mr. Gacchedar finally has appeared at the PAC office on June 22, 2010 only to point his fingers to his Minister of State for Physical Planning and Works Sanjay Saha for his misdeeds.

Nepalese courts have been the places for the corrupt officials try to prove their innocence or challenge the authority of the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA). One such case has been when Executive Chairman of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) Sugat Ratna Kansakar and his five coworkers charged by the CIAA with the embezzlement of Rs 57.3 million have filed a joint lawsuit at the Supreme Court of Nepal on Friday, December 30, 2010 stating the CIAA has no authority to take legal actions against them so pleaded the court for stopping the Special court on taking up the case filed by the CIAA against them. CIAA has filed a case at the Special Court on Friday, December 24, 2010 against Executive Chairman Sugat Ratna Kansakar and his five coworkers for paying non-refundable Rs 57.3 million to the French Airbus Company Airbus for the purchase of aircrafts disregarding the Public Procurement Act of 2006 even though the PAC has instructed them to follow the Public Procurement Act of 2006. However, the division bench of justices Khil Raj Regmi and Prakash Wasti of the Supreme Court of Nepal on January 4, 2011 has ruled not to issue a stay order to the Special Court paving the way for the Special Court to hold hearings on the corruption case filed by the CIAA. A number of advocates showing up at the Supreme Court of Nepal for pleading on behalf of the NAC officials has indicated that these NAC officials must have spent a large sum of money on hiring such expensive lawyers proving they must have amassed huge money.

However, these NAC officials might be the small fishes that are easy to catch whereas the large fishes must be at large. Disregarding the state procurement rules, officiating Prime Minister Madhav Nepal and his officiating Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Shard Sing Bhandari have been for buying at least two aircrafts as soon as possible. So, the management of the NAC has been for purchasing aircrafts disregarding the instruction of the PAC. The irony is that most often than not the management of the state-run corporation vulnerable to the pressure of ministers becomes the victim of the corruption rather than the ministers that take a major share in the money they make out of buying aircrafts.

In 1991 immediately after becoming the elected Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala sold two brand new aircrafts the then RNAC (currently NAC) possessed and then took two old aircrafts on lease for the RNAC for running international flights. Anybody can imagine how much money Girija had made out of the deals on selling new aircrafts and taking on lease old aircrafts. This is only one of numerous such cases Girija had shamelessly involved in for making money as much as possible.

A large-scale embezzlement of resources in purchasing armored personnel carries (APCs) used for the Nepal Police in Dafur UN peacekeeping mission has been disclosed. On December 28, 2010, the Parliamentary Committee on State Affairs has asked the CIAA to hold an inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the deal on APCs and other equipment purchased for the Nepal Police peacekeeping in the UN mission in Dafur, Sudan, and bring the culprits to justice. Before coming to the conclusion of the corruption in the deal on the APCs and other equipment and requesting the CIAA for holding an inquiry, a team of the Parliamentary Committee on State Affairs has visited Sudan to ascertain the facts and figures about the deal and see whether the APCs are substandard as alleged by the UN and then has made a report on it. The team has found that Rs. 350 million had been embezzled in purchasing Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) for Nepal Police peacekeepers in the UN Mission in Sudan according to the state-run newspaper ‘The Rising Nepal’ of December 29, 2010. The UN has refused to reimburse the money spent on purchasing APCs to the Nepal Police stating the armored vehicles have been of sub-standard and not useable by the Nepal Police peacekeepers.

In the writ petition filed at the Supreme Court of Nepal on December 23, 2010, petitioner Daindra Bahadur Thakuri has implicated Ruwel Choudhary: son-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala in the multi-billion rupees deal on purchasing APCs for the Nepal Police peacekeepers in the UN Mission in Sudan, and has demanded the Supreme Court’s order for holding an investigation into the illegal activities of Choudhary, and has also alleged the government has been covering up the misdeeds of Choudhary because of his status of the son-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala.

Former Inspector General of Nepal Police Om Bikam Rana has said that officials disbursing the payments for the purchase of APCs need to be held accountable for the alleged corruption in the deal on the purchase. He has also said that former IGP Hem Bahadur Gurung and current IGP Ramesh Chand Thakuri have been responsible for making payments not following the regulations. Corruption in the scale of 350 million rupees has been suspected in the deal on Rs 440 million worth of purchase. The then-Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, the then-Secretary to Home Ministry Umesh Mainali, former IGPs Rana and Gurung and incumbent Thakuri have been among those suspects involved in the corruption case according to the news posted on on January 6, 2011.

Not only disgraced ministers are involved in corruption but also honorable ambassadors of Nepal to foreign countries have been involved in corruption. The Parliamentary Committee on International Relations and Human Rights on January 10, 2011 has served a subpoena to the government for recalling Nepalese ambassador to India Rukma Shumsher Rana for his involvement in the irregularities in the Dabur Nepal Pvt Ltd, and has also asked the government for holding an inquiry into the Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arab Hamid Ansari for allegedly transferring the compensation paid to three Nepali citizens to his personal bank account, ‘The Himalayan Times’ online writes. The Dabur Nepal Company has been implicated in evading taxes and adulteration of its soft drink. Anti-graft constitutional body CIAA has been holding inquiry into the irregularities in the product of the Dabur Nepal Company.

Nepal Bar Association has been the strong critic of the courts of Nepal and has had a tussle with the Supreme Court of Nepal. President of Nepal Bar Association Biswokanta Mainali has even said that the appointment to Nepalese judges is the license for corruption. In response to the statement of the president of Nepal Bar Association, on September 18, 2008, the full bench of the Supreme Court of Nepal has ruled to bar Biswokanta Mainali from pleading at any court of Nepal for six months as a punishment to his comment on the appointment to judges is the license for corruption.

President of Nepal Bar Association Biswokanta Mainali in turn has labeled the ruling of the Supreme Court as despotic, concerning the judges of the Kathmandu Valley courts not working for two hours from 10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon on Thursday September 18, 2008 as the protest against his comment on the judges, he has said that the judges of the courts in the Kathmandu Valley acted as the trade union members, they could have filed a contempt of court case against him if they have felt his comment as defamatory. This issue has become a showdown for the justices of the Supreme Court of Nepal and the Nepal Bar Association members but later on the justices have given in and have annulled the ruling in response to the pressure put on them by the members of the Nepal Bar Association refusing to participate in any hearing held by the courts.

Some rulings of courts have visibly gone in support of the comment of President of Nepal Bar Association Biswokanta Mainali. For example, just before the declaration of the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007, the judges have acquitted on technical ground the most corrupt former ministers such as Khum Bahadur Khadka, Govinda Raj Joshi of the Nepali Congress Party and Rabindra Nath Sharma of Rastriya Prajatantra Party implicated in corruption cases by the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority. Everybody knows that they have amassed huge fortunes while in the ministerial positions.

After senior justice Ram Prasad Shrestha has taken the oath of office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal from President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav on Sunday, March 28, 2010, the Chief Justice has started off cleaning up the courts. Following the recommendation of the high-level inquiry commission led by Senior Justice of Supreme Court of Nepal Bala Ram KC for taking actions against the erring justice of Supreme Court of Nepal Rana Bahadur Bam and appellate court judges Hari Bahadur Basnet and Tej Bahadur Karki after finding their misconduct in the kidnapper-freeing case, the Judicial Council in December 2010 has written to the parliament to impeach Justice Rana Bahadur Bam, as the Judicial Council has no authority to take actions against the justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal.

The Nepalese administration has been the most corrupt. People needed to pay under the table in the past but after the leaders of so-called democratic parties have taken over the power, everybody has been paying over the table for anything to be done at the government offices. Paying sufficient amount to the officials at any office, people can bypass several layers of the bureaucracy but people not willing to pay or have no means to pay might never be able to pass through the bureaucratic procedures.

During the time of the Panchayat system when the Shahs have directly ruled the country, any politicians aspiring to have a ministerial job needed either to show the skills in manipulating the people or to please one of the secretaries to the then king but did not involve in directly paying a handsome money to anybody.

After Girija Prasad Koirala has become the elected prime minister in 1991, he has set the prices for different ministerial jobs, state jobs, and promotion to higher positions and even for transferring the state employees from one ministry to another or from one place to another. Anybody aspiring to have ministerial position needs to deposit at least Rs 10 million to the account of his daughter. Anyone willing to have a government job needs to deposit the amount of money equal to the two-year salary the job brings to him/her. It goes on like that. Consequently, none of the ministers, and state officials could work sincerely. Naturally, they tend to steal from the people to recover the money they have paid for getting the jobs.

Prime Minister Madhav Nepal has been even smarter than Girija Prasad Koirala to misuse the public money. First thing he has done after taking over the office of prime minister is to reinstate the subsidy on fertilizer that has been done away with in the past under the pressure of the international community working in Nepal. The subsidy on fertilizer has been for the ministers to misuse. Then, Madhav Nepal has increased the prices of foodstuff including the potatoes in conjunction with the wholesale dealers. The most transparent thing Madhav Nepal has done is to double the price of sugar in the beginning of the sugarcane milling season in 2009 and then lower back to the previous price after purchasing the sugar from the mill owners at the high price he has set. Thus, the doubling of the price of sugar has benefited the mill owners ultimately benefiting Madhav Nepal. This is only a tip of iceberg.

On January 08, 2010, defying the order of the Supreme Court of Nepal, Prime Minister Madhav Nepal and his Defense Minister Bidhya Bhandari have promoted Toran Jung Bahadur Singh indicted for enforced disappearance of 49 people remained at the custody of the Bhairavnath Battalion he has commanded. Similarly, Finance Minister Surendra Pandey has enforced the incentive of Rs 50,000 to a widow marriage defying the order of the Supreme Court of Nepal issued following the petition of the Women for Human Rights.

Madhav Nepal not only defies the court order but also the laws, rules and regulations. For example, on January 18, 2011, Madhav Nepal has made a decision on transferring Secretary to Ministry of Land Reform Chhabi Raj Panta to the Western Regional Administration Office and Secretary to Kathmandu Metropolitan Office Ananda Pokharel to Mid Western Administration Office going against the Civil Service Act and Regulations, reports on January 21, 2011. Secretary Panta has refused to accept the decision made against the law. Chief Secretary to the council of ministers Madhav Ghimire has taken pains to persuade Madhav Nepal to correct unlawful decision and ultimately Madhav Nepal has revoked his illegal decision.

Thus, Ranas, Shahs, Koiralas and Madhavs have been the high-profile thieves that nobody could catch and bring them to justice. Ministers, elected people and government officials have continued to stealing the Nepalese people directly or indirectly keeping them in poverty. If only some of them have been honest and sincere then Nepalis would not have to live in such poverty; large projects such as Melamchi Drinking Water, Kathmandu-Hetauda fast track and other large hydropower projects would have completed but these high-profile thieves have been not for completing such projects but shamelessly stealing the people.

January 21, 2011

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