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Prime Minister Oli And Corruption

Issue September 2018

Prime Minister Oli And Corruption

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Speaking at the Forty-third Meeting of National Development Problems And Resolution Committee held in Kathmandu on September 11, 2018, Prime Minister KP Oli has said that the main reason for not completing development projects in time is the corruption. This is not the new thing but it is quite new how the prime minister has said publicly and frankly. Previously, every prime minister pretended that the corruption had not been there. Current prime minister has clearly and boldly stated that the corruption has been the root cause of the delay in completing the development projects. Even then, the prime minister is only diagnosing the disease that has been chronically pestering the country causing to suffer from the delay in the socio-economic development. Whether he is really for treating the deadly disease remains to be seen.


Everybody knows that Prime Minister Oli has taken the wheel to steer the administration to the correct direction and make it the corruption free State agency in February 2018. Whether he has been successful to do anything differently from the past track record of all prime ministers including him in his first term of prime minister is the open question, and everybody to see from his recent actions.


What the Oli administration had done during the last five months has been given in the “Important Work of the government for the last five months” published in “gorkhapatra” on August 14, 2018. The main actions the government had taken were ending the transportation syndicate, taking actions against gold smugglers, then the rest of the work stated in this vital documents have been the paper work on signing the agreement, on conducting feasibility studies on railroads, and signing of agreement with both China and India, and so on.


Gold smuggling had been the regular business in Nepal. Everybody knows it. At one time or another, by mistake or chance, sometimes the smuggled gold along with the smugglers are caught. However, what happened to the smugglers and the gold were rarely told to the public.


Anybody writing this crucial document of the progresses the Oli administration has made has surely missed to write about the elimination of corruption. Everybody sees clearly the corruption going on even at daylight. The fresh example for the continuation of the corruption as had been in the immediate past might be how the State agencies had indiscriminately spent the money on hosting the fourth summit conference of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in Kathmandu on August 30 and 31, 2018.


Speaking to the anchor of the Radio Nepal morning program called “antar-sambad” on September 12, 2018, former Vice-chairman of National Planning Commission Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri said that the concerned agency had spent NPR 100 million on repair and maintenance of roads not to mention the amount the foreign ministry had spent on preparing and hosting the BIMSTEC summit following the prime minister’s order given in the style of the king giving order in the past. The concerned State agency spent money on the activities very liberally and the auditors usually would not be so serious to look into such accounts in detail, as everything was done following the order of the prime minister now but the king in the past.


The writer had an opportunity to watch how the workers had been laying the molten asphalt on the well-paved nice road in front of the Russian embassy on August 27, 2018 obviously for show. However, it was not waste it must have stayed on sometimes but the asphalt put on the muddy road is not for a long time at all. Now, the question is whether such ad hoc asphalting the roads was necessary or was just done in the name of BIMSETC summit for making money for some folks in the higher positions. If it is so then the question is whether it is corruption or the sincere work done really for decorating the town for the summiteers to see.


Within days of the completion of the BIMSTEC summit, the roads in Kathmandu returned to the previous status means having the potholes, muddy and dusty and so on by the media account. So, the question was where the NPR 100 million spent on the potholes had gone. Probably, it would not be exaggeration to say that the banknotes of that amount would be even sufficient to fill up the potholes of the roads the BISMTEC summiteers had traveled back and forth for two days or so. Now, the question is whether the prime minister so concerned with the corruption is really need not to say publicly about the money spent on hosting the BIMSTEC summit.


Former Vice-chairman of NPC Chhetri has also said that the frequent changes in the top positions of the project management in order words chief executive officers have been one of the main reasons for not completing the nationally important projects in time; he even stated that the donor community had urged the government of Nepal not to make such frequent changes in the CEOs causing disruption in the project implementation.


Chhetri has also stated that CEOs have been not for implementing the development projects efficiently rather for meeting the interest of the elected State officials that became prime ministers, and ministers; Nepal has been not short of highly capable managerial manpower but more often than not such capable top positions holders are replaced with the politically motivated people whose managerial skill might be questionable. Consequently, Nepal lost highly capable manpower to the foreign countries. If the Oli administration were to properly honor such manpower and let them work sincerely and properly some of them might come back to Nepal, Chhetri said.


After taking office in February 2018, first thing, Prime Minister Oli did was to fire the CEOs of the State-run corporations, and then he appointed the persons of his choice even though the CEOs had been doing their job skillfully. Some of them got back to work after the Supreme Court of Nepal reinstated them. Thereafter, Oli stopped firing the CEO indiscriminately, and became careful to fire more CEOs.


However, the only woman CEO of Nepal telecommunication had not been so fortunate as others had been, as even though she had been doing the job fantastically well and had made the State-run company profitable she lost the job, and she had been not successful to get back the job even petitioning at the Supreme Court for reinstatement. Why the court did not reinstate her was not known publicly.


At the same time, the most significant event in the history of appointing the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal had been that the candidate for the position of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal Deepak Raj Joshi recommended by the Constitutional Council presided over by the prime minister, was rejected by the two-thirds votes of the parliamentary hearing committee.


Now, let us see what the prime minister has said addressing the Forty-third Meeting of National Development Problems And Resolution Committee in Kathmandu on September 11, 2018, as published in “gorkhapatra’ on September 12, 2018. The news story is as follows.


Prime minister said, “Some projects start but even after 30 years the work on them don’t complete. Why such things happen, what has been the short of, where is the problem, that should be identified?” He said that it had been necessary to find out the problems of not doing the work in time, and then resolve them.


Prime Minister Oli said that most of the time there had been the lack of the inter-ministerial coordination. He questioned, “How the development could be when there had been the case of three different State agencies had dug a single road three times?” He instructed the ministers and the secretaries to the ministries to have the inter-ministerial coordination.


Vice-chairman of NPC Dr Pushpa Raj Kadel said, “The prime minister has placed special emphasis on reducing the corruption.” Vice-chairman Kadel quoted the prime minister as saying, “Previously, we had suffered from problems. We did not have resources and means. However, now we have every kind of advantage. The government is of the two-thirds majority. Why the jobs have not been done in time even when whatever you needed have been provided?” The news story ends here.


Giving instructions to have the inter-ministerial coordination is easy but actually coordinating all the ministries is not so easy when the concerned agency for maintaining the coordination among the ministries becomes almost helpless. The inter-ministerial coordinating agency is the NPC. The prime minister is the chairperson of it, and the actual executive officer is the vice-chairperson.


However, none of the ministers probably including the prime minister bothers to listen to the NPC. NPC practically became a think tank only. It could do research on various matters concerned with the development of the country. It could make plans on any matters but such plans are really implemented in other words whether everything went as planned. Certainly not, as already the prime minister had said that some projects had never been completed. So, its members and even the vice-chairman have been the high-sounding office holders only rather than doing any concrete things that matter to the country the most.


The prime minister presides over the cabinet meetings. Such meetings have the presence of all ministers. Won’t be easier for the prime minister to coordinate with all the ministers present in such meetings? The chief secretary calls the cabinet meetings, as the chief secretary is the cabinet secretary. The chief secretary is the right person to coordinate with all the ministers and the secretaries. His job description must have the job of coordinating all the secretaries to the various ministries.


The prime minister must be the busiest person and then the chief secretary, too. Former Vice-chairman of NPC Chhetri while speaking to the anchor of the Radio Nepal morning program called “antar-sambad” on September 12, 2018 has said that the prime minister holds the position of the chairperson of more than fifty committees and so on. Probably, he would not have much time to think about the inter-ministerial coordination.


The chief secretary might be in the same position as of the prime minister concerning the time because probably the chief secretary might need to be present at all committee meetings that the prime minister presides over.


Consequently, the alternative remains the NPC for coordinating all the ministers and the ministries and their secretaries, too for expediting the development process. Then the prime minister would not need to worry about the inter-ministerial coordination, and simply needs to ask his Vice-chairman of NPC just to know about the inter-ministerial coordination for the effective implementation of the development projects. Probably, then the country wouldn’t need to wait for decades to complete the nationally important projects.


So, the prime minister and his chief secretary are not in a position to coordinate with all the ministers and the secretaries or they don’t have the time to do so. Then, why they don’t delegate the authority of coordinating all ministers and secretaries to the NPC? Then, the prime minister would not need to tell all the ministers and secretaries to coordinate with each for not duplicating the work or digging the work once for all sorts of underground work.


September 13, 2018

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