The report tries to show, not tell, just how nefarious, deep-rooted and interlocked rent-seeking is in Nepal. Illustrating graft with graphics, we are given flowcharts to explain why plunder and impunity is so systemic.
‘Core state entities responsible for regulation and upholding rule of law have been weaponised or hollowed out by the kleptocratic network to extract resources and guarantee impunity,’ says the report. ‘The impunity network comprises those that declare law, enforce law and apply law.’
The report lays bare how Parliament is infiltrated by special interest groups who are in key committees drafting legislation for sectors like education, health and infrastructure. There is no separation of powers anymore — the powers-that-be control all three branches of government.
The executive openly interferes in legislative functions, and tries to influence the courts with ‘bench shopping’. Those who stand in the way or try to expose the rot, like Kul Man Ghising, are themselves accused of corruption. The state is in open collusion with the private sector, which is now well represented in Parliament. The CIAA corruption watchdog is a lapdog of the state. Lack of transparency and impunity is rife in the security forces. The report has gory details of how ‘revenue capture’ works through collusion between officials in all three levels of government and contractors.
The only remaining check and balance function is carried out by the fourth estate, hence the moves to try to censor its content through legislation. But even the media is used by powerful interest groups to target rivals or tar those who expose them.
Everyone seems to be on the take: it is a public-private partnership to loot the country. ‘The private sector has gained primacy as the driver of corruption and impunity in Nepal … by distorting the functions and policies of government regulatory agencies and to hijack key revenue streams to facilitate money laundering and rentier practices.’
The Niti Foundation report makes for thoroughly depressing reading, and what it lacks is a roadmap out of this morass. Our only hope is in a transparent and fair electoral process that will one day punish thieves and reward the honest by electing them to office.