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Corruption in Foreign Employment Torments Nepal

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The foreign employment business may be seen as both positive and negative. It has many dimensions and connotations in its perception. Some consider it a major source of human smuggling; and others see it as the main backbone of a country's national economy. Some feel it is a main means for employment where others see it as the worst.

Manpower companies are regarded as a dignified human resource business and understood to be a major means of "Employment Globalization." Both are true to some extent. But there is no confusion and contradiction that the system of foreign employment is full of corruption, malpractice and abuse of authority, and it has become one of the worst stressors for the state. Some laborers have been highly exploited and victimized.

The recent move by the Anti-Graft authority has indicated both public and private institutions may be major hubs of corruption and irregularities, and platforms for the abuse of authority.

It is a multifaceted business, involving money and opportunity, but also threats, corruption, irregularities, insecurity, crimes and many more issues on the negative side.

A broader knowledge and understanding of the ins and outs of the system is needed, before an intervention in the process can even hope to bring the whole system to smooth operation.

The authorities must know the working procedures, roles, responsibilities, and functions of the stakeholders who take part in the entire operation and management of the foreign employment business.

To make things easier to understand, it can be classified in two major categories.

The first category is on the Demand Side (Country of Destination), the second category is the Supply Side (Sending Countries). There is also interaction between both countries.

On the Demand Side, documents requesting foreign employment are generated by owners, authorities and companies containing particular demands, specifications and details. These come first normally to recruiting agencies in destination counties whose main role is to connect the manpower of labour sending (supply) countries. They facilitate the authorization process in their home country that includes clearance from labour and immigration authorities.

Afterward, a diplomatic mechanism or authorized agencies are involved in the process to examine and authorize the request and its documentation. In some cases, manpower company representatives in the labour sending country may be involved in the entire process at the destination country, to facilitate and support the entire process to achieve their mutual business interests.

Demand creators, recruiting agencies, labour authorities, immigration, sending agents, Nepalese diplomatic missions (also agencies or officials or institution who have authorities for approval or certification or assessment for the use of Nepalese authority in Nepal) are the major key and critical stakeholders. The all need to be regulated, monitored, and observed properly by using necessary diplomatic, administrative and various management based tools and techniques continuously in an effective and efficient manner.

Persons, authorities, institutions and agents on the destination side where documents originated, are in a "major zone of corruption, (with) irregularities, authority abuse and malpractices" (CIAAM) which has remained a much ignored and overlooked issue in Nepal. It is unfortunate and derisory to tighten and blame only the authorities inside the home country for all wrongdoings that happen in the destination country.

Foreign employment is similar to a chain business so mechanically it carries over the impact and implications of fraudulence, corruption, irregularities and other wrong practices that occur in the country of document origin. The Anti-Graft authority on the supply side must realize that it may be almost impossible to change the system in the country of destination.

Consider the major wrong practices by two different authorities. The first is recruiting agencies in destination countries who exploit the manpower agencies of sending countries. They may ask them to fulfill unethical commissions, pay charges and other irrational overhead costs against the law and provisions of destination countries. They are not properly regulated or administered by relevant agencies. There has been major fraudulence, corruption, irregularities and unethical practices committed by Nepalese diplomatic missions in destination countries or the authorities who are assigned to approve, verify and assess the documentation in accordance with the foreign employment laws of Nepal.

Nepalese authorities and the people who administer the prevailing law in destination countries have remained beyond the reach of the Anti-Graft body. They are mostly overlooked while discussing or addressing the transgressions in the foreign employment business.

On the supply side (Sending Countries), people go into foreign employment either by self effort or using manpower agencies in Nepal. Either way, it is mandatory to obtain a labour permit from the department of foreign employment. In addition, there are several processes involved in the manpower system, between receiving the request and approval, including vacancy advertisement, recruitment, post recruitment permission, labour desk clearance and others.

In the process, sub agents of manpower companies, department of foreign employment, immigration, police, are involved in the process in the major zone of corruption, irregularities and misconduct. Often, subagents at the local level have been found to be the major source of corruption, who force the labour to be the main victims of malpractice.

Subagents are often distant from the regularization process, and there is poor interagency coordination between law enforcement agencies. The manpower companies and their agents are often the perpetrators who fuel and sponsor corruption in various steps of foreign employment. However, there are also some difficulties for them to produce fake documents and to tell lies to authorities due to various complexities and unpractical procedures and existing prevailing law.

The department of foreign employment is the apex regulating department that is accountable for all misconduct that happen in the system of foreign employment management in Nepal. The foreign employment promotion board also has huge accountability in making foreign employment safe, dignified and manageable.

Both agencies share responsibility to some extent. Especially, the department of foreign employment should be accountable to the situation and it has been considered incompetent and disabled in many ways.

Nationally and internationally established practices explain that immigration systems should be solely controlled by immigration and police, so ultimate responsibility naturally goes to the immigration authority at the national points of entry and exit, so they should check and balance the labour immigration management properly.

But it seems now immigration points in Nepal have become a hub for human smuggling where they freely allow people to go abroad without proper documentation and procedures. Immigration and police have full authority and power to stop all activities that are incompatible with the norms of national and international immigration standards. In short, it can be concluded that manpower, department of foreign employment, police and immigration are equally responsible for all corruption, irregularities, and abuses of authority that happen within the country in the foreign employment business.

Some adjoining systems that regularly share, coordinate, observe, manage, facilitate and monitor the foreign employment business in both countries were found to be involved to some extent in corruption and malpractice. They often hide the real situation and control the complaints against them, ignoring their individual and corporate social responsibilities. They prevent from justice and rights that supports the culprits to continue their business easily and smoothly.

These persons and authorities may be political parties, journalists, reporters, business leaders and representatives from civil society and various non-governmental organizations indirectly involved in various foreign employment businesses, gaining benefits from them. They have access and influences in both countries, but they are beyond the view of the Anti-Graft body.

It seems this system is full of problems, and government cannot work simultaneously to close and stop all loopholes of corruption, irregularities, authority abuse and malpractice in both destination and sending countries. However, priorities can be set up to handle the issues inside and outside the home country. The Anti-Graft body and relevant state authority should first learn details of the problems and perspective of particular agencies, afterward they could handle it in a coordinated manner. The State should be careful that it is very sensitive business and it is not limited only in bilateral affairs.

Strong support and cooperation from various stakeholders, bilateral, and multilateral partners needs to be secured to go into action for correction and reform.

It has been said that some senior Nepalese diplomats in destination countries are silent partners of Nepalese manpower agencies that need to be investigated. It has been reported tht some Nepalese diplomats send millions of rupees home from labour destination countries but the source of the money is not known and that needs to be monitored.

Some senior political leaders, high-level bureaucrats and security affiliated people are said to be owners and operators of manpower companies that are beyond the reach and control of existing regulating agencies because of their high power and influence in cabinet. They are major sponsors of Nepalese politics. So it has some practical difficulties to address the challenges tactfully. It is an open secret that corruption and malpractice have been institutionalized in Nepal and also in destination countries, so it is not as easy as people think from outside the room without looking inside.

It was also said in the past that millions of rupees have been transferred by both senior and junior employees in the corruption-prone zones. Moreover, some politicians and officials are said to expect regular money from manpower agencies justifying various reasons and desires. The State should not be emotional and opportunistic, but it must show competence in reforming and transforming the foreign employment business into a dignified, secure and corruption-free asset.

The government should focus on ground reality and the broader practicability rather airing rumor, stressing junior employees and gaining unethical popularity from the people.

The existing system has proved to be faulty and corrupt. It does not address the contemporary need, nor does it fulfill the national desire for our foreign employment business.

The Government should work to review, restructure, and reform the entire legal, institutional, procedural, structural, diplomatic, administrative, security and managerial apparatus and mechanism that deals with foreign employment business within the country and also outside, within our jurisdiction.

Mr. Krishnahari Pushkar writes about social issues, security and conflict management, often in relation to Nepal. An Under Secretary of Government in Nepal, he is well honored as a Peace, Security and Conflict Management Professional, who contributes regularly to national and international nongovernmental organizations as a peace and conflict management expert.

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