Even while Nepal’s politicians race against time to draw up a new constitution, separate and very hush-hush talks aimed at managing corruption have come to a head. At a hastily called news conference this morning, leaders of all the parties represented in the Assembly announced a dramatic consensus agreement.
A new National Corruption Commission will include representatives of each of the parties and also members drawn from the police, judiciary and civil service. The quasi-governmental commission is charged with controlling and managing corruption.
“Corruption is the number one issue for most Nepalis,” commission spokesman Kalti Bahadur Dhiki said. “Here we are doing something visible about it.” The prime minister’s office released a statement that read in part, “The competition for senior government positions is the most destabilizing force in our country. The new commission will eliminate the financial incentive to hold any particular post, so that competent ministers and secretaries can be appointed.”
A consumer advocate briefed on the commission plan shortly before the news conference told reporters that she thought it was a good idea. “Today we never know what we will have to pay in bribe to get a marriage license or a gas cylinder or a job. The commission will end that.”
The commission’s first charge is to regularize the baksheesh required for various services: Rs 50 to 225 to be released from traffic violations, Rs 300 to 1,700 for prompt water, electric and telephone connections, Rs 3,000 to 19,000 for registering a small business, and so on. Commission spokesman Dhiki said that the new price schedule would help both consumers and government plan ahead.
After the news conference, members of the main parties each met separately with the press. A Nepali Congress stalwart spoke wistfully of the days when corruption was confined to senior officials only. “It’s just out of control now,” he said. “Everyone has their hand out these days. We had to do something to manage it.”
The UML spokesman claimed authorship of the plan, which it said was the traditional Nepali form of the Marxist principle, “to each according to his needs.” And Maoist leaders issued a joint statement welcoming the plan, condemning it, and demanding a bigger share.
“We are the largest party in the Assembly,” thundered the Maoist chairman. “And we generate by far the most black money. We deserve to get more.”
He was referring to the formula created to fulfill the commission’s second mandate, to manage the distribution of the corrupt proceeds. Under the agreement, all bribes are to be routed through the commission, which will then allocate the funds to parties and civil servants according to a 108-point agreement that ensures equal distribution to all.
“It’s fair to everyone,” said one section officer from the Health Ministry. “There’s no need for me to pay millions of rupees to get a more lucrative job at Water Resources now. We each get our share of all the money under the new system.”
A mid-level politician sitting next to the section officer added, “It’s a regular income too. We used to have to take public transit to work when we weren’t in government. Now every leader can have a nice house and a new car with driver.”
And what of the two-month deadline for the new constitution? “First things first,” he said. “And April Fools.”