Nepal Anti-Corruption Chief Tackles the Civil Service

The most controversial move by Nepal’s interim election government was the appointment of Lokman Singh Karki to head the country’s anti-corruption agency, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

Despite accusations that Karki was instrumental in the suppression of the 2005 democracy movement and had amassed a fortune through corruption during his tenure as head of the Department of Customs, the council of the four major parties that advises the interim government nominated him to the post in March.

The nomination spurred widespread protest (see Ethical Failure in Nepal Election Government’s Appointments) and prompted a writ against the appointment at the Supreme Court. The court issued a stay order against the move, and three of the four parties withdrew their support informally (but were unable to agree formally to do so).

In late April, the court lifted the stay, reasoning that there was no legal reason to block the appointment before it was made, and Karki was sworn in on May 8. The case remains sub-judice at the court.

To the surprise of almost all observers, Karki has moved vigorously since then. More than 200 top civil servants are under investigation, including senior police, telecommunications, energy, transport, and Home Ministry officials. Their bank accounts have been frozen while the investigations proceed. Each of the officials has been asked to respond to a 13-point questionnaire about their assets.

The Supreme Court recently put off hearing the case against Karki for the fifth time, ostensibly due to the court’s workload, but more likely because of the CIAA’s prompt and vigorous action since his appointment. The commission has had no chief commissioner since 2006, and investigations had languished because of that.

While judgment about Karki’s ultimate effectiveness (and a court decision) await, concerns over his appointment have been, at least in part, ameliorated by relief at having the anti-corruption agency back in action.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.