Eliminating Corruption Will Require Parliamentarian Reform
(Corruption: Stumbling Road Block to Economic Development Part-2)
The political transformation from monarchy to republicanism was uncharacteristically swift and less painful in Nepal’s recent history. Many people in Nepal and elsewhere observe this change has not produced positive political and economic development for it is bedevilled by poor governance, corruption in politics and bureaucracy, with inept leadership. Masses had voted for major political parties because of overwhelmingly desire for swift changes and good governance. Social change was expected to be inclusive, no matter which social and economic strata citizens belonged. The expectation was that political transformation would change relations between the government and people, and political leaders and with the masses. This does not seem to be occurring at all.
People of Nepal want fundamental socio-political cultural change, good governance, an independent judiciary, robust law and order and concurrently pursue rapid economic development. Disappointingly, no positive progress noted in these areas due to political corruption and bureaucratic malpractices. This can be primarily attributed to unaccountable governance resulting in the rise of abuse of political and executive offices and state-sponsored corruption, disillusioned leadership and unshakable corrupt bureaucracy. Reforms could not be expected because parliamentarians and bureaucrats are not fully committed to national interests at the expense of individual interests. People of Nepal voted parliamentarians into parliament, to lead the nation, with high hope that socio-political, administrative and economic reforms would follow economic prosperity. Sadly, Nepal, today, remains one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks lowest, close to war torn Afghanistan, on most measurable indicators and doing business.
Periodic evaluation of elected members by voter-citizens should not be underestimated in this for all members of Parliament should be held accountable directly to voters, not to party groupings. Party loyalty is understandable but they must report to people who voted them into office. The absence of effective sanction mechanism has contributed to the abuse of power of political office. How can this continue in democratic republic nation? How long we want to wait for reform for the restoration of the dignity of this august institution?
Parties’ conducts increasingly resemble autocratic while and national interests are compromised for party interest. This has shelved public discourse on national priorities and on economic health, outside of compartmentalized perceptions. The absence of due cognizance of public opinion has further stalled broader public discourse beyond obsolete political ideologies. This must change. Parliamentarians should be subject to periodic performance review, while in office-term, without the prolonged wait for next general election. Performance review by citizens is a pre-requisite for ensuring parliamentarians become accountable directly to voter-citizens who voted them into the parliamentary seat.
Politicking in Nepal has become an aberration to democratic functioning of a governance system for political leaders wield excessive power, seen only in autocracy. Like musical chairs of political parties, political machination has turned into a cartel of political oligarchs. This calls for a robust action by citizens for instituting a mechanism of sanctions against failing parliamentarian. Otherwise, current idiosyncrasy resembles somewhat like that of transfer of power from Rana regime to the autocratic rule of Shah Dynasty that occurred during1950s, and then to the autocracy of party-feudalist.
Peoples’ verdict is the last resort in democracy. But, democracy is not only about conducting elections and casting votes. The election is a process in the democratic system of governance and not a democracy in itself. We must conduct state’s affairs with open public discourse democratically and transparently, and value all divergent views.
Corruption is now fully entrenched in politics and bureaucracy as incurable cancer for it is inter-linked with governance system. Parliamentarian reform is a must and precedes bureaucratic reform if we are to eradicate corrupt practices from state governance structure. This is achievable only if members of civil societies, academics, elites and all concerned citizen campaign and push for reform bill with following provisions, as the first step in the right direction. Nepal can, then, break umbilical cord of vicious circle of corruption chain and truly become a moral soft-power in the region.
- Serving as a parliamentarian is “service of nation” and, not a professional political career for it is voluntary and accords the highest dignity for a citizen. Therefore, parliamentarians should be restricted to enact laws and regulations for their own benefits and privileges demonstrating high moral standing for public confidence in the system.
- No one should be allowed to contest more than one parliamentary seat in any election. One person one vote and one person one seat.
- Parliamentarians should not receive any benefits, allowances, free perks and financial entitlements, including pension, when not serving the office. Principle enshrined: no office tenure, no remuneration, and no pension.
- Dependent family members should not be entitled to receive pension, benefits and allowances upon termination of office tenure.
- People should have the right to recall for ‘No-Vote’. Thirty percent of registered voters of the constituency, which voted parliamentarian, should have the right to file a recall petition with Ombudsman against a parliamentarian for a no-confidence vote. This should be based on lack of satisfactory performance, abuse of power of office, embezzlement and misuse of the fund, graft, conflict of interest, nepotism and criminal act. No confidence vote should be held forthwith at the constituency. If convicted such individual should be barred from holding government and political office for the next twenty-five years.
- Parliamentarians, when out of office term, should not receive any special status, like VIP treatments, free security, housing, and other facilities, courtesies and support that are not at par with what is accorded by law to an ordinary citizen of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
- If a parliamentarian is found to be implicated in a court of law for the criminal act or social misdemeanours, he/she should be automatically suspended from attending parliamentary sessions.
- Parliamentarians should not be allowed to vote themselves for their salary, benefits and increases.
- Parliamentarians should mandatorily file Statement of Liabilities, Assets and Earnings with Tax Department prior to filing nomination for candidacy in the election, and hold political office, and re-submit it again at the end of the expiration of office term. Failing to comply with this should result in a lifetime ban on participation in the election and holding political and government officials.
- Parliamentarians should not receive and spend campaign funds in excess of the authorized limit set by Election Commission and prohibited by law use of government resources, media, facilities and services. Anyone found in violation should be automatically disqualified from the parliamentary seat or political office, and face criminal charges.
- Parliamentarians must equally abide by all laws they impose on Nepali people without exception.
- All contracts with past and present parliamentarians should be declared void immediately. The People of the Democratic Federal Republic of Nepal did not make any contracts with parliamentarians.
- People of Nepal and the founding principle of democratic republic all parliamentarians should return back to work in home constituency upon completion of office term.
- Election Commission should set a limit on funding, donations by individuals (domestic and foreign), corporations and businesses for a political campaign.
- Minimum academic qualification for a candidate for parliamentary seat should not be lower than holder of a bachelor‘s degree from recognized institution,
- Any individual wanting to serve at the political office or selected or nominated to government position (civil or diplomatic) should have high moral standing, impeccable financial integrity, and free from a criminal record.
- Once a Parliamentarian Reform Bill, as proposed, becomes an Act parliamentary retirement or pension fund transferred back to the government treasury.
(Kedar Neupane, President of We for Nepal based in Switzerland, is a former International staff of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who has served, for over three decades, in several countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. He can be reached by email: Neupanek1950@gmail.com )
Cover Photo File: http://www.tinepal.org