National

Anti-graft watchdog faces scrutiny as bribe cases involving its staff grow

  • Agency spokesman says involved officers will be prosecuted
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Mar 19, 2019-

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority on Sunday filed a corruption case at the Special Court against its own employee--Assistant Sub-Inspector  Janma Adhikari who was caught red-handed receiving bribe in January.

Adhikari, employed at its CIAA’s Surkhet branch, was caught accepting Rs100,000 as a bribe for settling a complaint registered at the anti-graft body over alleged corruption in a road project.

The anti-graft body’s move comes at a time when the CIAA is facing public scrutiny over bribe scandal involving its own commissioner--Raj Narayan Pathak, who resigned on February 15, after  leaked videos showed that he had accepted Rs7.8 million from a college promoter.

These  are the latest examples of the CIAA officials abusing their power for their  personal benefits. Several CIAA staff have been found accepting graft money in the name of settling the complaints in the past as well.

The CIAA was accused of rampant abuse of power when the agency was under the leadership of Lok Man Singh Karki, who was later disqualified by the Supreme Court in January 2017.

According to Khem Raj Regmi, president of Transparency International, Nepal, ever since Surya Nath Upadhyay retired as the chief of the CIAA in 2007, corruption has thrived in the anti-graft agency.

First, then commissioner Lalit Bahadur Limbu landed in a controversy for filing a corruption case against then Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Bijayanath Bhattarai on June 29, 2007. After the case was filed, several phone calls between Limbu and a businessman who had direct interest in filing of the corruption case against Bhattarai, were exposed.

Bhattarai along with then NRB executive director Surendra Man Pradhan had been charged of causing Rs 30 million loss by signing an agreement with KPMG, Sri Lanka, to work as a consultant for central bank’s re-engineering project. The Supreme Court in July 2009, gave Bhattarai a clean chit.

In another case of abuse of power by the CIAA, the anti-graft body had issued a directive to register 2.3 ropanis of land belonging to the United Nations Park in Kathmandu in the name of an individual. But the Supreme Court on March 30, 2011 concluded that then Acting Chief Commissioner Limbu and Commissioner Bed Prasad Siwakoti had abused their authority while issuing the directive. The apex court also ordered the Parliamentary State Affairs Committee to investigate the CIAA’s decision and take action against the duo who had already retired by then.

“The tradition of CIAA officials abusing their power began long before Lok Man Singh Karki took it to a new height,” said Regmi. “From the day of his appointment, Karki started abusing power and taking vengeance against those who stood on his way.”

Underhand dealings and arm-twisting tactics by the CIAA commissioners and staff got entrenched under Karki’s leadership, according to Regmi.

Many CIAA staff started taking bribe at the time, and some of them were exposed.

In February 2015, the CIAA had filed a corruption case against three people including two CIAA investigating officers--Toyanath Sharma and Binod Amatya--for accepting bribe to settle a complaint against a district public health official in Parbat.

In 2014, then Police Inspector Krishna Prasad Sharma, employed at the CIAA, was transferred from to the Nepal Police headquarters for allegedly accepting bribe from people on the CIAA watch list.

Similarly, when Yubaraj Sangraula was the attorney general during the government led by Jhalanath Khanal in 2011, he had recalled 12 joint-attorney generals serving at the CIAA for not performing their jobs properly. He told the Post in 2014: “A judicial probe raised questions about the work of some joint-attorney generals, so they were posted elsewhere.”

As these events are raising questions about the credibility of the CIAA, the agency's spokesperson, Pradeep Koirala, said: “Some unwanted incidents have occured in the agency, but we are committed to prosecute the individuals involved."

Published: 20-03-2019 07:00

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