CIAA Bill: Another political tool?

The National Vigilance Center,  citing Nepal as a signatory of the UN Convention against Corruption, recommended the government of Nepal to include the private sector corruption under the lens of CIAA two years ago.

In line with the same, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority Bill 2019 was proposed in the National Assembly. The bill, if passed, will provide CIAA the authority to probe into the irregularities of banks, medical colleges, co-operatives as well as the private companies in addition to the misdeeds in the public sector. While at that, it does not grant CIAA the authority to probe over the policy decisions taken by the Council of Ministers; and the authority of the constitutional body to inquire the policy decisions of the state’s council of ministers has been removed. 

The presence of different acts such as the Company Act, Co-operatives Act, Company Registration Act already recommends actions to undertake if any irregularities in the private sector is found. Similarly, the Nepal Rastra Bank also supervises the irregularities of the banking and financial institutions under the authority granted by the Banking and Financial Act. So, if the proposed bill is passed then the respected institutions will only be at conflicting terms regarding their authority with each other. Moreover, as the CIAA is frequently accused of being arbitrary, the matter of concern is also that it can be used as a political tool to sideline competition in the private sector

Also, it is worthy to scrutinize why would the government remove the jurisdiction of CIAA to investigate the policy decision of state council of ministers, as the irregularities arising because of such policies will be extended to the state level. 

Furthermore, the bill has been proposed at a time when the constitutional body is constantly criticized for its incompetency to investigate high profile corruption cases and focus only on the low level workers of the public sectors. CIAA, as it is, does not possess the institutional capacity to investigate the irregularities of the private sector. As per the report of CIAA published on June 10th, still 44 percent of the cases are pending to be settled.

As it is evident, several cases came to light during this lockdown period that exemplify misuse of authority from officials in the public sector. So, rather than increasing the jurisdiction of CIAA to include the private sector, both the government and the constitutional body, should first, strongly focus on reducing the irregularities and abuse of authority within the public domain rather than increase the scope of operation.