Friday, April 6, 2007

Public property, private usages

Corruption and misapproation is rampant in Nepal. This starts right from the level of Prime Minister and goes down to the level of lower rung government officials. Recently I found that thousand of government vehicles are being misused by putting red plate numbers in them, making the state liable to pay millions of rupees from its coffer.

Leaders often talk about building a New Nepal. I wonder how is it possible anyway? Our working style has not changed. Our behavior has remained as it was ten years before. It is high time that we uncover such misappropriation and help ensure good governance in this war-torn country.

Here you go my news report published on April 6 edition of
The Kathmandu Post.

The red number plates on government vehicles were meant to avoid possible Maoist attacks. With the decade-long armed insurgency coming to an end, the red number plates (used in private vehicles) should have been reverted to white.

Not only has this not happened, but instead more white plates are being converted into red ones 'to facilitate the misuse of public property'. Worse: some who failed to obtain permission from the Home Ministry for a number plate change have had fake ones made.

According to government sources, aides of Prime Minister, ministers and leaders of the major political parties in the ruling Seven Party Alliance (SPA), Chief Secretary, Secretary, Joint Secretary and a few Under Secretaries have had their vehicle number plates changed.

Over 88 vehicles have already changed their white plates into red ones since the April movement, and many others are seeking permission from the Home Ministry.

Keeping in view the possibility of Maoists' making them easy targets, the then government, some five years ago, through a cabinet decision gave permission to change the white number plates into red ones. The Home Ministry provides permission to this effect mostly for a six-month period.

Why is the ministry still providing such permission?

Hari Prasad Nepal, chief of Internal Management Division at the Home Ministry, defends the issuance of such permission: "Our threat assessment has shown that government vehicles continue to be the target of agitators on various pretexts even in recent days."

Drivers of government vehicles are not ready to buy the explanation, however. "There is no such selective threat against government vehicles these days at least in the valley. This is just an excuse to misuse government vehicles for private purposes," said a driver.

The number plate changed vehicles are mostly misused for personal work of their bosses. "We are asked to drive the vehicles for work such as dropping their children to school and their spouse to her mother's house. I feel sad when I am asked to drive a government vehicle on public holiday for the boss's personal work" said a driver.

According to an estimate, about 1,000 government vehicles belonging to different ministries, corporations, security agencies and other state-owned utilities have converted public license plates to private.

Government vehicles are not allowed to be used during public holidays without permission from the secretary of the concerned ministry. "But secretaries and high-ranking officials themselves are forerunners in misusing vehicles," grumbled a junior staff at the Home Ministry.

Informed sources said Department of Road under Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW) and Department of Irrigation, Nepal Electricity Authority and Melamchi Drinking Water Project under Ministry of Water Resources are on the top of the list of government agencies misusing red plate numbers.

Interestingly, one of the ministries is now headed by CPN (Maoist)-Ministry of Physical Planning and Work- because of whose fear the number plates were changed into red ones initially.

Public to private after April movement (Just a tip of Iceberg!)

Chief Secretary Bhoj Raj Ghimire (Ba 1 Jha 7238 & Ba 1 Jha 2625) Secretary at NPC Swayambhu Man Amatya Ba 1 Jha 4624 PMO's Secretary Madhav Prasad Poudel Ba 1 Jha 5515 PM's Personal Secretary Diwakar Gautam Ba 1 Jha 5312 PM's chief advisor Suresh Chalise Ba 1 Jha 5517 Purna Bahadur Khadka Ba 1 Jha 7234 Sher Bahadur Deuba Ba 1 Jha 7236 Chairman of Nepal Law Reform Commission Babu Raja Joshi (Ba 1 Jha 4621) Justice Janardan Khadka Ba 1 Jha 7148 Joint secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply Niranjan Baral (Ba 1 Jha 5735) Joint Secretary at Ministry of Land Reforms and Managment Rewati Raj Kafle (Ba 1 Jha 7537) Freed Kamaiya Rehabilitation Program chief Chhabi Raj Panta (Ba 1 Jha 3626)