Saturday, 16 July 2011

Corruption in Nepal: A major challenge for the development

"Both bribe receiver and bribe offerer are enemies of the nation" Prithivi Narayan Shah, the Founder of the Modern Nepal.

Understanding Corruption:
Corruption is a complex and multifaceted phenomena with multiple causes and effects, as it takes on various forms and functions in different contexts. The phenomenon of corruption ranges from single act of activity contradicted by law to way of life of an individuals or groups. The definition of corruption ranges from the broad terms of 'misuse of power and authority' to 'moral decay' (Amundsen; Sissener and Soreide 2000). Corruption is the misuse of public goods by public officials, for private gains. In simple terms corruption may be described as “an act of bribery” or “the use of public power for private profits in a way that constitutes a breach of law or a deviation from the norms of society (Amundsen 2000)". It is a misuse of authority as a result of consideration of personal gain, which is not necessarily monetary. This private gain is achieved by ignoring prohibitions against certain acts, by exercising legitimate discretion to act, or by fulfilling obligations to act. This is the abuse or misuse of public offices, professional rights and duties for personal gains.

The national institutional level corruption takes place between the government (the executive) and the administrative and bureaucratic institutions (the civil service, judiciary, legislature, and local authorities). The relationship can be corrupted because of overlapping and conflicting authority, political power struggles over access to scarce resources, and personal relationship of dependence and loyalty. Other contributing factors are, a weak separation between civil service and partisan politics, a weak professionalization of the bureaucracy, a lack of accountability and transparency, and deficient political control and auditing. The more discretion officials have through abundant, complex and non-transparent regulations, the more corruption becomes likely (Amundsen 2000; Bista 1991; Pyakuryal 2000).
On the national societal level, the corrupt relationship happens between the state and various nonstate actors– corrupt state officials and the supplier of the bribes. It can be the general public, any nongovernmental and nonpublic individual, corporate and organizational, domestic and external (Subedi 2005).

Forms of Corruption
The main forms of corruption are bribery, embezzlement, fraud, and extortion. Even when these concepts are partly overlapping and at times interchangeable with other concepts, some of the basic characteristics of corruption can be identified through these concepts (Amundsen 2000).

1. Bribery: Bribery is the payment that is given or taken in a corrupt relationship. A bribe is a fixedsum, a certain percentage of a contact, or any other favors in money or kind, usually paid to a state official who can make contracts on behalf of the state or otherwise distribute benefits to companies or individuals, businessmen and clients.
There are many equivalent terms to bribery, like kickbacks, gratuities, baksheesh, sweeteners, pay-off, speed and grease money, (Amundsen 2000) which are all notions of corruption as perceived from below, from public. These are payments needed or demanded to make things passed swifter, smoother or more favorably through the state bureaucracy. By “greasing palms” corporations and businesses interests can buy, for instance, political favors and escape the full burden of taxation and environmental regulation, or buy protected market and monopolies, import/export licenses etc. Bribery can also be a form of “informal” taxation, when public officials charge additional amount under-the-table payments (called ghush in Nepali) or expected “gifts” from clients.

2. Embezzlement: It is the theft of public resources by public officials, which is another form of misappropriation of public funds. Embezzlement happens when a state official steals goods and resources from the public institution in which he/she is employed, and from resources he/she is supposed to administer on behalf of the state and the public. However, corrupt employees in private firms can also embezzle money and other resources from their employers. In Nepal, embezzlement is one of the most important modes of economic accumulation (Subedi 2005). In fact political leaders and higher administrative bureaucrats are earning money by this method. Otherwise, how is it possible to earn multi million rupees within a few years of bureaucratic post or being a political authority? It is a fundamental part of the resource extractive capacity of the ruling elite, and it should be taken more seriously than extraction through bribes.Another form of embezzlement is - some power holders systematically use their political office to enter into, secure and expand their private business interests. In Nepal, the political elites have link with businessperson, decision makers and control media personnel, development workers and human rights activists through their contact (Subedi 2005). They hold a major share in private schools and colleges, and nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, transport and media and many more ventures.

3. Fraud: This is a serious crime that involves some kind of dishonesty, swindling or cheating. When the ministers, bureaucrats and academicians take their share for closing their eyes when they have an active role in it. This is also known as phohari khel or phohari rajniti, 'dirty politics'. Dirty politics include, giving unnecessary loans that will never be paid back, provide contracts without competition, issuing license to manufacture poor qualities of medicines to pharmaceutical companies, approving bills without proper supervision, select less qualified and unskilled persons, transferring qualified bureaucrats to other places if he/she is not favoring political authority. This dirty politics is tied to the interest of national and international agencies and authorities and the dominant feudal culture. In Nepal, dirty politics is playing a major role in the selecting, nominating and promoting of less qualified, politically corrupt people in vital posts (Subedi 2005).

4. Extortion: It is money and other resources extracted by the use of coercion, violence or threat to use force. By creating an atmosphere of insecurity where individual citizens, private businesses and public officials are harassed and intimidated. Only those who pay the protection money will be exempted from further harassment. With more or less concealed threats, rulers can extract resources from private source businesses. These businesses rarely take the chance of refusing state or ruling party officials. The present political conflict has played very important role for promoting such extortion in Nepal (Subedi 2005).

5. Favoritism:  It is a mechanism of power abuse implying “privatization” and a highly biased distribution of state resources, no matter how these resources have been accumulated in the first place. It is the tendency to favor family, friends, relatives, clan, caste, ethnic group, gender, race, place of origin, members from the same party, and anybody closed and trusted. In political sphere, it is the liking of state officials and politicians who have access to state resources and the power to decide upon the distribution of these, to give preferential treatment to certain people. In Nepal, the Prime Minister has the constitutional rights to appoint all high-ranking positions, legal or customary rights that extend exceedingly the possibilities for favoritism (Subedi 2005). It easily adds up to several hundred positions within the ministries, diplomatic organization and other line agencies.

6. Nepotism: It is a special form of favoritism, in which an office holder (ruler) prefers his proper kinfolk and family members (wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew, cousins, in-laws etc.). In Nepal, almost all political leaders have tried to secure their power position by nominating their family members to political, economic, various public councils and committees and security positions in the state apparatus (Subedi 2005). Through such mechanisms, many politicians and bureaucrats have been able to move their family members from public position into private business, to transfer public power to private wealth. Favoritism is not only a legal problem, but also a problem of flawed qualifications, lacking skills and inefficiency (Amundsen 2000). Further where public position is strongly correlated to possibilities of corrupt and extractive practices, favoritism can secure substantial prerogatives and profit for certain families, clans or some social subgroups.: Bribery is the payment that is given or taken in a corrupt relationship. A bribe is a fixed sum, a certain percentage of a contact, or any other favors in money or kind, usually paid to a state official who can make contracts on behalf of the state or otherwise distribute benefits to companies or individuals, businessmen and kickbacks, gratuities, baksheesh, sweeteners, pay-off, speed and grease money, (Amundsen 2000) which are all notions of corruption as perceived from below, from public. These are payments needed or demanded to make things passed swifter, smoother or more favorably through the state bureaucracy. Bribery can also be a form of “informal” taxation, when public officials charge additional amount under-the-table payments (called ghush in Nepali) or expected “gifts” from clients (Subedi 2005).

Corruption in Nepal: At a Glance
After the restoration of democracy in Nepal, it has observed a significant institutional development in the political sphere of the country. Many small political parties have been emerged while many new faces have been seen in the major political parties. However, key political affairs in the country is still-like in Panchayat days- being run by the few elites that control, influence and manipulate the construction of political and economic mainstream of modern Nepal (Subedi 2001). These elites maintain the formal as well as informal networks within their groups. These practices are too deeply embedded in the lives and social interaction of society and it is doubtful they will change in the near future (Levitt 1999). On the one hand, we are reading the news and views of corruption in everyday newspapers and seminars and on the other hand, corrupt people are enjoying political power, property and honor. Of these, the major forms of corruptions that are being practiced in Nepal are Bribe (payment of cash), Chakari (to wait upon, to serve, to appease, and to seek favor from politically or administratively well off people),  and Afno Manche (One's own people).

Key Holders of Corruption in Nepal (Subedi 2005)
- Public Servants (bureaucrats i.e. civil servant, judiciary, legislature, and local authorities)
- Politicians (Political parties leaders holding important positions)

- Big businessmen
- Prime Minsters and Ministers

There are different ministries in the Nepalese government, which are regarded as gold mines for making money. Defense Ministry, Home Ministry, Ministry of Finance, for example, spend a huge amount of total budget every year and it is said that commission between 15 to 50% are not uncommon on purchasing of weapons, spare parts, emergency expenditure, payments of bills, passing bills, issuing cheques, approving supplies, settlements of disputes and so forth. Nepalese people say that out of total cost sanctioned for the project, about 30% is invested in the work, 30% on contractor’s profit, and 40% goes into various ministers’ and officers’ pockets. The power enjoyed by ministers and police are so wide that they can accuse, arrest, and harass even an honest person. It is said that the failure to pay commission results in delay in getting the bill passed and receiving the cheque.

In conclusion, to understand and fight against corruption, the legal definition of corruption is too narrow and only concerns with legal procedure, legal evidences and ignores the people’s own assessment of courses of action. If we only give priority to legally sanctioned sphere and ignore socially sanctioned sphere, it is very difficult to fight against corruption in Nepal. This is related to democratization process. Economic and political competition, transparency and accountability, coupled with democratic principles of checks and balance, are the necessary instruments to restrict corruption and power abuse. Civil society should hate, boycott culturally and socially corrupt people for introducing people oriented good government which should be transparent and accountable.

Acknowledged: This write up has been mostly excerpted from the Subedi 2005.

Amundsen, Inge 2000, Corruption: Definition and Concepts. Chr. Michelsen Institute Development Studies and Human Rights.

Amundsen, Inge; Tone Sissener and Tina Soreide 2000, Research on Corruption: A Policy Oriented Survey. Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) & Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Oslo/Bergen.

Bista, Dor Bahadur 1991, Fatalism and Development: Nepal’s Struggle for Modernization. Orient Longman Limited, Calcutta.

Gupta, Akhil 1995, "Blurred boundaries: the discourse of corruption, the culture of politics and the imagined state."  American Ethnologists. Vol.22, No.2, Pp 375-402.

Lederman et al. 2001, Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter. World Bank, Washington.

Levitt, Marta 1999, "A Culturally Appropriate Health Intervention in Conflict with Nepali Management Culture". In Ram Bahadur Chhetri and Om Gurung (eds.) Anthropology and Sociology of Nepal: Cultures, Societies, Ecology and Development. Sociological and Anthropological Society of Nepal (SASON), Kathmandu, Nepal.

Pyakuryal, Kailash Nath 2000, Restoration of Demecracy and People’s Empowerment in Nepal. In Occassional Papers in Sociology and Anthropology, Vol. VI (15-25). Central Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Nepal.

Subedi, Madhusudan Sharma 2001, Medical Anthropology of Nepal. Udaya Books, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Subedi, Madhusudan Sharma 2005, Corruption In Nepal: An Anthropological Inquiry. Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, Volume 1, Kathmandu, Nepal.

I sent following message to the Nepalese parliamentarian and constitution assembly members, namely Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal (Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist), Mr. Baburam Bhattarai (Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist) , Mr. Shashank Koirala (Nepali Congress) and Mr. Sunil Babu Pant (Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist) dated 15 July 2011 via facebook.

Hon'ble Sunil Babu Pant, Member of Parliament and Constituent Assembly who also happened to be a Founder and Director of Blue Diamond Society (BDS), an NGO established in 2001 and working for sexual minorities in Nepal.

Dear CA member,


Corruption Perceptions Index 2010-Nepal ranks 146 out of 178. Out of total 10 score (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt), Nepal scored 2.2. This result indicates a serious corruption problem.

Would appreciate if you could consider "Meta-regulation" in dealing with such problem consulting with professionals and experts and like-minded youths?

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration. (Link

Discussion (Replied after 14 hours of posting by Hon'ble Sunil Babu Pant):

Sunil Babu Pant: Thank you Laxmi Ji, let me what specific I should be doing on this critical issue?

Laxmi Tamang: Thank you for your prompt thoughtful and supportive response. The first and foremost step would be to get involved with the Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption (GOPAC)http://www.gopacnetwork.or​g/ and then support or get involve with the Kedar Khaka activities against corruption in Nepal and accerelate it involving Anil Chitrakar dai, Ujwal Thapa, Prasanta Singh of Nepal Unites movement. Be aquaint with "Meta Regulation" and try to bring such policy in the country. Best regards

Sunil Babu Pant: Thank you Laxmi Ji Will join the GOPAC and contacts other freinds and talk to other CA members as well.

Laxmi Tamang: We, Nepalese people have some hope only with young CA members like you, Gagan Thapa and others. Otherwise, old fellows are not going to do anything we've seen this since many years. Please do save our country prestige and status in the worl...d. It is very shameful to hear when people say your country is corrupted. We feel very bad. Since you are running BDS you might find useful visiting http://www.fundsforngos.or​g/ for grants/awards/scholarships​/funds

Sunil Babu Pant: Thank you very much for the useful link...

Laxmi Tamang: Dear Honourable CA member, apology for addressing you very rudely "Dear CA Member". It is not my intention to be a rude but it happened while writing because I didn't find right word to address you. However, you are so understandable and gentle that you didn't say anything to me. Instead you took my suggestions very constructively and be responsive towards it. This might be due to the fact that you have been directly and actively engaging in the development related works almost a decade. To get regular update of the grants, awards, funding and scholarships please subscribe to the above link. I'm heartily thankful to you for your kind cooperation and thoughtful consideration. I look forward for your active involvement in fighting against corruption in Nepal. Though it is hard but it is possible. Wish you all the best of luck in your endeavour. Best regards


  1. Dear Laxmi ji
    I am very happy that you liked my article 'Corruption in Nepal: An Anthropological Inquiry (2005).
    Other articles you may like are:
    Uterine Prolapse, Mobile Camp Approach and Body Politics in Nepal


    Various studies show that more than 600,000 women in Nepal are suffering from prolapsed uterus and that 200,000 of those needed immediate surgery. Many of the women with prolapse could recall the exact moment they first felt the prolapse and found difficulty to share the problems due to fear of stigma. Stories ranged from seven days immediately after the first delivery to after the birth of the fifth or sixth child; during cooking rice to sneezing and long coughing; fetching water in a big bucket to working in the field. If detected at an early stage, uterine prolapse (UP) can be controlled by pelvic exercises. For severe cases, the remedy is to insert a ring pessary to stop it from descending which has to be changed every four months. In extreme cases, uterine tissue protrudes from the vagina causing extreme discomfort. The only remedy is hysterectomy in which the uterus is surgically removed. The operation costs are about NRs 20,000. The Government of Nepal and other donor organizations have allocated funds to provide services to about 10,000 to 12,000 women suffering from uterine prolapse as humanitarian support each year and services are likely to be expanded in future. Women suffering from UP have not been able to get benefit from such assistance due to deep rooted socio-cultural perceptions and practices. The number of suffering women, on the other hand, would not decrease from existing curative management policy without hammering the root causes of UP. Moreover, a clear vision and strategy is needed to shift from humanitarian aid to a more sustainable public health intervention.
    Full Text available at:

  2. The following article is related to corruption in pharmaceuticals:

    Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Vol. 3 | 123. 124 | Madhusudan Subedi. Trade in Health Service: Unfair. Competition of Pharmaceutical ...

  3. Thank you Madhu ji for the reference. Everywhere corruption hard to clean or mop up the corruption in our socities and system. We've to work rigoursly collaborating with and helping the corruption fighters.

    1. Afno Manchhe: Unequal Access to Public Resources and Institutions in Nepal
      Madhusudan Subedi


      This paper highlights the informal inner circle network approach to maintaining relationships and reciprocating favors within a system that significantly affect the performance of incumbents in formal bureaucratic organizations. While this is a general sociological problem in any society, this article deals with how afno manchhe behavior is manifested in Nepal. Without afno manchhe relations, one risks marginalization, disappointments and failures in one’s struggle to realize important goals in life. In such a situation, the malfunctioning of administration and dissatisfaction arise at every level. There is thus a significant relationship between one’s position in afno manchhe networks and inclusion-exclusion processes. This of course has consequences for the widespread practice of corruption in Nepal.


      Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Vol. 8, 2014; 55-86
      For full text, follow the link