US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU800

Parliament Adjourns With Passage of Anti- Corruption Bills

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU800
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU800 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-04-24 11:08:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV KCRM SNAR PINR NP Government of Nepal
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KATHMANDU 000800 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KCRM, SNAR, PINR, NP, Government of Nepal (GON), Nepali Government Policy 
SUBJECT: Parliament Adjourns With Passage of Anti- 
Corruption Bills 
 
REF: KATHMANDU 555 
 
1. (SBU) Summary.  Parliament adjourned April 17 after 
passing four anti-corruption bills.  Legislators will 
return in May for a budget session and to consider further 
extending the state of emergency in effect since November 
2001.  The four new anti-corruption measures provide for 
punishments for taking bribes and other public 
malfeasance; the means to freeze accounts of officials 
accused of corruption; the establishment of a special 
court to prosecute corruption cases; and the impeachment 
of members of constitutional bodies.  Reformers welcomed 
the new measures, but warned of obstacles to 
implementation and vague language that could handicap the 
measures' effectiveness.  End Summary. 
 
Nepal's Parliament Adjourns 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) Nepal's Parliament adjourned its winter session 
April 17, its last order of business the passage of four 
bills targeted against public corruption.  Parliament will 
re-convene for a budget session in mid-May, in time for 
legislators to consider an extension of the state of 
emergency.  [Note: The state of emergency expires May 26, 
and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has indicated that 
he will ask Parliament to extend it.  Originally declared 
November 26, 2001, the emergency was extended by three 
months in late February by vote of Parliament.  The 
Parliament Secretariat told us that this year the 
government had decided to move up by one month 
Parliament's annual budget session, which usually convenes 
in June.  This will obviate the need to convene a special 
session to extend the emergency.  End Note.] 
 
Anti-Corruption Bill Locus of New Measures 
------------------------------------------ 
 
3. (U) At the heart of the package of four new public 
corruption measures is the "Anti-Corruption Bill," which 
provides for punishments for accepting or giving bribes 
and acquiring property with illegally-acquired funds. 
Jail terms range from three months for accepting a bribe 
worth Nepali Rupees (NRs.) 25 thousand (USD 325) to up to 
ten years for a bribe of over NRs. 10 million (USD 
130,000).  The bill would forbid civil servants from 
taking "donations" or gifts related to work without 
permission, keeping commissions or other benefits gained 
in the course of procuring or leasing goods and services, 
and inflicting loss or damage to public property. 
 
CIAA: Power to Freeze Accounts 
------------------------------ 
 
4. (U) A second bill grants additional powers to the 
Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority 
(CIAA).  The CIAA would have the power to issue orders to 
freeze bank accounts belonging to individuals under 
investigation for corruption, and to seize property 
acquired through illegal means even though the property is 
in someone else's name.  Public officials would be 
required to prepare and submit financial disclosure 
statements or face penalties.  The statements would be 
consulted in the future to gauge whether an official has 
acquired property illegally or had been living beyond his 
means. 
 
Another Special Court 
--------------------- 
 
5. (U) The fourth anti-corruption measure provides for the 
establishment of a Special Court to hear corruption cases. 
[Note:  Nepal's legislature has already mandated special 
courts to hear cases related to narcotics trafficking, 
trafficking in persons (TIP), and public security.  These 
special courts are located in Kathmandu, but take cases 
from all over the country.  NGOs working on TIP issues 
have complained that many victims of trafficking cannot 
afford the expense of traveling to the capital to make 
their case, and for that reason some traffickers have 
escaped prosecution.  End Note.]  The Special Court can 
freeze the assets and hold the passports of accused 
persons.  Appeals from the Special Court go directly to 
the Supreme Court.  [Note:  Previously, corruption cases 
were first heard in Appellate Court.  End Note.] 
 
New Impeachment Mechanism 
------------------------- 
 
6. (U) An Impeachment Bill establishes a mechanism for 
Parliament to impeach officials of constitutional bodies 
for inefficiency, "bad character," or dishonesty.  [Note: 
Constitutional bodies include the Election and Public 
Service Commissions as well as the Commission for the 
Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).  Previously 
Parliament lacked the means to remove members of these 
bodies for cause.  End Note.]  The bill would require a 
vote of twenty-five percent of Parliament to commence an 
impeachment proceeding.  A panel of three - two MPs (from 
different parties) and a legal expert - would then take 
statements and conduct an investigation before making a 
recommendation to the full house.  The full chamber votes 
on the panel's recommendation, with a simple majority of 
MPs needed for impeachment. 
 
New Measures Seen as Over-broad, but Amendments Fail 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
7. (SBU) A leading Nepalese businessman and member of 
Parliament's Upper House criticized the new measures in a 
discussion with Poloff.  In part, problems with the bills 
resulted from the extraordinary treatment they were given. 
All four by-passed regular procedures and were pushed 
through the entire process in a single week, an 
unprecedented occurrence.  Our contact explained that 
although the laws had a "high-sounding name," their scope 
was so broad as to render them meaningless.  By expanding 
the definition of civil servants, the bills would make a 
crime of tipping a waiter in a restaurant partially owned 
by the government.  His greatest fear, however, was that 
by expanding the powers of the CIAA, the new legislation 
would make that body even less effective than it has been. 
The Parliamentarian introduced amendments to redress these 
problems, and although the Upper House accepted the 
amendments, the Lower House voted them down. 
 
Laws and Sausages 
----------------- 
 
9. (SBU) The amendments failed in the Lower House after 
the ruling Nepali Congress Party (NCP) whip, who had a 
large part in pushing through the original, non-amended 
versions of the bills, took the Upper House amendments as 
a personal affront.  While NCP members were working on a 
compromise to ease his wounded pride, opposition leader 
Madhav Nepal took the floor to fight the amendments. 
Nepal argued that after a multi-party consensus on 
fighting corruption had been forged in the Lower House, 
the Upper House had come along and substantially changed 
the legislation.  Nepal proposed rejecting the amendments 
in toto, and in the face of resistance from the whip and 
the opposition party, the rest of the Lower House fell in 
line. 
 
Implementation Uncertain 
------------------------ 
 
10. (SBU) Ruling party MPs praised the session's 
accomplishments, which also included new legislation on 
women's property rights (Reftel) and the establishment of 
commissions on women's and dalits' (lower caste) issues. 
Altogether sixteen bills - including the four anti- 
corruption measures - have been sent to the Palace and 
await formal Royal assent, required for a bill to become 
law under Nepal's Constitution.  Observers commented that 
although the new measures are welcome, the test will come 
when the government attempts to implement them.  This is 
especially true of the anti-corruption measures, the Amcit 
head of the local National Democratic Institute (NDI) 
related. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (SBU) Widely viewed as corrupt and unresponsive, 
Nepal's political leaders know they have to put their 
house in order.  In this year's Parliamentary session they 
made a tentative effort in that direction.  Although far 
from perfect, the new anti-corruption measures are a good 
start to rolling back a problem that affects both Nepal's 
economy and its ability to rally support for efforts to 
quell the Maoist insurgency.  The best reason to celebrate 
may be that the quantity of legislation pushed through 
during this year's session of Parliament greatly exceeded 
the output last year - when opposition party leaders led a 
boycott to protest then-Prime Minister G.P. Koirala's 
alleged involvement in an airplane-leasing scandal.  Anti- 
corruption crusaders have committed to fighting for more 
and better legal and regulatory tools to press their 
cause, which they rightly view as central to the 
development of Nepal's young democracy. 
 
MALINOWSKI 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04