Nepal’s Koirala government moves against graft

Kathmandu (IANS): Nepal’s newly-installed Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, in his first decision following assumption of office, Wednesday decided to take tough measures against corruption and irregularities that are widely prevalent in various government entities of the Himalayan nation.

Nepali Congress chief Koirala was sworn-in Tuesday along with party colleague Ram Sharan Mahat and the two-man cabinet, at a meeting here, decided to take concrete measures to curb the menace of widespread corruption and irregularities.

At the very outset, Koirala suffered a setback at the eleventh hour when his major coalition partner, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), chose to stay out of the government after being denied the home ministry.

Koirala, seen as the epitome of simple living, has declared his determination to resume good and transparent governance. Immediately after assuming office, Koirala signed a decision that any payment of Nepali Rs.5,000 or above by government entities, including the Prime Minister’s Office, should be posted on the government website at least for three days.

Before being elected to the post of prime minister, in a speech delivered in parliament, Koirala had stressed that a zero tolerance policy against corruption and maintaining good governance would be the key agendas of his government.

Another decision taken at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting was to appoint a new dean within 24 hours at the government-owned Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) which has been in the limelight recently following the exposure of a series of corruption cases in granting permission for setting up of new medical colleges.

In protest against the widespread irregularities and corruption in the medical fraternity, a senior doctor of TUTH is staging a fast-unto-death for the fourth time since Sunday.

Govinda KC, a senior orthopaedic surgeon from TUTH, has resumed his hunger strike demanding that accreditation not be given to new medical colleges as hundreds of millions rupees are illegally changing hands for this.

KC has also demanded the appointment of a new senior dean so that such malpractices and corruption can be curbed.

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2013, a report launched by the Britain-based Transparency International (TI), ranked Nepal 116th out of 177 nations.

Koirala also instructed Chief Secretary Leela Mani Poudyal to operationalise the India-funded trauma centre at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu which has not started even though it has been ready since 2009.

The construction of the nine-storey building with Indian assistance was completed in July 2009 but due to differences between the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS) and Bir Hospital, it has not started functioning yet.

According to the traffic directorate, at least 150 major and hundreds of minor accidents are reported everyday in Kathmandu and it is estimated that around 4,000 people died in road accidents and subsequent trauma related to the road accidents in 2013.

After Nepal Police took tough measures against drunk driving, the rate has now decreased significantly.

The state-of-the-art 200-bed trauma centre is a model in South Asia for treating emergency and accident cases.

By Anil Giri