Bureaucracy of Nepal has been plagued by inefficiencies and corruption. This problem has its root in the culturally backed practice of clientelism and patronage system. These systems act as a speed breaker in government efficiencies and havea negative profound impact on nations’ development.
In the context of Nepal, the system of clientelism and patronage can be traced to its history. For centuries, the country was ruled by feudal elites who concentrated power in the hand of very few powerful families and elites. Feudalsof the feudal system emphasize the culture of patronage and clientelism, in which individuals (citizens) must rely on personal connections and favors to access resources and secure a position of authority. Rana’s regime was based on the culture of patronage and clientelism.
After the abolishment of the monarchy in 2008, with the hope of a shared future country entered into an era of political transition and restructuring. But the early arrival of electoral democracy before a modern state and strong foreign influence dominated the establishment of a democratic government and influenced the adoption of new laws and regulations. Clientelism and patronage continued to flourish in politics and bureaucracy by dominating democratic practices. A similar notion of clientelism and patronage was stated by Nepalese anthropologist and social scientist Dor Bahadur Bistain his book Fatalism and Development. In his book, Bista focused on Nepal’s struggle for modernization due to the practice of chakari and aafnomanxey.
Even after the advent of the democratic and republic system, the country is still victimized by the practice of clientelism. This practice pervadesall three levels of government, from central in Singhdurbar to the ward offices of rural areas. At present, patronage networks are built around high-profile individuals such as politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen. Thismatrix has been used to secure government services, contracts, and benefits. Due to this practice, the phrase “Bhansun Nagari KehiHudian”, without any connection, no work will be done has been widely popular among Nepalese.
The patronage system created a culture of corruption in Nepal. Every individual feels that, to access basic services either they need to pay bribes, show powerful connections or offer political support. To carry out living within a country’s territory, the present status quo constructed the mentality of every citizen to compulsory engage in a patronage system. This psychology had created a devastating impact on the county’s development mostly in the area of industry and infrastructure development.
In addition to corruption, the government has been suffering from big problems in delivering services, enforcing laws, and representing the public interest.Recent newshighlights prove that the Culture of rent-seeking i.e.gaming the political system for private gain is increasing in Nepal.
Due to such malpractices, the notion of good governance, the rule of law, and politics has beennegatively influenced, and are forced to make such concepts utopian. The state has never been seen as the protector of public interest. Nepalese society has turned down into a low-trust society consisting of low-level equilibrium.
So, what can be done to address this problem? One potential solution is to create an accountable political system based on the application of checks and balances. It involves transparency in government contracts and promoting the principle of the Right person’s right place, especially in constitutional bodies. Right person right place means the practice of meritocracy, appointment based on ability or talent, rather than power and connection.
Another potential solution is to strengthen investigative bodies like the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). For the strengthening of such investigative bodies, strong civil societies must be built. Therefore, it is necessary to have a fundamental shift in the country’s political culture. The psychology, ideology, and mentality of people towards the working mechanism of the nation should be changed, and the seed of a prosperous nation must be planted.
Only a paradigm shift in the culture andbehavior of citizens toward bureaucratic transparency can lead Nepal to a nation of shared future through bureaucratic transparency.
BALLB, 3rd year
Kathmandu School of law