Nepal wants citizens to vote for least corrupt official

By Chia Jie Lin

A contest showcases government officials who have the greatest integrity.

Image: Integrity Idol Nepal/Facebook - CC BY 2.0

Nepal is holding a contest to showcase officials who have the greatest integrity. Its goal? To promote honesty and cut corruption in government.

“Integrity Idol is building a network of honest government officials who can help institutionalize the much-needed values of integrity and accountability,” said Narayan Adhikari, Nepal Country Representative for the Accountability Lab.

Now in its fifth year, Integrity Idol identifies and celebrates government officials who have demonstrated accountability, honesty, and a passion to serve citizens. Citizens can submit nominations for officials that they believe are honest, accountable, and who have helped improve public services. “This is a positive citizen-led campaign to build integrity in Nepal,” Adhikari said.

Corruption is pervasive in Nepal. Many government officials receive bribes and abuse their power, while anti-corruption laws remain inadequate, according to the World Bank. Nepal is undergoing political, social and structural reforms which are a “positive sign”, said Adhikari, but progress has been slow. “The major reason behind it is the lack of integrity and accountability among citizens and power holders,” he noted.

After a rigorous seven-phase selection process, a panel of esteemed judges have chosen five finalists from a pool of 1062 citizen nominations, according to a press release. The finalists hail from the Vegetable Crops Development Center in Khumaltar, Tikapur Municipality, Ministry of Youth and Sport, District of Bardiya, and Birendranagar Municipal Health Office.

By “naming and faming” honest government officials, the contest can help bring “sustainable changes in the system”, Adhikari believes.
For one, rural farmers often do not receive the farming subsidies and technology that they need. But now, finalist Arun Kafle, a senior horticulture development officer, supports farmers in transitioning from subsistence farming to commercial farming.

Kafle has started an online application that allows farmers to order seeds and saplings which makes the process more transparent, and conducts regular surveys to get feedback from citizens. “Our responsibility is to ensure the relationship between government and citizens is like a transparent wall,” he shared. “The citizens are always happy to know that their voices are being heard.”

Following a special television broadcast, citizens can now vote for their favourites online.