Fri, May 23, 2014 - Page 6 News List

South Asia leads the world in corruption, report says

AP, KATHMANDU, Nepal

South Asia is the most corrupt region of the world and governments must strengthen their antigraft agencies to prevent political interference and protect whistle-blowers, Transparency International said on Wednesday.

The watchdog group found serious problems with anticorruption efforts in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“South Asia now is the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption, based on our studies,” Transparency International Regional Director for the Asia-Pacific Srirak Plipat said.

All six countries have public bodies charged with stopping corruption, but “their hands are tied by political control over the staff appointments and budget,” the group said in a report.

“The lack of political will on the part of governments to make laws work means that government action to fight corruption is largely ineffective,” the report added.

The group urged the governments of the six countries to strengthen their anticorruption agencies and judiciary by ensuring that appointments, transfers and removal of the heads of the agencies are conducted independently.

The report also said that political interference means that the agencies are selective in conducting investigations and in most of South Asia are powerless because they need government approval before starting a probe.

In Nepal last year, the chief justice of the Nepalese Supreme Court was appointed prime minister, which Transparency International said blurred the line between executive and judicial powers. Nepali Prime Minister Khil Raj Regmi did not resign from his judicial position, although he stopped hearing cases.

In Bangladesh, the government has appointed 48 judges to the Supreme Court since 2009.

Pakistan is discussing a right-to-information law, but in Sri Lanka this is nonexistent, the report said.

It said India has been making attempts to dilute its right-to-information law, which currently is one of the strongest in the world.

Plipat said Transparency International would monitor India’s newly elected government to see whether it follows its promise of cleaning up graft.

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