KATHMANDU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Nepali talent show is in the final stages of finding a star who doesn't need to sing, dance or act - but has the X-factor when it comes to honesty in their job in the civil service.
The competition, Integrity Idol, is searching for the most honest civil servant as part of a campaign to promote greater integrity among bureaucrats in the Himalayan republic and tackle a perception of rampant corruption in government offices.
Wedged between China and India, Nepal was ranked 126th out of 175 countries in watchdog Transparency International’s global corruption perception index this month, down from 116 last year.
"This means Nepal is more corrupt and less accountable than it was in 2013," said Ashish Thapa, executive director of Transparency International Nepal.
The contest was organised by local non-government organisation, Accountability Lab, which works to promote greater honesty in public offices and more government accountability.
More than 300 nominations were submitted and whittled down to five finalists including a health worker, two teachers, a district education officer, and two workers devoted to fight maternal and child mortality in remote villages.
Students quizzed the finalists last week in a 30 minute TV show and voters have until midnight on Monday to choose their favourite candidate through social media or by mail.
Organisers expect 10,000 people to vote with the results to be announced next week. The winner will get a certificate to mark their dedication, integrity and honesty in their work.
Narayan Adhikari, Accountability Lab’s South Asia representative, said he hoped the initiative would encourage a young generation of people to join the civil service.
"If you ask young people now few want to take government jobs because many think they are corrupt, less efficient and lack integrity. We want to change that by recognising civil servants who are doing good work honestly and with integrity."
The finalists said the contest was a good start to motivate civil servants who work hard but are often unrecognised.
Bhuwan Kumari Dangol, a finalist, who has been teaching nursing students for over 15 years, said she had not done anything extraordinary to be nominated by her students.
"What I have done is to fulfill my responsibility sincerely and without any bias," she said.
Another finalist, Gyan Mani Nepal, an education officer in remote Panchthar district, said he was proud to be nominated.
"I think my work has been appreciated by the students and their parents," said Nepal, who shares his cell phone number with students so they can tell him when teachers are absent.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala says widespread corruption in government and NGOs "threatened social norms and values" in Nepal, one of the world's poorest nations where one quarter of 27 million people live below the poverty rate of $1.25 a day.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)