CIAA's ongoing probe affects NOC's plans

Kathmandu, August 6

Though it has been more than a year that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) initiated a probe into the land purchase scam of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), the anti-graft body has yet to finalise the report.

This delayed investigation into the issue has not only given the wrongdoers a chance to influence the probe, but has also affected NOC's fuel storage expansion plan.

The anti-graft body had seized all documents related to the land purchase deal for constructing oil storage facilities from NOC and had begun an independent probe on August 1 last year. Though it was in January that CIAA officials claimed to have completed 60 per cent of the investigation, the authority is yet to give its verdict on the issue.

Meanwhile, CIAA officials are reluctant to talk about this issue and the findings of the probe.

“The investigation is still going on,” said Rameshwor Dangal, spokesperson for CIAA.

Owing to acute shortage of petroleum products in the country due to supply obstructions in the southern border in 2015-16, the government had planned to expand the country's fuel storage capacity so as to be able to sustain the domestic demand for at least three months.

However, NOC came under the CIAA scanner for alleged irregularities while buying land in Chitwan, Bhairahawa, Sarlahi and Jhapa, which was meant for the development of petroleum storage infrastructure.

Sushil Bhattarai, acting deputy managing director of NOC, said that the enterprise has no option than to wait for CIAA's verdict and direction from the government on this issue.

However, Bhattarai informed that NOC is currently focusing on building fuel storage tanks under assistance from China and enhancing the storage capacity of existing fuel depots. “Developing fuel storage capacity that can cater to demand for 90 days is a dream project. Meanwhile, construction of a few fuel storage facilities under Chinese assistance and enhancing the capacity of existing oil depots will be crucial to ensure regular supply of petroleum products in the domestic market,” informed Bhattarai.

With limited resources and technical knowledge in hand, the government had earlier sought Chinese technical and financial assistance for the construction of fuel storage facilities. Though the Chinese government had been positive towards assisting Nepal in developing fuel storage facilities, the two countries are yet to sign a concrete deal on this project.

NOC has identified Khaireni of Tanahu, Battar of Nuwakot, and Panchkhal of Kavre as possible sites for the development of fuel storage facilities under Chinese assistance.