Commerce ministry to decide Khadka’s fate

Kathmandu, December 5

A board meeting of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) held on Friday evening has decided to write to the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) to take action against NOC’s Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka.

The NOC board chaired by Commerce Secretary Naindra Prasad Upadhyay has deemed that Khadka — a political appointee of the earlier government — was involved in anomalies in fuel distribution and had flouted the rule by releasing advance payment to a private party to import fuel.

One of the board members of NOC, who was present during Friday’s meeting, said that now Khadka’s fate is in the hands of Commerce Minister Ganesh Man Pun. “The minister can either forward the proposal to the Cabinet to sack Khadka or take action against him through a ministerial-level decision,” the board member further said.

The board had summoned Khadka on November 27 and asked him to submit his clarifications, which he did on Monday. However, Friday’s board meeting concluded that his explanation was not satisfactory and the board members have decided to write to MoCS recommending that action be taken against Khadka.

Khadka had authorised 12,000 litres of diesel to be dispatched to Hama Petrol Pump of Swoyambhu, Kathmandu, at his own discretion a few weeks back. There are also allegations of him sending tankers to fuel pumps and industries at his discretion by breaching the rules.

Moreover, he had also signed a contract with privately-owned Birat Petroleum Company to purchase petrol and diesel at a rate that was almost double the existing market price and had released advance payment to the latter to import fuel. Birat had unilaterally scrapped the contract on November 8 after the news of the agreement came to light and oversight agencies began a probe into the matter.

The private company had terminated the contract after the parliamentary committees — Public Accounts Committee and Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee — started questioning Khadka’s inclination towards Birat, as it had received favourable treatment from the state-owned petroleum supply monopoly.

The government was under pressure to take action against Khadka as the parliamentary committee on industry, commerce and consumer welfare also sought clarification from ministry officials regarding the petroleum purchase deal.

NOC had not only released the advance payment to Birat but had also ensured of purchasing fuel from the company if it failed to sell the product in the market.

The parliamentary committees also suspected that NOC officials were involved in black-marketing and MoCS had summoned a few depot chiefs — Shreechandra Bhandari of Nepalgunj Depot, Dinesh Kumar Yadav of Bhairahawa Depot and Basudev Bhandari of Birtamod Depot — on charge of promoting black-marketing on November 23.

Bhairahawa Depot Chief Yadav has given his clarification to MoCS investigation team that he had dispatched the fuel tankers as per the instruction given by NOC Managing Director Khadka. Reportedly, Khadka had put pressure on Yadav to dispatch fuel tankers for the pumps and industries that he recommended. The other two depot chiefs are yet to submit their clarifications.