Kathmandu, January 10
The government is determined to trash the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee’s report on irregularities in the purchase of two wide-body Airbus aircraft for Nepal Airlines Corporation.
The PAC, making public the report on January 7, had recommended suspension of Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Krishna Prasad Devkota and NAC General Manager Sugat Ratna Kansakar for embezzling Rs 4.35 billion in the jet purchase deal.
Amid criticism over the government’s delay in implementing the House panel’s directive, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota said the government would take necessary action only after it received a report from the High-Level Judicial Probe Commission, indicating that the House panel’s report would be trashed.
The commission, set up on January 3 under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, has been mandated to furnish its report within 45 days of its formation.
The commission is led by former chief judge of Patan Appellate Court Govinda Prasad Parajuli and the members are former deputy attorney general Narendra Prasad Pathak and Chartered Accountant Madan Sharma.
“The commission has been formed to ascertain the truth regarding the aircraft purchase, and not to protect anybody,” said Baskota at a weekly press conference to make public cabinet decisions today. “The commission was formed after the leader of the opposition Sher Bahadur Deuba demanded the same in his parliament address.”
Furnishing another hint that the House panel’s report would most probably be dumped, Baskota said decisions of the parliamentary committee and its sub-committee were different and that the government-formed commission would eliminate such confusion.
The sub-committee had recommended suspension of Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, but the full committee gave him a clean chit.
The PAC has given the government a month to implement its directive. “We’ll come up with our next move after a month,” PAC Chairperson Bharat Kumar Shah told THT.
The PAC has directed to suspend Devkota and Kansakar for procuring old planes despite the fact that a report of the Auditor General stated that the procurement process was not in accordance with the laws.
PAC report has also recommended investigation and action against former tourism secretary Shankar Adhikari and NAC board members involved in the procurement process, and added that Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari and his predecessors Jitendra Narayan Dev and Jeevan Bahadur Shahi should take moral responsibility for the aircraft purchase.
PAC has also recommended that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority should investigate the deal.
Parliamentary experts said the government should implement the House panel’s directive within a month. If the panel is not satisfied with the government’s actions, it can summon the head of the government and inquire about the status of implementation of its directions, according to Som Bahadur Thapa, a parliamentary expert.
A version of this article appears in print on January 11, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.