House panel directs PPMO to probe wide-body purchase deal

Kathmandu, November 28

The Public Accounts Committee of the Federal Parliament today directed the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) under the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers to look into the purchase deal of two wide body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).

The parliamentary committee is currently investigating irregularities in the deal as claimed by some media reports and following concerns expressed by lawmakers. Now, the panel has sought PPMO’s support to deal with the issue.

Today’s meeting of the parliamentary committee directed the PPMO to submit its report within next seven days. The committee has also decided to summon Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari to its next meeting to learn more about the wide-body purchase deal.

On Monday, lawmakers had suspected that a big ‘commission game’ was played out in NAC’s wide-body aircraft purchase deal. Lawmakers claimed that concerned government authorities and NAC officials could have been involved in financial irregularities while purchasing the wide-body planes and sought a thorough investigation into the matter. Today, the PAC called PPMO Secretary Madhu Prasad Regmi and Director Ram Chandra Sharma to discuss the issue. During the meeting, Regmi told lawmakers that his office was unaware of the issue as the national flag carrier had not cooperated in the investigation.

Then some members suggested that the PPMO be given a certain time to look into the issue. In response, Regmi expressed his readiness to work as per the instruction given by the committee.

NAC acquired two Airbus A330-200 series aircraft on June 28 and July 26. The national flag carrier had purchased the aircraft from US-based AAR Corporation at a cost of Rs 24 billion. NAC has taken a loan of Rs 12 billion each from Citizen Investment Trust and Employees Provident Fund at 10.5 per cent interest rate to buy the planes.

During the meeting, Nepali Congress lawmaker and PAC Chairman Bharat Kumar Shah claimed funds had been embezzled during the purchase of the two wide-body aircraft. Lawmakers who took part in today’s meeting continuously raised questions over motives of authorities including NAC and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA).