Kathmandu, September 11

Despite incriminating evidences, the Parliamentary Committee on Commerce, Industry and Consumer Welfare Relations today dragged its feet on recommending action against officials involved in financial irregularities during land acquisition for Nepal Oil Corporation.

A probe panel under the same committee today submitted its report on NOC’s land acquisition scam, which showed involvement of high-level officials of the Ministry of Supplies, the then chairman of NOC board, chief of NOC management, bidder for NOC’s land acquisition, middlemen involved in the acquisition process, the then secretaries of village development committees where NOC acquired land and officials of land registration offices.

However, the committee’s meeting held here today under the chairmanship of lawmaker Bhisma Raj Angdambe did not recommend any action against the aforementioned wrongdoers and merely decided to direct the MoS to probe further into the issue based on findings of the study report.

The report submitted by the parliamentary probe panel states that NOC paid up to four times more than the valuation determined by the government for the land that it acquired in Jhapa, Sarlahi, Chitwan and Rupandehi districts. Moreover, the plots of land that NOC purchased for the purpose of developing fuel storage facility don’t meet the set standards, adds the report.

“While some plots are a few metres away from rivers, others fall within the project area of Mechi-Mahakali Railway Project,” the study report adds.

During today’s meeting, lawmakers urged the probe committee to disclose names of officials involved in financial irregularities and asked PCCICWR to recommend strong action against them. But the House panel dismissed their pleas.

The meeting of PCCICWR was even paused to privately discuss possible decision/direction of the committee following report of the probe panel. However, when nothing conclusive came out of the meeting, which had dragged on for nearly five hours, some lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction at such ineffective intervention of PCCICWR. “This gives space for the identified culprits of NOC land acquisition to dodge the law easily,” said one lawmaker.

Talking to The Himalayan Times after the meeting, lawmaker Subash Chandra Thakuri, who was also the coordinator of the probe panel, said, “The report shows there were irregularities during NOC’s land acquisition process at different levels. It is now up to the government to bring the guilty to book.”

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has been separately probing the issue for almost a month. However, it is yet to submit its final probe report.

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