IRC still probing NAC jet purchase irregularities

Kathmandu, January 11

Amid tension between the government and the Parliament over the implementation of the recommendation made by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on irregularities in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft for Nepal Airlines Corporation, another parliamentary panel — the International Relations Committee — is still collecting evidences to reach a conclusion.

The IRC, which was the first such committee to begin investigation into the deal forming a sub-panel, is preparing to come up with a report only after three weeks, although the government has made it clear that it will take necessary steps only after the High-Level Judicial Probe Commission submits its report. The commission, set up on January 3 under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, has been mandated to come up with a report 45 days after its formation.

The IRC had formed the five-member sub-committee on November 3, and appointed Nepal Communist Party lawmaker Deepak Prakash Bhatta as its coordinator on December 7.

“The sub-committee had been given a month’s time to come up with a report, but the tenure was extended by another month after it was felt that extra evidences were needed,” said Bhatta, adding that they now had three weeks.

Bhatta said although the government commission was also investigating the matter, they would not halt their probe. He said besides the aircraft purchase deal, the IRC will also investigate the NAC’s present financial status and its future plans, unlike the PAC study which was only based on the report of the Office of the Auditor General.

A meeting of the sub-committee today concluded that they also needed to study the court’s verdict regarding the aircraft

purchase deal, which the PAC did not consider while preparing its report. The sub-panel also plans to consult with aviation experts. “We just want to make sure that no questions are raised against our report,” the member said.

The PAC, making public its report on January 7, has recommended suspension of Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Krishna Prasad Devkota and NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar for embezzling Rs 4.36 billion in the jet purchase deal. The PAC has given the government a month to implement its directive.

PAC report has also recommended investigation and action against former tourism secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari and NAC board members involved in the purchase process.