Nepal | June 02, 2020

NOC head’s move certain to raise some eyebrows

• Depot chiefs directed not to disclose stock position of fuel • Officials told not to distribute fuel to private vehicles

Pushpa Raj Acharya
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Kathmandu, December 30

At a time when the deepening fuel crisis has adversely affected all aspects of normal life, senior management staff members of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) seem bent on capitalising on the dire situation.

Instead of managing proper distribution of available fuel, NOC Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka recently issued an internal circular to NOC staff, particularly the depot chiefs, to not disclose the stock position of fuel. This move is sure to raise brows because with the flow of vehicles loaded with fuel from India (except from Birgunj) rising in recent weeks, NOC’s stock has also improved.

It is reported that NOC — the state-owned petroleum supply monopoly — has over 2,500 kilolitres of petrol and 20,000 kl diesel in stock across the country at present.

“NOC Chief Khadka has also disallowed officials from extending refilling facility to private vehicles any time soon,” a high-level source at NOC told The Himalayan Times.

Moreover, the plans to establish proper mechanism for distribution, such as text message queue system and others have been stalled since long for no apparent reason.

In the meantime, Birat Petroleum — a private sector company which has received the Cabinet’s approval to import fuel — has started bringing fuel from India. Seven tankers hired by Birat had arrived in the Capital recently and the tankers have been selling the inflammable commodity directly to the public. The price fixed by Birat is more than double when compared to the existing market price — Rs 104.

In the early days of fuel crisis, NOC MD Khadka had signed a contract with Birat to import fuel and even released Rs 200 million in advance payment to the latter. Though the deal was scrapped immediately after oversight agencies — parliamentary committees — started investigating the matter, Birat started importing fuel as the Cabinet extended permission to import petrol and diesel of Euro IV standard.

However, the gazette notice issued on October 11 that paved way for the private sector players to import petroleum products has set a clear provision of requiring at least 14,000 kl storage capacity to import diesel and 5,000 kl storage capacity to import petrol. The gazette notice had also provisioned that any private company eligible to acquire the licence has to be worth Rs four billion and should submit its business plan for five years. However, Birat has not fulfilled these criteria.

The NOC source said someone had suggested distributing fuel imported by Birat through fuel pumps. However, theproposal was mowed down by fierce opposition from other senior officers. “If NOC started distributing fuel to four-wheelers at this time, it is highly unlikely that people will buy fuel at more than double the price directly from Birat Petroleum.”

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Earlier, NOC had said that it will publish the list of fuel stations to distribute fuel for private four-wheelers once the police completed inspection of fuel stations.

Sarbendra Khanal, senior superintendent of police at Metropolitan Police Crime Division, informed that the inspection of the fuel stations in Kathmandu Valley was completed a week back and the division has already informed NOC about this.

NOC had halted fuel distribution to private four-wheelers citing ongoing inspection by police, which was scheduled after distribution to two-wheelers from December 8 to 14. NOC has distributed fuel only two times for four-wheelers and three times for two-wheelers after barring refuelling facility to private vehicles on October 7.

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A version of this article appears in print on December 31, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.


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