Sub-panel recommends action against tourism minister

Kathmandu, January 1

Lawmakers of the sub-committee formed under the Public Accounts Committee of the Federal Parliament to look into the anomalies in the wide-body aircraft purchase deal of Nepal Airlines Corporation have recommended action against Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari.

Members of the sub-committee were initially divided on whether to recommend action against the tourism minister.

The sub-panel has found that there was corruption of Rs 4.34 billion in the deal. It has sought the suspension of 38 government officials found to be involved in the anomalies.

The sub-committee has also recommended action against Tourism Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota and former tourism ministers Jeevan Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Narayan Yadav. The sub-panel has sought action against the chief of the civil aviation regulatory body Sanjeev Gautam too.

Likewise, the sub-panel has also sought action against former secretaries of the tourism ministry, Prem Rai and Shankar Prasad Adhikari, who has already retired. At present, Rai is the secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Other officials who have been named of being involved in financial irregularities in the aircraft purchase deal are Joint Secretary of Tourism Ministry Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank Chiranjibi Nepal, and then heads of Citizen Investment Trust and Employees Provident Fund. The sub-committee has also recommended action against then NAC management and members of the committee formed to purchase the planes.

The sub-committee has also suggested further investigation into the issue by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

Though some lawmakers of the sub-committee had earlier unofficially disclosed the names of people found to have been involved in irregularities in the aircraft purchase deal they were at odds over disclosing the names officially.

The sub-committee formed to probe the issue has also recommended the immediate suspension of NAC General Manager Sugat Ratna Kansakar for further investigation.

On Monday, the sub-committee had drafted a 35-page report, which concluded that there had been irregularities worth Rs 4.34 billion in the procurement of the Airbus A330-200 aircraft. But today before finalising the report lawmakers were divided on whether to make the initial report public or to amend the report prior to it being made public.

“We have found the involvement of more than 25 persons in irregularities while acquiring the wide-body planes,” a lawmaker who is a member of the sub-committee had earlier said seeking anonymity. “Among those persons involved some are from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and some are from the Nepali Congress and Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, and a few are high-ranking government staffers.”

The lawmaker had told The Himalayan Times that coordinator of the sub-committee Rajendra KC was not in favour of recommending action against Minister Adhikari and the former tourism ministers.

The PAC had formed a seven-member panel on December 13 with lawmaker KC as its coordinator to probe possible anomalies in the wide-body aircraft procurement process.

Earlier, the Public Procurement Monitoring Office and the Office of the Auditor General’s 55th report had mentioned that NAC exploited loopholes in the Public Procurement Act and the corporation’s bylaws while acquiring the wide-body aircraft. PAC had mandated the sub-committee to investigate the issue and prepare the report on the basis of the findings of PPMO and OAG.

The report submitted by PPMO to the Public Accounts Committee had pointed out 15 mistakes committed by NAC during the procurement process. PPMO had mentioned that the request for proposal had been issued specifying Airbus planes with Rolls-Royce Trent 772B engines against the Public Procurement Act that prohibits mentioning a particular brand, trademark, patent, design or manufacturer while preparing specifications except when there is no other option.

The sub-committee will submit its report to the full meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday.