Kathmandu, January 26
The Cabinet meeting on Thursday transferred secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) Maheswor Neupane to the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO).
It has been learnt that Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev took the proposal to transfer former MOCTCA secretary Neupane in the Cabinet meeting after the latter took a stand against Minister Dev’s wish to table the proposal to hire the German-based Lufthansa Consulting Group as the strategic management partner of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to the Cabinet directly.
Neupane is also said to have expressed strong reservations against the minister’s plan to change the director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
Talking to The Himalayan Times today, Neupane said that he faced the transfer after he opposed to take the proposal to appoint Lufthansa to the Cabinet.
“As the Ministry of Finance (MoF), while giving a nod to the NAC-Lufthansa partnership, had urged for compliance with government laws before taking the proposal to the Cabinet meeting, I was of the point that the entire process of hiring NAC’s strategic partner needs to be cross-checked,” said Neupane.
According to him, while there were differences related to leadership change in CAAN and other recruitment processes with the minister, the inability to see eye to eye on the NAC-Lufthansa partnership was a major bone of contention.
MoF had recently agreed to make Lufthansa Consulting the strategic management partner of NAC on condition that the strategic hiring process complies with existing laws. As the process adopted by the government to hire a strategic partner for NAC had repeatedly drawn criticism in the past, MoF had asked MoCTCA to make sure that government laws are not breached while appointing Lufthansa as NAC’s partner.
Tourism Secretary Neupane had then expressed his commitment that the process of hiring a strategic partner for NAC would comply with existing laws and the proposal would be taken to the Cabinet only after the entire process of hiring a strategic partner for NAC had been revisited.
The process of hiring a strategic partner for the national flag carrier had faced criticism especially because MoCTCA had not entertained competitive bidding process as mandated by the Public Procurement Act. MoCTCA had sought closed request for proposals (RfPs) from airlines of only five countries (United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia) through their embassies in Nepal raising questions as to why the RfPs were not more encompassing.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Dev said that the decision to transfer former secretary Neupane was taken by the Cabinet. “I had no hand in this move,” he said, and refused to make further comment on the issue.
The Cabinet has appointed former PPMO secretary Krishna Devkota as the new tourism secretary.
A version of this article appears in print on January 27, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.