Communication Minister in soup over controversial audio-tape leak, resigns

KATHMANDU: Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota has tendered his resignation.

Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) Agni Prasad Sapkota informed the House of this recent development. "We will definitely receive a formal written notice soon. However, I have been informed that the concerned minister (referring to Baskota) has tendered his resignation already."

Minister Baskota was under scrutiny following the leak of an audio clip wherein he is heard to be bargaining for commission in the process of procuring the security printing press.

In the audio, Minister Baskota is heard talking about a commission of Rs 700 million with an agent. It may be noted that the Minister is also heard using abusive language to address employee/s of the project for establishment of the press. The person who is in conversation with Minister Baskota is understood to be a Nepali agent of the Swiss company interested in setting up the press, Bijay Prakash Mishra. The two are heard talking about which “track” must be taken to get higher commission.

In January, the House panel had started a probe following complaints registered at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that billions of rupees had been embezzled in the process of establishing the security printing press and procuring necessary equipment and machinery.

The government has been preparing to bring in security press worth Rs 35 billion as per government-to-government modality from France and Germany. By establishing a security printing press in the country, the government plans to print secured documents, certificates and stickers including passports, excise-duty stickers, and vehicle driving licences on its own.