Lawmakers vote out plan to sell lease of British mission

Kathmandu, January 17:

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee today vetoed a government plan to sell the lease of its prime property, where the London-based mission of Nepal is located, saying the move would send a bad message.

The time and situation is not favourable for selling the lease, committee members said after Foreign Secretary Gyan Chandra Acharya briefed them on the government plan. “Selling the property would give a bad impression both diplomatically and politically,” said Nepali Congress lawmaker Mohan Basnet. Foreign Ministry had made up its mind to sell off its lease to avoid hefty renovation expenditures to the tune of 600 million rupees following a cabinet decision last month, also backed by the parliamentary International Relations Committee.

A fact-finding mission formed last month has been assigned to submit a comprehensive report suggesting the government whether to sell the lease or renovate the embassy building, which is said to be in a “dilapidated” condition. The mission, coordinated by Nepali Ambassador to the United Kingdom Murari Raj Sharma, is expected to submit its report to the government this month.

The Accounts committee members advocated in favour of renovating the building considering the location and its historic importance. PAC member Bharat Shah and Bam Dev Chhetri suggested “phase-wise” renovation to cut down financial burden. “The government should allocate budget for renovation,” Pashupati Chaulagain said. The Committee today directed the Foreign Ministry not to decide on disposing or renovating the Nepali embassy building in London unless the PAC gave its final say.

“We have directed the government to put on hold any decision on the embassy property for now,” PAC chairman Pari Thapa said. He said the PAC would come up with its final stance after studying the mission report. “We will wait until we get the report,” Thapa added. Minister for Foreign Affairs Sahana Pradhan had told the committee that the condition of the embassy building, which has been taken for a lease since 1934 for 99 years, is “critical”.

Funds generated through the sale of the lease would be sufficient to build another building in some other areas of London, Acharya said.