Nepal | June 04, 2020

Minister Baskota resigns after audiotape scandal

Was negotiating kickbacks with a Swiss equipment supplier

Roshan S Nepal
Share Now:

Kathmandu, February 20

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota today resigned from his post after the release of an audiotape in which he is heard negotiating kickbacks with a Swiss equipment supplier in the government’s security printing press procurement deal.

This undated image shows Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota. Photo courtesy: Twitter

Baskota, who was in Dhangadhi this morning, submitted his resignation to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in Baluwatar upon his return. In a Twitter post, Baskota said, “I inform that I have tendered my resignation from the minister’s post to the prime minister on moral grounds after questions were raised against me.”

Baskota is a close confidant of the PM. He has been living in Oli’s personal residence in Balkot, Bhaktapur, since Oli moved to his official residence in Baluwatar soon after becoming the prime minister.

Without referring to the Baskota scandal, Oli this morning said he was fighting for system and good governance. “I won’t spare anybody working against the system and good governance, no matter how close they are to me,” said Oli at an event to launch a book written by Nepal Rastra Bank Deputy Governor Chintamani Siwakoti.

Baskota’s resignation followed a meeting between ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Co-chairs Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal in Baluwatar this morning after the release of the audiotape. Sources said NCP co-chairs agreed that Baskota must resign. Oli then summoned Baskota to Baluwatar and asked him to resign.

News portal hamrakura.com was the first to release the audiotape last night. In the audiotape, Baskota is heard negotiating around Rs 740 million in commission with Bijay Prakash Mishra, said to be the Nepal agent of a Swiss equipment supplier, for procuring security printing press.

“I want the procurement deal to be sealed at Rs 26-27 billion. If the deal is sealed, let’s assume, at Rs 25 billion, what amount will we receive?” Baskota is heard asking agent Mishra.

In his reply, Mishra says the kickbacks will amount to around Rs 740 million — 70 per cent of which Baskota will receive in commission. Baskota is then heard saying that the deal amount could be raised by Rs 1 billion to increase the commission amount.

Baskota is also heard using obscene language in reference to bureaucrats involved in the project. “If I tell the (abusive Nepali word) bureaucrats about it, they will prevail over me. So you [Mishra] deal with them,” says Baskota. Mishra then agrees to do so.

The main opposition Nepali Congress had this morning demanded that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli sack Baskota after the release of the audiotape.

Organising a press conference at the party headquarters in Sanepa, Lalitpur, NC Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma said it was not only Baskota’s responsibility to resign to pave the way for fair investigation, it was also Oli’s responsibility to ask Baskota to resign and encourage authorities concerned to conduct investigations fairly.

Sharma also urged the prime minister to listen to the obscene language Baskota used while he negotiated kickbacks with Mishra.

“The prime minister has said he will not even look at the face of the corrupt. But he has to listen to the obscene words his minister has used in the audiotape,” said Sharma. “Any politician using obscene language in reference to bureaucrats is disgraceful.”

Sharma also questioned the word ‘we’ that Baskota used in the audiotape referring to those supposed to receive the kickbacks. “We ask the prime minister who Baskota was referring to when he said in the audiotape ‘we need the said amount’,” said Sharma.

Meanwhile, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority stated that it was closely following developments related to the Baskota audiotape scandal. “If we receive a formal complaint in line with constitutional and legal provisions, we’ll start investigations immediately,” said CIAA Spokesperson Pradip Kumar Koirala.

“Since we’ve not yet received a complaint, and the scandal has just surfaced, we are closely watching the developments. We will soon take a decision on the matter.”

READ ALSO:


A version of this article appears in print on February 21, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Indian elephant dies after eating fruit packed with firecracker, police investigating

KOCHI: A pregnant elephant died in India apparently after eating some fruit containing a firecracker that exploded in her mouth, prompting a criminal investigation into suspected cruelty toward animals, forestry officials said on Wednesday. The incident drew outrage on social media af Read More...

Traders defy lockdown as patience runs thin in Nepal

Durbar Marg shops to open from today Other traders, businesses also defiant KATHMANDU, JUNE 3 With no end in sight to the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 24 that has effectively halted all economic activities for the past two-and-a-half months, traders, firms and industries have be Read More...

Mahakali Hospital isolation ward filled with COVID-19 patients

KANCHANPUR: At least fifteen COVID-19 patients have been admitted to the isolation ward of Mahakali Hospital in Bhimdattanagar Municipality, Kanchanpur district. The isolation ward has a capacity of 20 beds. The hospital has started treatment of COVID-19 since Tuesday. Seven persons — reside Read More...

The office of the prime minister and council of ministers, OPMCM

Evacuation of Nepalis likely to begin Friday

KATHMANDU, JUNE 3 After the plan to evacuate stranded Nepali citizens from several countries was approved by the Cabinet a few days ago, the government is gearing up to bring them home on priority basis from Friday. Narayan Bidari, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of M Read More...

Home isolation for asymptomatic, mild Covid cases

KATHMANDU, JUNE 3 The Ministry of Health and Population has directed hospitals to send home patients infected with the novel coronavirus who show mild or no symptom of the disease so that hospitals can treat severe cases of COVID-19. Hospitals treating COVID-19 patients have also been told to Read More...

Nepal govt may declare state of public health emergency as coronavirus cases rise steadily

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population is mulling over proposing to the Council of Ministers to declare state of public health emergency in the country following a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Section 48 (2) of the Public Health Service Act states that if public Read More...

COVID-19 curve flattening in Narainapur

NEPALGUNJ, JUNE 3 The COVID-19 spread seems to have come under control in Narainapur Rural Municipality, Banke, which had emerged as a coronavirus hotspot after a number of people tested positive for the virus here earlier. According to the district’s corona focal person Naresh Shrestha, it Read More...

Frontline workers to get hazard allowance

KATHMANDU, JUNE 3 The Government of Nepal has published ‘Hazard Allowance Management Order for Human Resources Involved in the Treatment of COVID-19 Infection’ in Nepal Gazette for its implementation. The order aims to provide hazard allowance to the human resources involved in the identif Read More...