Kathmandu, November 7
An internal investigation carried out by Nepali Army has found high-level corruption in Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track Project, with involvement of some top army officials.
An NA major general, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media, told The Himalayan Times that the investigation had been completed and action would soon be taken against the wrongdoers.
“The investigation team has uncovered corruption worth billions of rupees even before the much-hyped 76.2-kilometre-long national pride project was executed.”
Acting on complaints of irregularities at the Ministry of Defence and NA regarding the project, NA had initiated a probe on October 18 and suspended Brigadier General Sarad Lal Shrestha, who was heading the project.
As per the source, the irregularities occurred when retired major general Yogendra Bahadur Khand was the project chief. Khand retired on June 28, after which Shrestha was appointed project chief. As Shrestha was design in-charge when Khand was project chief, he too has come under the scanner.
“The probe has revealed corruption link between former chief of army staff Rajendra Chhetri, Khand and Shrestha,” said the source, adding they were involved in irregularities while preparing designs and technical specifications, selecting consultants and awarding the tender for track opening.
“The probe team has repeatedly sought clarifications from Khand, but his response contradicts the collected evidences. So, we are going to arrest Khand before December 29 — the date his retirement crosses six months,” the source said.
As per Army Act, military police can arrest and carry out investigation against retired army officials within six months of their retirement.
Chief of Army Staff Purna Chandra Thapa had asked Major General Sharad Giri to lead the investigation into the case.
As per the source, the investigation team is preparing to hand over the file containing corruption details of former CoAS Chhetri to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority for further investigation. As Chhetri retired on September 10 last year, NA will not be able to take any action against him.
Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey, spokesperson for NA, said the final report of the detailed investigation has been submitted to CoAS Thapa.
“Details of the probe report will be made public soon and if Shrestha is proved innocent, he will be reinstated as the project chief,” Pandey said.
After Shrestha’s suspension, Col Bikash Pokharel has been leading the project.
In view of the recent development, NA has terminated all earlier tenders and sought new request for proposals for the project. Pandey added that project completion date had also
been extended by a year. Earlier, NA had set a target of completing the project within three years. Around 12 per cent of construction work has so far been completed.
The initial detailed project report of the Fast Track had estimated the construction cost would hover around Rs 112 billion. But NA later said the cost was likely to be Rs 175 billion. It is yet to give a clear answer for the reasons behind the rise in construction cost.
A version of this article appears in print on November 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.