PAC fails to endorse panel report on NAC’s aircraft deal

Kathmandu, January 4

Due to objection from lawmakers of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) during the Public Accounts Committee meeting, the House panel today failed to endorse the report on Nepal Airline Corporation’s wide-body aircraft purchase deal submitted by the PAC sub-committee assigned to look into financial irregularities in the deal.

PAC failed to take any concrete decision after lawmakers of the ruling NCP objected to the report’s recommendation seeking action against Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari.

The sub-committee’s report, which was disclosed to mediapersons on Wednesday, mentions that Adhikari was also complicit in financial irregularities worth Rs 4.34 billion during the procurement process. The PAC has decided to endorse the report on Monday after amending it.

It has handed over the report to its secretariat for amendment after a majority of lawmakers from the ruling NCP sought amendments to the report during the meeting.

NCP lawmakers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the report, which has named Adhikari and Prem Kumar Rai, who is the home secretary, for being involved in corruption in the deal.

Speaking at the PAC meeting, NCP lawmakers Hridayesh Tripathi and Bishal Bhattarai, said Adhikari might have released the final instalment of the payment as he did not have any other option after previous instalments were already paid. Tripathi added that if Adhikari had not released the final instalment then NAC would not have been able to acquire the two Airbus A330-200 aircraft. They also raised questions on why the panel had recommended separate actions for sitting and former ministers.

The ruling party members also criticised lawmaker Rajendra Kumar KC, who led the sub-committee, for revealing the report to mediapersons before the full meeting of PAC could discuss it.

PAC Chairman Bharat Kumar Shah said the main points of the report could not be removed and only some improvement in language could be made. “Removing the main points will castrate the report,” Shah, who is from the Nepali Congress, said. “We can only make some changes in the language.”

Another NC lawmaker Minendra Rijal said the basic structure should not be changed while amending the report. “We suggest the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority to immediately initiate action against those accused of financial irregularities.”

The sub-panel had submitted its report to the PAC on Wednesday, indicting Minister Adhikari and his predecessors Jitendra Narayan Dev and Jeevan Bahadur Shahi, among others, in one of the biggest corruption cases of the country.

Meanwhile, the government stated that there were mistakes in the report and it had formed a probe committee to investigate the wide-body procurement process.

The Cabinet meeting yesterday formed a committee under the coordination of former chief judge Govinda Prasad Parajuli. The three-member probe committee, which also comprises former deputy attorney Narendra Prasad Pathak and chartered accountant Madan Sharma, has been given 45 days to submit the probe report to the government.