PAC to quiz PM, Home Minister

KATHMANDU: The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee today directed the Home Ministry to immediately carry out auditing of the expenses made by the Hajj Committee formed 10 years ago.

The committee has also decided to call the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to discuss criteria on the formation of the Hajj Committee, functioning under the home ministry. But it was not decided when the PM and the Home Minister would be called in the committee as the members could not reach an understanding on the time. It has also asked the home ministry to submit the audit report to the committee within a week.

The parliamentary committee, which is supposed to look into the arrears of the government institutions, had earlier directed the Home Minister to form a seven-member Hajj Committee but the Ministry ignored the direction and constituted a 36-member panel. Every year, the government forms a Committee to facilitate Nepali Muslims' pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. A Committee formed during the tenure of Home Minister Bamdev Gautam had spent Rs 130 million for the Hajjis, on which a PAC sub-committee decided to realise the amount from Gautam.

Gautam was also called in the committee to answer queries on reported irregularities. But Gautam denied having indulged in them. He had explained that the amount had to be increased due to hikes in air fare and living cost in the desert country.

The PAC members had also grilled former HM Gautam on the high expenditure of the Muslim pilgrims. PAC chairman Ram Krishna Yadav said his committee had directed the Home Ministry to cooperate with the Office of the Auditor General on auditing the accounts handled by the Hajj Committees formed a decade ago and last year.

Notably, there was a tense situation in the meeting when some PAC members suggested calling the PM to discuss the issues. The committee has also decided to call Taz Mohammad Kiya, the then chairman of the Hajj Committee, and Nepali Ambassador to Saudi Arabia about the reported embezzlement.