PAC recommends CIAA probe, action against the guilty

A preliminary probe of the committee has showed that there was corruption at several levels at NOC while purchasing land

Kathmandu, August 4

Concluding that there has been huge embezzlement of funds by Nepal Oil Corporation while purchasing land meant for developing its petroleum storage facility, the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature-Parliament today decided to recommend legal action against NOC officials for their alleged involvement in corruption.

The PAC meeting chaired by lawmaker Dor Prasad Upadhyay concluded that NOC purchased land violating the Land Acquisition Act of 1977, disobeyed direction given by parliamentary committees to purchase public land while expanding its services and acquired land at much inflated rates compared to their local and government value.

“A preliminary probe of the committee has showed that there was corruption at several levels at NOC while purchasing land,” Upadhyay said and informed that the committee would recommend the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority to investigate the matter further and take action against all government officials found guilty in the land acquisition process of NOC.

At the PAC meeting held on Wednesday, the committee had summoned Minister for Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal, Supplies Secretary Prem Kumar Rai and Managing Director of NOC Gopal Bahadur Khadka to take stock of the details on land acquisition process.

While analysing documents submitted by NOC, PAC found that the corporation had purchased land for the development of petroleum storage facility against the Land Acquisition Act by issuing tenders to a third party stating that following the procurement process as per the act would be lengthy. Similarly, the committee also found that NOC had purchased a majority of land plots in Jhapa, Sarlahi, Chitwan and Bhairahawa districts through middlemen instead of directly purchasing the plots from the owners and at much inflated rates.

NOC officials, including its Chief Khadka, have been charged with financial irregularities worth almost half of Rs 1.5 billion that the corporation has spent so far for the land acquisition process. Just a few days ago, it was revealed that NOC had paid up to Rs 1.3 million for one kattha of land on the banks of the Rohani River in Bhairahawa while the actual value of the land is less than Rs 500,000 per kattha.

Talking to The Himalayan Times after the PAC’s meeting this morning, Minister Mandal vowed to immediately initiate action against those found guilty, including the MoS staff. “We have yet to receive a written notice from PAC about its conclusion today. But I promise that none of the culprits will be spared.”

He also expressed commitment to extend all necessary support to CIAA for further investigation into the issue of NOC’s land purchase.

While Khadka had been repeatedly denying any irregularities in the land purchase deal, he flatly refused to comment when approached today.

Meanwhile, the anti-graft body has already started looking into the matter. “We have asked both NOC and MoS to submit all the documents related to the land acquisition process. We will take a decision soon after analysing the details,” CIAA Spokesperson Jiba Raj Koirala told THT.