KATHMANDU: Defending its decision to allow India to print Machine Readable Passports, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal today told the Public Accounts Committee that the government awarded the contract due to “political reasons, diplomatic relations with India and time constraint.” PAC members, however, criticised the PM for making what they termed a “false statement.”

The PM said the government could not follow the committee’s instructions to revive the bidding process that had been cancelled earlier due to very limited time in meeting the April 1 deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to introduce MRPs.

He said the government had to make decisions on the MRPs in compulsion due to “mistakes” made by earlier governments. “The earlier governments did not take initiatives when there was sufficient time and this government had to take hasty decisions to meet the ICAO deadline,” he said.

The PAC had summoned the PM and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala seeking clarifications on the government’s act to bypass the PAC instructions twice.

The PM accused the PAC of making two contradictory decisions on the issue. “The PAC, on February 14, instructed the government to hold talks with different parties including India and we initiated dialogue with India. On February 25, the PAC, however, again directed the government to revive the cancelled bidding process. The government had to continue the negotiations with India as per the PAC’s former instruction, while it could not restart the bidding process as it was running out of time,” he said.

However, soon after the meeting, PAC members said the government initiated talks with India before the PAC’s first instruction, while it never talked with other countries.

Almost all CA members flayed the PM and the FM for violating the law while awarding the contract and “going against the nation’s interests.” They accused the government of abusing its authority. PAC members sent a volley of questions to the PM and the FM on the contract decision. Ajaya Chaurasia of the Nepali Congress and Anil Kumar Jha indirectly defended the government’s decision.

“The 18-point contract with India has lots of lapses and it is against Nepal’s well-being; the government cancelled the bid to save itself and to balance a share between NC and UML while appointing the Rastra bank governor.” Some NC, UML, Maoist and other CA members strongly criticised the government.

Sujataspeak

KATHMANDU: Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala on Monday said the International Civil Aviation Organisation has allowed Nepal to use existing passports forms for the next two-and-a-half months until the MRPs arrive from India. Speaking at an interaction at Reporters’ Club Nepal, she said the government awarded the MRP contract to India as per the first instruction of the Public Accounts Committee. On the leadership clash among three top Nepali Congress leaders, she said, “I respect the three leaders as they have sacrificed much for the Congress and democracy. I firmly believe that the leaders will move ahead together as a united force.” She also vowed to follow her father late Girija Prasad Koirala’s path in her political career.