EDITORIAL: Give a thorough probe

It would not bode well should it be found that irregularities occurred in the legislature

A probe panel to investigate irregularities in the procurement of vehicles at the Parliamentary Secretariat is being formed at the behest of Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara. Nothing could be more shameful than this. This is perhaps the first time in the history of Nepal’s parliamentary practice that the Speaker himself has directed the chairs of parliamentary committees to form a five-member panel to investigate irregularities at the Parliament Secretariat. The panels to be represented in the committee are the Delegated Legislation and Government Assurance Committee, Public Accounts Committee, Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee, Finance Committee and National Sustainable Development and Good Governance Committee.

Alleged irregularities surround the procurement of 11 Indian-made Scorpio jeeps for the chairs of the various committees of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly, which were bought towards the end of last fiscal year, or July. However, all the 11 new vehicles, bought for more than Rs 5.5 million a piece by the Vehicle Division of the Parliament Secretariat, started giving trouble from the very day they were pressed into service. From what the users of the vehicles say, compromises have been made in literally everything – from the brakes to the windows and spare parts. Other complaints are about the gear box and chassis. The issue was brought up during a meeting of the Speaker, National Assembly chair and heads of the 16 parliamentary committees on Friday, subsequent to which Speaker Mahara sought the formation of a probe panel. Without a thorough probe, it would be wrong to put the blame on anyone. Still one can presume that either there are manufacturing defects in the vehicles or there has been collusion between the Parliament Secretariat and the supplier. If the former is the case, then in keeping with international practices, the supplier must replace the defective vehicles with brand new ones.

A thorough investigation will, however, reveal if there have been any irregularities in the procurement of the 11 vehicles. It is indeed strange that the five Scorpios bought by the Vehicle Division earlier for the other five committees are not giving any trouble. The probe panel must inquire if all due procedures were followed while buying the vehicles. It would be most unfortunate should it be established that irregularities occurred in a place like the legislature, one of the three organs of the state, which should be making laws to put an end to all sorts of anomalies taking place in the country. In recent times, there is a tendency in the government offices to go for new vehicles when minor repairs and maintenance can bring back the health of a car. Diverting the country’s scarce resources, contributed by the taxpayers, to buy luxurious cars should be avoided where feasible. Also a good many government vehicles are lying around unattended without being sent to the scrapyard in time. Many of these vehicles would fetch good money if they were auctioned off while they still appeared to be in good state instead of dumping them in the scrapyard when they have rusted away and look old.

Female-friendly toilets

A toilet is associated with health, personal hygiene and sanitation. The toilet is the most essential thing for human beings, who cannot perform their work without one at home or outside. Toilets are built separately for men and women in public places where both the sexes gather frequently. Educational institutions are such places where an equal number of males and females gather everyday, and both need to answer the call of nature. But most schools in the rural areas lack such a basic need, and it is the girls and female teachers who are at the receiving end.

A report from Jajarkot states that the lack of female-friendly toilets in the schools has adversely affected their studies. Although many of the 458 community schools, institutional schools and campuses have separate toilets for females, they are not female-friendly. Most of the girls and female teachers are forced to miss classes during menstruation as the separate toilets they have there lack running water. A female-friendly toilet means availability of water while changing the sanitary pads. The problem faced by the schoolgirls and female teachers can be addressed without much investment if the local levels work out a plan to provide water in all the educational institutes.