KATHMANDU, July 17: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has inquired about the financial irregularities worth multi-million rupees that took place while purchasing land plots to build storage facilities for Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) at various places in the country.
Prime Minister Deuba has also instructed the government bodies concerned to probe into the matter after Republica reported on Monday that the country's petroleum monopoly paid as high as four times the market price to purchase plots of land to build storage facilities in Bhairahawa, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa. Sources said about Rs 670 million has been scammed in the Rs 1.61 billion land deal in NOC.
According to his press coordinator Gobinda Pariyar, the prime minister directed the authorities concerned to probe into the land purchase deals if the existing laws have been violated. "The Prime Minister has inquired about the land procurement deal of NOC reported by the media. He has asked the authorities concerned to take action if the land deals have been made against the laws," said Pariyar.
Following the prime minister's directives, Secretary at the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Chandra Ghimire has asked Secretary at the Ministry of Supply Prem Kumar Rai to probe into NOC's land procurement deals. Secretary Rai said they are looking into the deals after the Prime Minister's Office showed concern over them.
NOC had allocated Rs 6 billion to procure land plots in all seven provinces to build storage facilities. Among these provinces, pieces of lands woRth Rs 1.61 billion have already been purchased in Rupandehi, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa districts.
The Prime Minister's directive comes after the NOC was found to be involved in foul play in the transactions as it paid Rs 670 million more than the going rates for the land plots purchased in four districts.
Meanwhile, Consumers' Welfare Protection Forum, Kathmandu, has filed a complaint at parliament's Industry, Commerce and Consumer' Welfare Committee to probe into the unscrupulous land deals and punish the guilty. The Forum's Secretary Bishnu Prasad Timilsina said that NOC had flouted existing acts, laws and procedures to procure the land for its infrastructures. "The NOC does not seem to have made any attempt to procure government-owned land. The land was procured for undue benefits, flouting the Land Procurement Act 2034 BS," he said.
NOC plans to develop storage facilities to keep 80,000 kiloliters fuel in Jhapa, 20,000 kiloliters in Sarlahi, 80,000 kiloliters in Chitwan, 58,000 kiloliters in Dhading, 33,000 kiloliters in Tanahu, 90,000 kiloliters in Bhairahawa and 11,000 kiloliters in Dang. Likewise, NOC is also procuring land to develop storage facilities to keep 6,000 kiloliters in Surkhet, and 22,000 kiloliters in Dhangadhi.
Although the NOC had called a competitive bidding, it has been found to have paid as high as four times the market price to purchase the land plots. For instance in Bhairahawa, NOC has purchased land nearby the bank of the Rohini River in Ward 4 and 5 of Omsatiya Rural Municipality. While the current market price per kattha in the area is between Rs 250,000 to Rs 600.000, the NOC is found to have paid up to Rs 1.3 million per kattha.