PAC tells CIAA to act against NOC officials in land scam

Published On: August 5, 2017 08:47 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Aug 4: Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has directed the Commission for  Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to conduct detailed investigations and take action against those involved in the controversial land procurement deal by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC). 

A meeting of the PAC held on Friday directed the anti-graft body to weigh in after concluding that there were serious irregularities in the procurement of plots of land  meant for the construction of oil storage depots. 

The parliamentary panel had started probing  the matter after Republica and its sister publications ran a story  exposing irregularities amounting to  Rs 670 million  in the procurement of  pieces of land  in Rupandehi, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa districts for Rs 1.61 billion.

PAC Chairman Dor Prasad Upadhyay said inquiries showed that there have been serious financial irregularities in the  procurement deal. “It is found that NOC is involved in serious financial irregularities in the land procurement,” Upadhyay said. “We have decided to write to the CIAA to take action against all those responsible for the  procurement.”

On Tuesday, PAC had invited NOC Managing  Director Gopal Khadka and Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Supply Prem Kumar Rai for discussions on the procurement. The parliamentary panel started studying all documents related to the procurement after it found the clarifications given by Khadka and Rai unconvincing. 

The parliamentary panel found that NOC was involved in irregularities with regard to method and procedure  and the prices paid for  the land. “State-owned NOC is found to have been involved in financial irregularities, flouting the existing laws,” said PAC member Usha Gurung. “Since we do not have the basis for determining the exact amount of the irregularity, we have given this responsibility to the CIAA.”

The parliamentary panel  said the lands were purchased not from the real owners but from  middlemen through a tender process. NOC paid as much as four times the market price for the land.

NOC had allocated Rs 6 billion for procuring the land  in all seven provinces. Pieces of land   have already been purchased in Rupandehi, Chitwan, Sarlahi and Jhapa districts for Rs 1.61 billion. NOC has paid Rs 670 million more than the going market rates.

In Bhairahawa, NOC  purchased land near the banks of the Rohani River in wards 4 and 5 of Omsatiya Rural Municipality. As per the current market price, one kattha of the acquired land is worth between Rs 250,000 to Rs 600,000. However, the corporation paid up to Rs 1.3 million, claimed locals with  knowledge of the transaction. According to them, NOC  paid about Rs 150 million in excess for the land in Bhairahawa alone.

PAC member Ram Hari Khatiwada said the land was procured ignoring the Land Acquisition Act 2034 BS. “It is the responsibility of a government agency to  remain within the parameters of existing acts and laws while purchasing land. NOC officials are seriously in breach of these parameters,” Khatiwada said.

Lawmakers said the NOC officials, with an eye on commissions, purchased private land  without making any effort to find public land.

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