Minister Dev wants to sack CAAN chief: Nepal likely to lose 6 billion

Published On: September 15, 2017 06:41 AM NPT By: Santosh Neupane  | @santyneupane

KATHMANDU, Sept 15: The government has sought clarifications from Sanjeev Gautam, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), with a view to remove him from his post, and this has helped a Spanish company, whose contract for upgrading the Tribhuvan International Airport was terminated, in a case it filed against CAAN.

CAAN had earlier won the case brought by the Spanish company, Constructora San Jose S.A., at  Kathmandu District Court, a high court and at a court in Spain. Also, a Singapore-based arbitrator had accepted CAAN’s claim that the arbitrator could not take up the case.

However, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Jitendra Narayan Dev’s move seeking clarifications from Gautam has put the CAAN management in a weak position and that may cause the Nepal government to lose the case before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, thereby incurring the government a loss of around Rs 6 billion.

Unsatisfied with the work of the Spanish contractor, CAAN had terminated the contract with the contractor and it had also seized the performance guarantee and advance payment. The contractor had deposited Rs 578 million as performance guarantee and Rs 1.08 billion as advance payment. These sums have already been transferred to CAAN’s bank account.

After the termination of the contract, the Spanish company had demanded Rs 2.17 billion in compensation from CAAN whereas CAAN paid only Rs 90 million to the company.

However, the latest move by Minister Dev  showing weakness on the part of Gautam is likely to benefit the Spanish contractor.

Sources at the ministry said that the minister’s seeking clarifications from the director general is creating ground that may compel the Nepal government to lose around Rs 6 billion in payment of compensation to the contractor and seizure of the deposits for performance guarantee and advance payment.

Informed sources said that Minister Dev sought clarifications from Gautam on Wednesday in coordination with the ministry’s joint secretary Suresh Acharya and in collusion with some businesspersons with a plan to remove Gautam from his post.

The sources said Acharya has been supporting the minister to remove Gautam as the former wants to bag the post of managing director for himself while the businesspersons in question want to remove Gautam from the key post as he has been rejecting various proposals from power brokers and some bureaucrats. 

Though some groups filed a complaint at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) against Gautam, he was given a clean chit a year ago as the anti-graft body didn’t find any wrongdoing on his part.

Gautam said he was preparing his clarifications. “I have been asked to furnish clarifications over some issues,” said Gautam. “I find the questions irrelevant.” Gautam was handed over the ministry’s letter at a hospital, where he was attending a relative.

Saying that the three days given to him for furnishing clarifications on 11 various questions was insufficient, Gautam sought 10 days, but his request was rejected and the ministry again asked him to submit the clarifications within the given three days. 

Officials at the ministry said the minister’s attempt to remove Gautam from his post may sabotage Gautam’s several initiatives to improve the country’s aviation sector. Gautam’s years-long initiatives have just started yielding positive results. Recently ICAO had removed Nepal from its ‘significant safety concern list’, while the European Union’s recent study team has also given some positive hints with regard to allowing Nepal Airlines to fly in the European skies.

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