KATHMANDU, Sept 19: The cabinet has sacked Managing Director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Gopal Khadka over accusations of embezzlement in land purchases for building oil storage facilities.
Monday’s cabinet meeting unanimously approved the proposal of the Ministry of Supplies to sack Khadka. The cabinet decision comes two months after the exposure of the land purchase deals in which NOC used middlemen and engaged in huge misappropriations.
On July 17, Republica and Nagarik dailies reported that NOC paid up to four times the going price for the land through middlemen.
Minister for Supplies Shiva Kumar Mandal informed that the study reports of five parliamentary committees, serious legal lapses in the purchase of the lands and yawning differences between the price NOC paid and what local landowners received were the supporting facts behind his dismissal.
However, the cabinet did not discuss any further action against Khadka and the NOC management over the misappropriation of about Rs 1.67 billion in the land purchase.
The practice in such cases is that the cabinet can write to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate and take action against the accused, according to a former CIAA commissioner who did not wish to be identified by name.
Former chief secretary Bimal Koirala also echoed the former CIAA commissioner. Koirala said the CIAA, the ministry concerned and other investigating agencies can probe further and take action against the guilty. “The cabinet has fired him outright instead of suspending him first and taking a final decision later on,” said Koirala adding that this does not bar the CIAA and other agencies from carrying out more investigations.
Following rigorous discussions over the matter, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had directed the CIAA to investigate the land purchase deal and take action against the guilty. Officials of the CIAA said they have not yet completed their investigations.
“This issue is still under investigation,” said CIAA spokesperson JIba Raj Koirala, adding, “It may take time as cases should be filed after duly following the laws.” Following media reports on the scam the CIAA had collected documents from NOC but has not yet called in Khadka and other officials of NOC to record their statements.
Last week, the CIAA issued a statement asking those concerned not to make comments in haste as investigations take time and these may go their own way.
Earlier, parliament’s PAC, the Good Governance Committee, the Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee and the Bills Committee had reached a common conclusion that there was misappropriation in the land deals. Last week, the Good Governance Committee directed the government to strip Khadka of his responsibilities immediately.