KATHMANDU, Oct 9: Despite public and media outcry, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has released millions of rupees for the Election Commission (EC) to purchase luxury vehicles for election commissioners.
The ministry on Friday released Rs 106 million to the election body for the purpose of purchasing sports utility vehicles (SUV) to all five commissioners. The fund has been released although each commissioner already has two to three vehicles provided by the commission.
A senior official at the ministry informed that the fund was released on Friday following frequent requests from the election body. "They requested us and the ministry has just released the budget," said the official.
EC Spokesperson Navaraj Dhakal said the commission has already called a public tender to purchase the vehicles.
The election body had sacked the then secretary Gopinath Mainali allegedly for not initiating the vehicle purchase process. Later, the EC lobbied with the government to allocate funds for new vehicles in its annual budget.
Earlier, the election commissioners' bid to purchase new vehicles was halted after the ministry said no budget had been allocated for the purpose in the fiscal year 2073-74. The election body's vehicle controversy saga surfaced right after the current fiscal year started. Commissioners had mounted pressure on the then EC secretary Mainali to include the vehicles under the election materials header and begin the procurement process. But this would be against the election regulations.
Secretary Mainali was transferred from the EC after he refused to comply. Maheshwar Neupane was named acting secretary soon after Mainali was transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister. Neupane had then approached the ministry seeking funds for new vehicles.
Just like the EC, the Office of the President had also sought funds to purchase an armored car and a fleet of vehicles for the president, but the office backtracked from its plan following a media outcry.