CHITWAN, Aug 30: A parliamentary committee which is investigating Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) for its alleged misappropriation of funds on land purchase has uncovered strong evidences to prove the wrongdoings of the state-owned oil monopoly.
The NOC has been under scrutiny following embezzlement of millions of rupees while procuring lands for storing petroleum products in four districts - Chitwan, Jhapa, Rupandehi and Sarlahi. The field visit in Chitwan by members of the probe committee has concluded that the NOC emptied state coffers by paying for the land five times its worth.
The panel concluded that the NOC, in collaboration with local land dealers, embezzled millions of rupees by purchasing land in Lothar of Chitwan. However, the NOC has dismissed the accusation by furnishing a piece of official paper claiming that it had actually purchased the land at half the market price.
The then Rapti Municipality-1 ward chief, Chetanath Thapaliya, has collected witnesses' account from his ward and submitted it to the NOC. “The NOC demanded me to gather witnesses' account, following which I complied with it,” said Thapaliya.
The parliamentary committee had questioned Chitwan's Chief District Officer (CDO) Narayan Prasad Bhatta and Local Development Officer (LDO) Krishna Prasad Subedi about the legal basis of the witnesses' account. CDO Bhatta said they cannot consider the witnesses' account prepared by the ward chairman as evidence.
According to the CDO, there are four methodologies to determine the value of land. “There exists a government committee to determine the monetary value of land. CDOs are the chairman of such committees and I am the head of the committee in case of Chitwan,” said CDO Bhatta, adding, “Likewise, we can also take bank's collateral as the basis for determining the value of the land.”
LDO Subedi said he is not clear whether the ward-level office can recommend witnesses' account as alibi for someone. He reiterated the remarks of CDO Bhatta when asked what determines the land value.
However, both CDO and LDO were found to be uninformed about the land purchase deal of NOC. They informed the parliamentary committee that the NOC did not contact them to ask for the land price.
“We only came to know about it after it came on newspapers and other media,” said CDO Bhatta. “This is why we cannot determine whether or not the NOC was at fault.”
The NOC had purchased 23 bigha, 12 kattha and three dhur of land in ward 1 of Rapti Municipality at the rate of Rs 1.585 million per kattha of land. However, the Land Revenue Office has set Rs 150,000 as the price for one kattha of land in that area, informed Ramesh Prasad Gautam, chief of the Land Revenue Office, Khairahani.