KATHMANDU, March 6: Defense Minister Ishwar Pokhrel and Chief of Nepal Army Purna Chandra Thapa on Thursday skipped the parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC) meeting which was scheduled to inquire with them about alleged corruption in the military.
Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and a general of Nepal Army were instead present at the committee in the absence of minister and Army chief. But the committee adjourned the meeting saying it cannot proceed with the inquiry in the absence of the minister and the head of the military.
Minister Pokhrel and Army Chief Thapa were invited to the committee for inquiry after the committee received two complaints that accuse former army chief Rajendra Chhetri and other senior officials of embezzling huge amounts from the military funds.
Lawmakers from both the ruling and the opposition parties took the absence seriously and demanded that the meeting be adjourned. Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers Lalbabu Pandit, Brijesh Kumar Gupta and Jhapat Rawal insisted that the committee should demand answers from the minister and the chief of the military themselves into the complaints. Opposition Nepali Congress (NC) lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh said the absence of Pokhrel and Thapa from the committee meeting was tantamount to undermining of the House.
Following demands from lawmakers, committee chairperson Shashi Shrestha decided to postpone the meeting until further notice. “I decided to adjourn the meeting today. The next meeting of the committee will discuss the complaints in the presence of the concerned officials,” said Shrestha.
A taskforce formed by the SAC had earlier recommended investigation into the property of former chief of Nepal Army Rajendra Chhetri acting on a complaint registered at the House committee accusing Chhetri of grossly abusing his authority to accumulate funds through illegal means.
Chhetri is also accused of taking salary, allowances and vehicles from the Nepal Army Welfare Fund apart from his regular salary and benefits. Another complaint at the committee has demanded that a high-level panel investigate the ‘financial irregularities’ involving the construction of the Army headquarters building, in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes during Chhetri’s tenure.